“Community” cats provide a valuable service. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the feral, or wild, cats were all dead or gone in many areas. Neighborhoods being rebuilt were inundated with snakes coming to feed on the rodent population.

Feral cats continue to be an effective control of rodents and insects, pests that are endemic in a subtropical port city.

However, the cats should be spayed or neutered to prevent continued population growth. Once sterilized, the cats do not give off pheromones that attract more cats into their area.

While they are territorial and remain in the area, sterilized cats will not fight, yowl or mate. They will hunt even when well-fed and neutered.

People who feed wild cats should do so on their own property, once a day for a specific amount of time during daylight, and always in the same location.

This will cut down on complaints and make it easier to trap members of the colony in order to neuter them and return them to the community, a strategy known as trap-neuter-release.

There are many free or low-cost TNR programs that sterilize cats and tip an ear to identify them as “fixed.”

Jefferson Parish residents can have feral cats spayed or neutered free, owned cats fixed for $10, through Jan. 31.

Call (504) 733-5878 for more information.

Orleans Parish residents in the ZIP codes 70119, 70114 and 70131 can have feral cats spayed or neutered at no cost at the LA/SPCA Community Clinic, by appointment.

SpayMart’s Neuter Scooter will continue through January, or until funds are depleted. The Neuter Scooter is administered by the LA/SPCA. Call (504) 363-1333 for more information.

Most of these programs use veterinary clinics across the greater metropolitan area for convenience.

Humane traps are available through municipal shelters with a refundable deposit. Trapping assistance for large colonies of cats or for the elderly is available through ARNO by emailing us at arnovolunteer @ yahoo.com (put FERAL CATS in subject line).

Charlotte Bass Lilly is CEO of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends upon the generosity of people from all over the country who have followed since Katrina. Contact ARNO at arno.advocate@gmail.com, visit us at http://www.animalrescueneworleans.org or leave a message at 504. 571.1900.