Audio Story: Lucky The Sewer Cat
San Marcos: The City of Cats
San Marcos is a wonderfully quirky city known for a plethora of things: the university, the river, the music scene, mermaids, but most notoriously, cats. Cats have been occupying the streets of San Marcos for decades and their effects on the community atmosphere and the ecosystem are polar opposite.
The residents of San Marcos generally seem to love the regularity of seeing little felines around their neighborhoods. However, one of the first problems comes from their worry for their safety, wellbeing, and health.
San Marcos local, Gillian Brookes, had a personal account with a stray kitten that was trapped in the sewer system outside her house. She says, “It’s nice to have the cats greet you in the mornings, but all the joy is lost when you might have to watch one die.”. Luckily, Gillian rescued the six-week-old kitten after calling multiple different departments before the San Marcos Fire department arrived.
Situations like this highlight the sad reality that although the cats are fun to have around, they are living in a dangerous, make-shift environment that is not suitable for them and can result in a multitude of unfortunate deaths.
So why are the cat populations rising? According to Claire Phillips, a San Marcos Veterinary Technician at Tickle-Blagg Animal Hospital, the cat populations are rising for a multitude of reasons.
Phillip states, “The cat population is correlated with the college student population. College student’s have a habit of adopting cats thinking they will be a low-maintenance companion without consideration for their long life-spans, their cost of care, and the level of stimulation they need to be happy. This results in a lot of high-energy, unspayed animals being put onto the streets.”
Cat’s reproduction cycles are especially a threat considering that a female cat can birth a litter of kittens every 60 days and can begin giving birth as young as four-months-old. Unspayed male cats are often aggressive towards females and kittens, and it is not uncommon for them to kill or eat their own babies.
The high-paced reproduction has resulted in problems such as groups of cats ganging together since they are naturally pack animals. Cats in these groups are generally aggressive and feral, which produces another set of issues because there is a mix of truly feral and completely domestic cats roaming the same neighborhoods.
In an effort to combat the growing number of strays, non-profit organizations such as “Prevent-A-Litter” have been created where cats can be spayed for as little as $20. Organizations such as these try to work together with San Marcos ASPCA, whose animal in-take is rapidly rising especially with the amount of adoptions made throughout COVID-19.
Dani Moneta, an ASPCA volunteer, says, “these last couple years have been especially difficult because of COVID-19. The more animals people adopt, the more they return. Our intake has been steadily increasing which means the stray population is probably increasing too.”
San Marcos ASPCA takes in a variety of animals for rehabilitation , including birds. This is relevant because cats have a direct impact on the bird population in San Marcos.
Moneta states, “Cats are wonderful, but they are predators that were never meant to be introduced to the San Marcos ecosystem. They instinctively target the songbird population as prey, and some will even pick off the birds for sport since they receive food elsewhere.”
Moneta’s concern of cats altering the ecosystem is very real. If the songbird population decreases, the bug population will increase, resulting in less vegetation and an increase in less than favorable creatures such as ticks and fleas, which by proxy have an increasing number of perfect carriers, ie. the cats and kittens.
If the vegetation decreases, parasites increase, and prey populations dwindle, other natural predators will die off resulting in rapidly increasing numbers for animals like cats and deer which is already happening in San Marcos. With a lack of vegetation, mass numbers of emaciated deer are commonly seen. The only species that seems to be flourishing is the cats.
Although the cats are lovely to see and fun to spot, they are supposed to live with people for a reason. They’re adorable but they are invasive, and dangerous to all the natural fauna San Marcos has to offer. More serious measures of reproduction control must be taken, in order to preserve the lives of the cats and the other creatures that inhabit San Marcos naturally.