Marshall Tucker

Marshall Tucker, BAS Mighty Mouser alumnus, barn manager, expert snake wrangler, and canned Friskies connoisseur.

If stray or feral cats have been causing trouble around your home or business, Burlington Animal Services (BAS) offers a free, effective and humane solution for invasive felines.

During their May 3 meeting, the Mebane City Council agreed to adopt the BAS Mighty Mousers program, which focuses on solving Alamance County’s stray and feral cat population and the nuisances they create humanely through the spay/neuter, vaccination and return approach.

The Mighty Mousers program was started by BAS in 2017 and, since then, has helped drastically improve the county’s save rate for stray and feral cats. In that time, The program has helped sterilize, vaccinate, and rehome or return at least 3,000 cats.

Animal Services Director Jessica Arias presented the successes of the program to the council, while highlighting its innovative approach to dealing with feral cats.

 “The Mighty Mousers program is truly a community partnership to stabilize, reduce and manage the free roaming pet population in a way that is humane, effective and sustainable,” Arias said. “It reduces nuisance complaints, promotes public health, engages residents to be part of the solution, and provides positive life-saving outcomes for the cats.”

In 2013, four years prior to the establishment of the Mighty Mousers program, the county’s save rate for cats was “an abysmal” nine percent, Arias said. As of 2020, the save rate stands at 95 percent.

Arias said research has proven trap-and-release programs are much more effective in mitigating nuisance behaviors in stray cats.

"The research has also proven old, outdated and inhuman methods involving removal and euthanasia is not at all effective because it creates a vacuum effect," she added.

The program’s effectiveness stems from its two-pronged approach to tackling the county’s outdoor cat problems.

Arias issues involving stray and feral cats typically arise when the cats display nuisance behaviors, which "are related to unsterilized cats yelling, fighting, spraying and other territorial or mating behaviors."

“It involves the participation of citizens in the spay, neuter, vaccination and return of cats and [involves] our officers providing residents with effective strategies to mitigate these issues,” Arias said.

Citizens learn how to use humane deterrents and effective nuisance mitigation strategies through the program, which plays a pivotal role in its success.

BAS typically doesn’t trap cats unless they pose a danger to public health or have a disease, so the responsibility falls on residents to capture the cats the wish to put through the program.

Residents can lease a trap from BAS in exchange for a fully-refundable $40 deposit, Arias said.

Not only do participants of the Mighty Mousers program have access to trapping equipment and are taught how to safely lure in and trap feral cats, they also learn how to humanely deter feral cats from hanging around.

“Residents receive counseling and education about how to employ effective strategies for cat nuisance mitigation,” Arias said.

Once a cat is trapped, the individual who trapped it should call BAS, who will then have someone come pick up the cat and take it to the shelter. Once at the shelter, the captured cat will remain in waiting for 72 hours in case someone comes to claim it.

“After hold periods are concluded, the cats are examined and given routine preventative care that includes vaccination against rabies and other cat diseases -- cats with medical issues also receive treatment,” Arias said. “The cats are then spayed/neutered and each cat receives an ear tip [to signify it has been sterilized and vaccinated].”

Those who find and trap a cat can then buy said cat for $10. If there were two cats, both can be bought for $10.

BAS has made the process easy and affordable to ensure the best outcome for the community and its cats, Arias added.

Arias said there are instances when a cat cannot be return to where it was capture nor can it be placed in a home as a pet. And, on those occasions, the cat is sterilized and vaccinated just the same, only it is placed in the Barn Cat Adoption program, which permanently places feral cats in safe, suitable outdoor homes.

The program is largely reliant on outside funding – local and national grants, in particular. The Mighty Mousers program alone has received $82,000 in funding since 2017.

“These grants build upon our existing resources and allow us to go beyond the basics to fully meet the most pressing animal welfare needs in our community,” Arias said.

Beginning in 2017, BAS has seen a 75 percent increase in grants and donations, Arias said, which no doubt has contributed to the increased save rates of all animals BAS encounters.

But not just grant makers are noticing the positive effects of Mighty Mousers. Since the program’s inception, Alamance County has responded glowingly to the program.

“Over the last three years we have seen a shift in the way the public thinks about stray cats and have found our residents have embraced this program because it does not result in needless deaths of the cats, [instead] it's an opportunity for residents to become part of the solution,” Arias said.

Arias, in closing, expressed her gratitude toward the City of Mebane for their continual support for BAS over the years.

“I’m so appreciative to the City of Mebane for your incredible support for animals and the citizens of our community over the years,” Arias said. “Without it, the level of work that we do and the success that we have realized by working together would not be possible.”

Dylan Phillips: @DylanCP32