Trap, neuter, return, manage the only way to solve Hawaii’s cat problem
I moved to Maui in 2006. I’m originally from Los Angeles where we had a killer bee problem back in the late ’90s. These aggressive, Africanized honeybees produce more honey and were bred throughout Brazil for this very reason. Migrating to California in huge swarms, these bees devastated livestock, killed a few people and injured many more.
Citizens were outraged and for about a year and a half, most blamed Brazil for this menacing creation. After finally realizing we were on our own, California tried to eradicate the bees. As is usually the case with apex predators, despite a concentrated effort to eliminate the killer bee, populations rebounded. This is the same situation we face with coyotes, cockroaches, alligators, rats, sharks, cats and so many other animals. Eradication will almost never work when dealing with apex predators.
Someone in California came up with a plan to introduce millions of honeybees into the situation. Understandably, many people complained that adding more bees was a terrible strategy. However, the docile honeybees that were introduced bred with the aggressive killer bees and gradually produced a much tamer bee, which effectively solved this major issue.
I am using this killer bee analogy to help people better understand how to solve the cat overpopulation problem here in Hawaii. Fortunately, unlike the killer bee, a blueprint has been created decades ago that has helped over 500 major cities worldwide solve their own cat problem. TNRM (trap, neuter, return, manage) has been proven to be the ONLY successful solution and it also happens to be humane.
Because cats are territorial, they work together, like a team, to help prevent new cats from entering their colony and taking their resources. A fixed, fed, healthy cat colony will help reduce cat populations statewide. Though many places have tried, eliminating all cats on islands larger than 10 square kilometers has never worked. Hawaii has had a cat problem for around 200 years. If killing them worked, then why do we still have a cat problem in Hawaii?
While millions of dollars has already been spent and hundreds of thousands of cats have already been killed across Hawaii, it should be clear by now that we will never be able to kill all the cats and must look toward established, successful strategies to effectively solve this issue once and for all.
Active volunteer participation is a major key to an effective solution. Even a few minutes a week can help make a huge difference. Killing or removing fixed cats only opens the area up to unfixed cats who will move in, take over the resources and quickly breed out of control.
The ultimate goal is to have a fixed, fed and healthy cat colony in every neighborhood, so that they can work together as a team and prevent more cats from entering the area.
For more information and ways you can get involved, please research online, or check out savemauicats.org. Hawaii can effectively solve this tragic cat situation, just like so many major cities have already done worldwide.
Mahalo for your help. Please spread the word.
* Michael Willinsky is the founder of Save Maui Cats, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.