A spike in Blacktip Island’s feral cat population has prompted the Blacktip Theosophy Society’s Feral Cat Roundup this weekend to capture and neuter as many of the Caribbean island’s wild cats as possible.
“It’s an ad hoc sort of thing, dependent on cat population estimates,” said event organizer and society president Clete Horn. “They kill our native wildlife, and with so many cats, it’s a ticking time bomb public health-wise.
“The potential for hazardous people-feline interaction is off the charts,” Horn said. “There’s already been a couple cases of cat-scratch fever, and at least one divemaster’s been diagnosed with worms. Plus, the damn things keep peeing on my back porch.”
The two-day roundup requires all roped cats be neutered and released.
“A while back we people loose with .22 rifles and let ‘em pop as many cats as they could,” Horn said. “A month later we were eat up with rats.
“The roundup’s a way to balance out the cat and rat populations,” Horn said. “It’s an algorithm we’ve worked out based on how the Balinese rotate their rice crops to keep their rat population in check. It’s counterintuitive, but it works.”
“It’s like herding kittens, except they’re bigger and faster,” Theosophy Society wrangler Marina DeLow said. “And mean.”
“Beaters go through the brush whacking sticks to chase the cats into the corrals,” DeLow said. “We use fishing line for lassoes, and reinforced landing nets for the wily ones.”
Some island residents oppose the roundup.
“These cats are part of the ecosystem and have as much right to be here as anyone else,” local Protesting Inhumane Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “They need to be embraced, not roped and hog tied and snipped.”
Most islanders, though, are looking forward to the event.
“It’s adventure, it’s excitement and it rids us of pests,” resident Ginger Bass said. “If that’s not good, family entertainment, I don’t know what is. And the kids get to practice their lariat skills with some of the smaller cats.”
The weekend will also feature a greased-kitten chase for children as well as food stalls and craft booths with roundup-related products such as lassoes, heavy-duty gloves and landing nets. Prizes will be awarded for biggest cat captured and for the most cats captured.
The roundup concludes with Sunday afternoon’s Miss Kitty contest.
The island’s public health department is advising all participants and spectators to update their rabies vaccinations.