For 20 years, Jackson and Pauline Cochran have been taking care of the cats at the Mississippi Ag Museum in Jackson. They recently raised the alarm when they discovered that the felines were disappearing.
“There had been about 20, it dropped down to about eight,” said Jackson. The state is taking the cats away, the Cochrans say, and possibly even having them killed.
But Andy Prosser, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture’s deputy commissioner, says there’s nothing sinister going on.
In response to a large increase in the feral cat population, the museum contacted the Mississippi Animal Rescue League and asked for help. The ARL responded by trapping the cats and having them neutered, and returning some of them to the museum.
So far, four of the cats have been returned, but the Cochrans are still worried that the museum plans to eliminate them altogether.
I’m of two minds about this story. First of all, I’m annoyed by the fact that although the Cochrans have been feeding the cats, it doesn’t seem like they were having them spayed or neutered. You really can’t convince me that nobody in a city the size of Jackson has ever heard of TNR, and that there’s no money anywhere to help volunteers who want to care for a cat colony.
Given the fact that these cats are apparently continuing to reproduce, I can understand why the museum wanted to take steps to control their population before they overran the place. However, if not all the cats are being returned, what’s happening to the rest? Feral cats aren’t adoptable, so I’m pretty sure what fate those felines probably met.
I don’t buy the Department of Agriculture’s reasoning that the cats were inherently a health problem and a threat to museum visitors. Feral cats actively avoid people, after all. So I’m inclined to believe the Cochrans are closer to the truth when they say the cats weren’t bothering anyone.
Maybe the Department of Agriculture will realize that it can eliminate the potential health threat (or more likely, legal liability threat) they fear by having the cats vaccinated while they’re in the shelter getting spayed or neutered.
I also hope the Cochrans take this opportunity to learn about TNR so that they can help to effectively, humanely, and responsibly manage this colony in the future.