No cat’s meow

LIHUE — A County of Kauai-backed task force is considering ways to stem the rise of feral cats on the island.

“I don’t know how long this has been an issue but I definitely know it’s a problem now,” said Kauai County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura.

That’s because feral cats, big and small, young and old, seem to be everywhere on Kauai.

Go for a walk at Lydgate Park, and cats will greet you along the way. Some lounge on the path, while others hide near trees.

Play a round of golf, and cats will peek out from the brush.

Take a hike on Kalalau Trail, and you’ll pass cats.

Walk into the grocery store, and cats of all colors will look on from under cars and around corners. Kittens stare, then scurry away if anyone approaches.

“The population just keeps increasing and there’s no reason to think that it won’t unless the issue is addressed,” said Penny Cistaro, Kauai Humane Society executive director.

It’s not just that there’s a lot of cats on Kauai. It’s the threats they present.

Some residents are concerned feral cats are preying on native birds. Others say they spread a parasitic disease called toxoplasmosis, which can be harmful to those with weakened immune systems.

Feral cats have even been spotted going after the nests of shearwaters on the Na Pali Coast.

“Everybody agrees there’s a problem — the question is: what are the solutions,” said Peter Adler, Accord 3.0 Consultants mediator charged with facilitating the task force.

There are other residents who “cherish cats and view them as companions and want to make sure that they’re not harmed,” he said.

“It can be a very sensitive issue and people feel very deeply about it,” Adler said. “I’m not necessarily sure if it is a widespread issue, but in the face of other things that are happening on Kauai, it’s very impassioned on both sides.”

The creation of the committee dates back to June 2011 when the council mulled over an resolution that would use a trap, neuter-and-release process as a way to control the island’s feral cat population.

From there, a seed was planted. And shortly after the county awarded a $30,000 grant to Honolulu-based mediation firm Accord 3.0 Consultants in July, the task force and its members held its first meeting on Aug. 9.

Yukimura and some committee members say they are not taking a position on the issue and will wait to hear from experts before they take action.

“Animal control has been recognized as something that a local government has to do or a lot of problems result,” she said.

Adler said the group is taking on an issue that is also being considered by other communities across the state like Maui County, where officials are just beginning to address a similar problem with feral chickens and cats.

“Our goal is nothing short of coming back to the county with our best recommendations on what can be done to manage this problem,” Adler said.

Nine people currently sit on the Feral Cat Task Force, including Cistaro; Sierra Club of Kauai Outings Chair Judy Dalton; Kauai Albatross Network Founder Hob Osterlund; Hanalei Watershed Hui Executive Director Makaala Kaaumoana; No Ka Oi Landscape Services Founder Abby Santos; Kauai Ferals President Margaret Sueoka; Kauai Invasive Species Committee Project Coordinator Keren Gundersen; Norma Creps from the Department of Land and Natural Resources; and Paradise Animal Clinic Owner Dr. Craig Nishimoto.

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