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Staff shortages cause backlog in Austin's Community Cats program

Community Cats is a program where stray or feral cats are trapped, neutered and placed back where they were found.

AUSTIN, Texas — If you've seen more cats roaming around Austin over the past year, there's a reason why. 

Community Cats is a partnership between the Austin Animal Center (AAC) and the Austin Humane Society where stray or feral cats are trapped, neutered or spayed and placed back where they were found.

While the program has been around for years and has proven to be highly effective in reducing the cat population in Austin, this past year, there was a backlog of calls about the community cats. 

"There are people that complain about cats biting," said Jenn Daniel, Community Cats' program manager. "Seeing kittens everywhere."

In the fall of 2022, AAC had almost 400 open requests. As of Jan. 21, it has about 250. It was able to hire someone to work a temporary position to make progress in catching more cats. 

"We're making really good progress," Daniel said. "We had our biggest year last year. We had 1,873 cats go through this program."

Sarah Hammel with the Austin Humane Society said AAC captures the cats. The Austin Humane Society then picks them up and preforms the procedure.

However, because of the pandemic, staffing was low on both ends and it was hard to keep up with all the calls. 

"During COVID, we did slow down surgeries for a brief period of time," Hammel said. "I don't know if it was with people working from home, maybe they were seeing more cats. I think the the requests went up much faster and higher than they had in the past."

Growth in the area also caused some delays.

"We've seen a shift as Austin's grown and changed, and the culture of people wanting cats removed," Daniel said. "And they're like, 'Come get them or we'll take care of them ourselves.'"

Community Cats has been able to clear many requests, but there's still work to be done. 

"It would be nice to get to the point where as the requests come in, we can get through them, you know, pretty quickly," Daniel said. "But we're just not at that point yet."

The goal is to neuter all cats to keep the cat population down ahead of kitten season. 

If you're looking to volunteer, there's more information the program at the bottom of this page.

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