Cat got your tongue? A discourse analysis of feral cat management in Chicago, Illinois

Authors: Amanda Vander Kelen*, Geography, University Of Illinois, Urbana Champain
Topics: Animal Geographies, Urban Geography
Keywords: Urban Geography, Animal Geography, Transspecies Urban Theory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Cleveland 2, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Trap-Neuter-Release (T-N-R) is one method used in managing urban feral cat numbers (and rat numbers, tangentially). Since 2007, Cook County has implemented an ordinance to protect these “Cats-At-Work”. Cats-At-Work is an example of “Controlled T-N-R”, a term used in this study to describe an updated version of T-N-R that is managed at various scales. The literature highlights the discourse commonly debated today from the perspective of transspecies urban theory. There are two main debates observed: (1) cats as an invasive species vs. cats as part of the environment; (2) the Sylvester and Tweety argument vs. other factors affecting the bird population. This study seeks to understand what 31 Chicagoans in 19 different neighborhoods think about T-N-R to manage the feral cat population. Additionally, this study seeks to understand what these residents think about euthanasia to mitigate the feral cat population and using poison to manage the rat population. Participants were asked to define the following: (1) feral cat; (2) euthanasia; (3) T-N-R. Then, participants were given the definition of each term to create a unified understanding going forward. Participant responses indicate that 100% would be in support of a controlled T-N-R program to manage the feral cat population, and 64.5% might consider being, or have experience as, a colony caretaker in this program. The results indicate a positive sentiment for feral cat management in Chicago. This study is a potential driver for promoting an ethical way to effectively manage urban feral cat numbers.

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