FORT WORTH — Cat lovers in this city have been trying to raise money to solve the mystery of what happened to a well-established cat colony.
"You just hope you might stumble on something that would be a piece of the puzzle," said Beverly Sims. She along with dozens of other volunteers have offered a $1,000 reward for information about what happened to nearly 20 cats that used to call Trinity Park home.
They hope to hire a pet detective.
Within a couple of weeks earlier this year, all the feral cats in the park's colony disappeared, along with four of their shelters.
The city has no clue what happened. Some suspect a hungry coyote. Yet Sims and others are convinced the reason is more sinister.
"We are pretty sure it was foul play," Sims said. "We feel like they're dead."
The mystery comes as Fort Worth city leaders consider allowing more feral cat colonies. The program calls for trapping wild cats, neutering them, and then returning them to where they were picked up.
Supporters call it "TNR" — trap, neuter and return.
It’s an extension of what Sims and other volunteers have already been doing for years. The Trinity Park colony had been thriving for nearly a decade.
The city’s animal shelter sees nearly 5,000 cats a year. Instead of killing the unwanted, crews would sterilize them and let them fend for themselves on the streets and in the parks.
"I would say the majority of Forth Worth residents are very compassionate people," said Charlsye Lewis, chair of the city’s animal shelter advisory committee. "They want their tax dollars spent saving as many animals as possible, not killing them."
But critics recoil at the idea of wild cats roaming the city. Some groups worry about the impact on the bird population.
The American Bird Conservancy has been outspoken on trap-neuter-return programs, warning cities that feral cats threaten native wildlife.
Sims says those fears are unfounded. The colonies would be controlled, she says, by volunteers who would keep the cats fed and hydrated.