Maui Costco Bans Feeding of Nine Year Old Cat Colony

Target: Caton Frates, Senior VP & GM of Los Angeles Region, Costco Corporation,

In February of 2009 the Maui Costco property was overrun with cats. The cats were not put there; they were already living there, which is common all over Hawaii. A kind citizen talked to management and they agreed to allow a TNRM (Trap, neuter, return, manage) program. Seventy-seven cats were sterilized at NO expense to Costco. Today almost nine years later, only fifteen sterilized cats remain.
Unfortunately, current store management has decided that this successful program should end, and they have instituted a feeding ban. There is copious evidence that feeding bans do not work but instead result in more cats and more complaints. Years of work, time and money can be undone in a matter of months if the feeding ban is enforced. The solution to the problem lies in cooperating with the community, working together on the ongoing TNRM program. Numerous businesses and resorts on Maui support TNRM, which includes feeding and veterinarian care.

Sterilizing cats reduces their numbers, reduces their bad behaviors and therefore reduces risk. The unintended consequences of a feeding ban are random feeding by tourists, more garbage, and unchecked population growth. By forcing a feeding ban Costco seems determined to starve these cats.

Please allow these cats to be fed and managed on Costco property and allow any employees who want to help feed them do so without being fired which is presently Costco’s policy.

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14 Comments

  1. Cory Mitcham says:

    Costco: Please educate yourselves on the many, many successfully managed feral cat colonies that exist all over the world. Please catch up with the 21st century and do what is right and humane: Let the feeders (with no cost to you!) continue feeding the cats. The situation will likely be far worst for everyone involved if you don’t (colonies not managed by caregivers notoriously attract nefarious people). Plus, the cats are managing your rodent problem (perhaps unbeknownst to you).

  2. If costco thinks it is ok to starve and torture animals then I will not shop there anymore. Arent we supposed to be an ETHICAL society and want to help those in need!?! Besides, cats help keep rodent population down, without using poison! Get a heart COSTCO! Look at the facts! 9 years without problems! Do the right thing!

  3. ending TNRM will only worsen your problem, Costco.

  4. Christy Anderlik says:

    Why did Costco not contact The Maui Humane Society and support the Trap Neuter Return (TNR) programs that happen all over Maui? I dont think customers want to see starved and dying cats when they go to Costco. They have been there for 9 years.I am very upset that Costco doesnt work with the humane society before choosing cruelty!

  5. Nancy Pottish says:

    This is a ham handed move and I will not shop at Costco any more and will tell everyone I know to do the same.

  6. Kim Collier says:

    Maybe this information should be posted elsewhere so other shoppers can make an informed decision on where to shop–TripAdvisor and Facebook come to mind.

  7. Rachel Domingo says:

    Costco is a beloved entity on our island. I wonder why they would risk this position with Maui residents and visitors? Do they believe that they have so many customers that they can lose a “few”? I love me some Costco, but I can totally live without it; everything they have I can find elsewhere. If this colony is down to so few cats, why does it even merit Costco’s attention of any kind? What Costco should be doing is donating some food each month or doing something to become part of the solution. And the solution is not to threaten employees or to prevent others from being kind.

  8. Donya Izbicki says:

    Why in the world would Costco do such a stupid thing?
    Cat lovers will boycott!
    Our planet is struggling for peace and the caretakers who practice the proven method of TNRM are a part of that remedy. New cats will appear scrounging for food….
    People will feel sorry for them and leave rubbish food
    resulting in more and more cats & kittens!
    Costco should be supporting and praising the caretakers who manage the cat feeding area with attention to safety and cleanliness…..Shame on Costco…

  9. Leslie Farnel says:

    I have a list of 7,000 Costco customers I’m sharing this information with and it’s displayed on my Facebook page that gets thousands of hits a day. Let Costco customers make their own decisions about supporting a business with an archaic animal welfare position in the forward thinking world of animal rights in today’s communities. Please Costco educate yourselves.

  10. In addition to the impact this misguided action has on the cat population I am appalled that the manager has threatened his employees with losing their jobs if they participate in this legitimate community minded program. That is abusive. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he generates bad will in other areas of the management of the store.

  11. robin wallin says:

    Shame on Costco to refuse food and water to innocent cats.
    They were there before the Costco was built.
    How can they curtail the behavior of people/employees who only want to help the sentient beings continue their lives!!?

  12. COSTCO!!! ATTENTION SHOPPERS!!!!! This store wants to end the lives of animals living outside their parking lot….for no valid reason….SHOP ELSEWHERE…..GO TO ANIMAL FRIENDLY STORES LIKE TARGET, WHO LET ANIMALS INSIDE THEIR STORE!!!!

    To Costco Management…..GET WITH THE PROGRAM OR YOUR CUSTOMER DATA BASE IS GOING SOUTH……STARTING WITH MY FAMILY WHO SPENDS OVER 1K MONTHLY. Back off and get a real problem, like how are you going to compete with AMAZON when the community realizes the Costco Management does not support community efforts. You should be ashamed!!! A mass exodus is coming your way and you deserve all of it.

  13. Trap-neuter-release (TNR) is advocated by some as a more humane solution to euthanasia in order to reduce the feral cat population and their associated environmental health risks. TNR supporters insist that once these animals are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, and released that sterilized cats will no longer reproduce nor pose health risks, resulting in colony size decrease. Contrary to these scientifically unproven beliefs, research from numerous, peer-reviewed scientific studies have demonstrated the inability of TNR to permanently reduce feral cat colony populations or the threats that they pose to humans and wildlife.
    Although TNR is considered by its supporters as a more humane solution to euthanasia, it supports a system that essentially causes cats to be re-abandoned in an environment where they are vulnerable to harm or death in many forms. Once cats are re-released after treatment, they are still vulnerable to diseases such as toxoplasmosis and feline leukemia, collisions with cars, and fighting or competing with other wildlife for resources. These threats lead to inhumane conditions and result in a feral cat life expectancy of 5 to 6 years, whereas their indoor counterparts live 12 to 15 years (Nachminovitch 2017). Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of cruelty investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, considers management options such as TNR as an inhumane option for managing feral cats and stated, “Cat abandonment is illegal because it’s inhumane, and it’s not the answer to the homeless-cat crisis.”
    TNR supporters claim that TNR is an effective management tool for reducing cat populations, and that fed cats reduce cat colony numbers. Further studies have shown that TNR and feral cat feeding stations fail to reduce cat colony size and contribute to new additions to cat colonies. On numerous occasions, TNR has been shown to encourage current cat owners to illegally abandon their cats because they know that their cats will be “taken care of” (Nachminovitch 2017). Studies have also disproved the idea that resident cats keep new cats from feeding or joining the colony, which means that abandoned cats can establish in and add to colony population size. Illegally abandoned cats in collaboration with attractant of TNR colony food supply outweigh any loss to the population due to death or success from adoptions (Nutter 2005). Additionally, humans provide a potential mechanism for disease transmission when they establish outdoor feeding stations for feral cats.
    Feral cats threaten the health and safety of Maui’s citizens. Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii), a disease caused by a parasitic protozoan depends on cats to complete its life cycle, and is a growing health concern for numerous reasons. Up to 74% of cats will host this parasite in their lifetime and the infectious eggs, spread through cat feces, can infect humans and other wildlife. Infected feces are often found in public areas, and persists in and contaminates our watersheds, sources of water critical to humans and wildlife. In humans, this parasite is linked to a range of health issues including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s and even sudden abortion or fetal development defects for pregnant women and their unborn children (Torrey and Yolken 2003). Toxoplasmosis has already contributed to documented deaths of our endangered Hawaiian monk seal and Nene (Hawaiian Goose) (Work et al. 2016).
    Even with TNR enforced throughout the State of Hawaii, overall health and safety of Hawaii’s threatened and endangered native wildlife populations continue to decrease due to predation by feral cats. For example, just this past August (2017) three pairs of breeding native waterbirds, Ale Ula’s (endangered Hawaiian Common Gallinule,) were attacked and killed by the same feral cat while sitting on their nest in the National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, leaving the 9 remaining eggs and two hatchlings to die. The death of these 17 Ale Ula are devastating not only to ecosystem health, but to the preservation of the Hawaiian culture, whose legends state that the Ale Ula brought fire to the Hawaiian people.
    The Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project regularly captures footage of feral cats on camera killing and dragging endangered seabirds, such as ‘Ua‘u’s (Hawaiian Petrel), out of their ground nests. In the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge alone, feral cats are suspected in killing at least 252 Ale Ula’s (Hawaiian Common Gallinules), ‘Alae Ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian Coots), Ae‘o (Hawaiian Stilts), Koloa Maoli (Hawaiian Ducks), and Kolea (Pacific Golden-Plover), and 22 Laysan Albatross chicks. Predation by cats on endangered birds represents a major setback for conservation efforts and is a harsh reminder of the dangers feral cats and other invasive animals create for Hawai‘i’s native species.
    Although some cats are sterilized through TNR, well-fed cats still kill birds and other wildlife, and are known as subsidized predators that kill not for food but likely because it is instinctual. Globally, a study by Doherty et al. reported that feral cats alone have contributed to 63 species extinctions worldwide, and this will be no different for Hawaii if we continue to let management strategies such as TNR and supported cat colonies persist. Winter (2004) outlines several examples in which the return of native bird species was a direct result of the removal of cats and feeding stations eliminating or nearly eliminating local cat populations.
    TNR is costly, oftentimes more costly than euthanasia and adoption. The Wildlife Society (2011) highlights two studies demonstrating the combined cost of feral cat trapping, adoption and euthanasia versus the solo cost of sterilizing cats. In Ohio, 2,500 cats were trapped in public parks, 500 of those adopted, the remaining 2,000 euthanized, and the total project cost was $27,000. In California, Maddie’s Fund would cost nearly $30,000 to sterilize just 500 cats, that’s not including shelters and feeding, treatment, and additional re-abandonment efforts or population monitoring that occurs after sterilization. TNR will remain a long-term cost that is often supported by Maui Citizens which are voluntary, understaffed and do not have the ability to conduct long-term monitoring, resulting in inconsistent population estimates for feral colonies.
    Lastly, a published, scientifically researched survey by Lepczyk and Rubinoff (2016) demonstrates that majority of Hawaii’s residents, including animal welfare members, are over 85 percent in support of a reduction in the feral cat populations. Amongst surveyed stakeholders that feed feral cats, 67 percent want to see a reduction in feral cat numbers, 27 percent favored no change, and overall none favored an increase. Beyond feral cat population reduction, this survey also found that of several available feral cat management techniques outlined, including lethal options, the public considered TNR as the least acceptable form of management.
    Overall, TNR fails at removing cats from the landscape, nor is it the most humane option for feral cat management. TNR and the feeding of feral cats leads cats to a life filled with inhuman conditions, poses serious health risks for humans and wildlife, allows cats to decimate Hawaii’s native endangered wildlife populations, is costly, and a large percentage of Hawaii’s stakeholders do not support the technique or the cat populations it continues to support.

    Lepczyk, C. and D. Rubinoff. 2016. Ban on feeding feral cats would be good for the cats, residents, Hawaii. Star Advertiser. http://www.staradvertiser.com/2016/02/21/editorial/island-voices/ban-on-feeding-feral-cats-would-be-good-for-the-cats-residents-hawaii/
    Nachminovitch, D. 2017. TNR is dangerous both to cats and to other animals. National Geographic: Cat Watch. Accessed December 6, 2017.
    Nutter, F. 2005. Evaluation of a trap-neuter-return management program for feral cat colonies: population dynamics, home ranges, and potentially zoonotic diseases. PhD dissertation, North Carolina State University. Raleigh, NC.
    Sizemore, G. 2016. Endangered Hawaiian geese at risk from disease spread by feral cats, study finds. Widespread contamination also affects humans and other wildlife. American Bird Conservancy Press Releases. Washington, D.C.
    The Wildlife Society. Effects of an Invasive Species: Domestic cats. The Wildlife Society Fact Sheet. http://wildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/FactSheet-FeralCats_FINAL-1.pdf
    Torrey, E. and R. Yolken. 2003. Toxoplasma gondii and Schizophrenia. Emerging Infectious Diseases 9(11): 1375-1380.
    Winter 2004. Trap-neuter-release programs: the reality and the impacts. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 225(9): 1369-1376
    Work, T., Verma, S., Su, C., Medieros, J., Kaiakapu., Kwok, O. and J. Dubey. 2016. Toxoplasma gondii Antibody Prevalence and two new Genotypes of the Parasite in Endangered Hawaiian Geese (Nene: Branta sandvicensis). Journal of Wildlife Diseases 52(2):253-257.

    • Dwight Weiding says:

      I appreciate your thoughtful analysis of TNR and euthanasia being practiced on Maui and elsewhere now Dr. Mounce. Some comments I would make is that this forum was started to find a humane solution to a colony of cats existing on Costco property other than letting them thirst and/or starve to death or otherwise suffer. While you site numerous problems caused by cats you fail to make any serious argument to solve the feral cat population on Maui. Reading the Maui News coverage of this issue I have yet to hear of anyone advocating euthanasia for them.

      Returning to the issue at hand, the humane treatment of the Costco Colony. Costco’s apparent answer is to neither trap and euthanize them or let the existing TNR program that seems to be working their proceed. Their solution seems to be just do nothing and don’t allow anyone else to do anything either. Just let these poor animals who have done nothing wrong and were put there by thoughtless people die a slow painful death by thirst and starvation.
      I am a Costco member and it pains me to know that Costco’s attitude is so cruel and inhumane. By their act of not letting anyone else maintain the care of these animals they have for all intents and purposes taken responsibility for them and are therefore guilty of starving animals under their direct supervision. . For this act of harming and mistreating animals I have read of several people that have been successfully prosecuted by Maui County and received fines and jail time.
      We the people of Maui created this problem and we must solve the problem. So called feral cats are not like wild pigs and deer they don’t go out and forage for their own food and take care of themselves, they have been domesticated for far too long to return to their wild origins. Costco is making a deliberate choice of care for these animals, if they choose to prevent anyone else from taking care of them then they are deliberately being cruel and inhumane, if they trap and euthanize them then at least that would be better than the former.
      Please Costco do the right thing and let me continue shopping there with a clean conscience!

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