HONOLULU (KHON2) — A proposal that would have considered poisoning feral cats stalled at the state Legislature on Friday, Feb. 4.

The idea behind the proposal was to protect Hawaii’s struggling bird population — but not everyone was on board.

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The bill called to eliminate all feral cats on Hawaii, Maui and Kauai and reduce Oahu’s feral population by 50% by the end of 2025.

Rep. Patrick Branco authored the bill and said there is a critical need for immediate action.

“The main thing, which I think the point that was lost, is Hawaii needs to take care of their native birds,” Rep. Branco said. “It’s not about doing something so our grandchildren can hear the birds or our grandchildren can see these birds. If we don’t do something now, our forests are going to go silent.”

Rep. Branco said at least 32 native Hawaiian bird species have gone extinct and something needs to change so others do not follow. He looked to Australia — which has found success using toxic bait to reduce the feral cat population.

Some say it is not humane, however.

“What this chemical does is it slowly, as the animal ingests it, it creates nausea, vomiting, creates abdominal pain, the animal starts sweating, they have apprehension and confusion… This can take several days for the cat to die. This does not mean aloha to me.”

Dr. Karen Tyson, KAT Charities executive director

Dr. Tyson manages a feral cat colony on Oahu and said spay/neuter services are the key to management.

“By going in and doing trap/neuter/return, in two years that colony is now down to 49 cats. 49 from 300! Nobody was killed, nobody suffered from terrible deaths.”

Dr. Karen Tyson, KAT charities executive director

“The focus of managing the feral cat population needs to be education and access to spay/neuter services. Period,” Dr. Tyson said.

Rep. Branco disagrees.

“I wish that trap, spay and neuter programs work, but they just don’t,” Rep. Branco said, “Perhaps there are other options, but we must immediately reduce the population to make sure that we can take care of our birds.”

Dr. Tyson said, “but simply going in and poisoning these cats, what damage are we going to do to these same birds when we’re in the process of poisoning the cats?”

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