There are an estimated 1500 free roaming/feral cats within the Rockland city limits alone. The cats live in colonies anywhere they can scavenge for food—around barns, along the working waterfront, in the backyards of people who feed them. These animals did not create their circumstances, and yet they do create a big problem: they reproduce at a staggering rate. Just one un-fixed female cat and her offspring can produce 20,000 offspring in a five-year period.
The Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County (PMHSKC) has received a 65K, 2 year grant from PetSmart Charities® to implement a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. This effort will address the burgeoning population of free roaming/feral cats in Knox County. In collaboration with the Community Spay and Neuter Clinic in Freeport (CSNC), PMHSKC will humanely and systematically spay and neuter free roaming/feral cats beginning with the communities of Rockland, Thomaston, Warren and Union. Elaine Matson and Nancy Peavy will serve as coordinators for the program, directing PMHSKC staff and volunteers for the next two years.
The goal of the TNR Program is an ambitious one: to sterilize 974 free roaming cats by the end of 2014. The process is intensive and requires the help of many people. Colonies must be identified first. Residents of Rockland, Thomaston, Warren and Union are encouraged to notify the shelter when they believe they have observed one. Ms. Matson and Ms. Peavy then investigate and lead trapping efforts with volunteer assistance. Cats are trapped, transported, given a rabies vaccination, neutered, ear tipped for identification, and returned to the location where it was initially trapped.
This tremendous effort benefits all: the cats, the community, and the environment. Free roaming/feral cats are often not adoptable; they must live out their lives with the survival skills they have learned. But after the TNR Program has addressed the colony, trained volunteer caretakers will continue to feed and monitor it, noting additions, kittens, and health issues. By curtailing its population and feeding the cats to minimize hunting and scavenging, the colony’s impact is greatly reduced.
Many hands, minds and hearts are needed to help PMHSKC achieve its goal. Volunteers are needed to help in identifying colonies, posting notices and door hangers in targeted areas, and generally spreading the word. Especially helpful would be residents who are currently feeding cats and are willing to assist in trapping them. Donations of canned Vienna sausages (the best bait) are most welcome. Drivers willing to transport the cats to and from surgery and aftercare are sorely needed. Finally, people are needed to become the volunteer caretakers assigned and train to oversee each colony, which will grow smaller and less significant with each passing year.
For more information and to find out how you can volunteer, please contact Elaine Matson and Nancy Peavy at 594-2200.
UPDATE: Now at no charge you can read the most comprehensive feral cat guide, the Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook: The Guide to Trap-Neuter-Return for the Feral Cat Caretaker, 2nd Edition.
The Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook starts with the basics (Chapter One: What is a Feral Cat?) and proceeds with a detailed view of the TNR method and the policies supporting it. There are chapters about the practical how-to’s of providing food, water and shelter and extensive information about trapping, including advanced techniques for hard-to-catch cats. There is a section on building good community relations – a key but often overlooked component of successful TNR programs – plus much more valuable info throughout the guide.