On Saturday, a group of animal lovers took the first step toward controlling the feral cat population on St. George Island with a trap/neuter/release program (TNR).
TNR is the method of feral cat control endorsed by Alley Cat Allies (ACA), a national organization to protect and stabilize feral cat populations.
According to the ACA website, “TNR involves humanely trapping stray and feral cats and having them vaccinated and spayed/neutered before returning them to their outdoor home. It is the only effective method of stabilizing outdoor cat colonies. As a result of TNR, the birth of new kittens in the colony slows down and eventually ends when all the cats are spayed or neutered. In addition, socialized cats and kittens are spayed/neutered and then often put up for adoption, causing an immediate reduction in the population size.
“After using the cruel, costly catch and kill method for decades and failing to stabilize cat populations, local officials and animal control officers everywhere have realized that they need a completely different approach. Some TNR programs have now been in place for as many as 25 years.”
Helen Gore and Cathy Buell, cofounders of St. George Island Cat Allies together with June Crawford of Aiken, South Carolina, organized Saturday’s meeting, held at the St. George Island United Methodist Church. They began their crusade by rescuing 14 feral cats trapped at an island housing development and slated for execution. Eight of those cats are now housed in Apalachicola awaiting adoption.
Gore said to further their rescue mission, the Allies need four things.
Volunteers are needed to help trap and transport cats. Volunteers would not be expected to handle the animals, only traps or crates containing them.
Traps are the second component of the proposed program. The preferred brand is Tru Catch because they will not injure small kittens. The cost of a Tru Catch trap is between $50 and $60.
The third necessary component is a veterinary clinic where the cats can be neutered. The Allies are still weighing their options for veterinary care.
Depending on the option chosen for veterinary care, the group may also need a safe, climate-controlled space to house cats overnight after surgery.
Finally, the program needs money.
Bill Henderson, founder of Miss Kitty Feline Sanctuary, Inc.; in Thomasville spoke to the group on Saturday. “The money is out there but you have to ask,” he said.
Henderson and wife Bettye successfully operate a cat sanctuary that houses around 150 felines at any given time. He said that in addition to slowing population growth, a TNR program enhances the quality of life for both cats and the people who live near them because the cats are healthier and less prone to fighting.
He called the trap-to-euthanize method of cat population control a “death machine” that kills four million cats annually in the US.
Gore said she felt the meeting was a great success. About 20 people turned out for the discussion. Several people came forward at the meeting to offer to take an active role in the effort, including Willie Norred and Mary Ann Durrer who has taken the job of treasurer.
“We will continue to announce our meetings hopefully via the Times as well as individual emails,” Gore wrote in a follow-up email.
She said she and Buell plan to request to speak with the Civic Club on St. George Island and perhaps the homeowners’ association in the Plantation.
“We are in need of others who may be interested in becoming board members for our organization,” said Gore. “Our immediate goals are to continue to seek volunteer support; to look for seed money, through donations and/or people to assist us with fundraisers; to search for vehicles to utilize for transport of cats and/or kittens; to find a suitable air-conditioned storage room/facility for caged cats post-surgery; to earn money for the purchase of traps; and of course to become a non-profit/501(c)(3) organization.”
Penelope’s Pet Stop in Eastpoint has offered to help with housing cats post-surgery.
If you want to help by either volunteering, making a donation or adopting a cat, please call at Gore 323-0123 or Buell at 370-1125.