The tiny yellow cat was living near the trash bin of the Subway restaurant in Greencastle.
Subway staff Melissa Nauman, Travis Huff and Delia McCalister noticed the little fellow and tried to catch him for over a week. They tempted him with tuna and other goodies, but the feral cat kept his distance.
When McCalister noticed the kitten seemed to have an injured tail, she and her staff got serious about catching him. McCalister called her husband Keith , who brought a live trap to the store. With a little more tuna they were able to catch the cat.
They discovered he was horribly injured, with most of his tail eaten off by maggots. The group set about trying to find help for the cat. They called local veterinarians and the Humane Shelter, but could not find anyone to provide aid to the kitten.
"I was worried to death about that kitten. When I couldn't get any help from the area vets I wasn't sure what to do," said McCalister.
Finally, McCalister talked with a friend from church, Judy Weatherman, who had a contact living at Heritage Lake and told them about S.P.O.T. (Stop Pet Overpopulation Today) in Cloverdale.
Veterinarian Nancy Ferguson and registered veterinary technician Shannon Crigger opened their doors and their hearts to the kitten.
"If they brought him in a day or two later, I don't think he would have make it," Crigger said.
The Subway crew donated from their own pockets to help save the kitten, dubbed "Jared" by Ferguson and Crigger after Subway spokesman Jared Fogle.
Ferguson and Crigger operated on the kitten, removing what was left of his tail and cleaning him up. He was vaccinated and neutered and given a notch in his ear to identify him as a feral cat that has been sterilized.
"Fortunately, no maggots had gotten inside the cat. We were able to remove his tail and clean him up. He's doing fine now," said Ferguson.
Becky Robinson, a volunteer at S.P.O.T., saw 3 month-old kitten and decided to adopt him.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, a feral cat is any cat that is too poorly socialized to be handled and who cannot be placed into a typical pet home.
Often, feral cats are not socialized and don't want to be touched. Jared is so young that Ferguson says he will be fine.
Robinson has already taken Jared home to meet with her 15-year-old cat Allie. The home also has guinea pigs and bunnies.
Jared made himself right at home in the center of the pen with the guinea pigs.
Jared was lucky to find a home. Feral cats are present in almost every community in the United States. Managing the animals is a real challenge for municipalities and animal welfare organizations.
Feral cats originate primarily from lost or abandoned pet cats that have not been sterilized. Left on their own, the cats and their offspring tend to live in groups known as colonies.
According to Ferguson, attempting to remove these cats from the environment seems simple at first glance.
"Feral cats are at a spot because the environment provides food and shelter for them. Removing one group just opens the area up for another group to move in," she said.
The better action is to use live traps to catch the animals, have them sterilized and then re-release them back where they came from.
"It takes a little longer, but it is a better way to stop the problem. Re-releasing them keeps other feral cats from moving into the area and keeping it an ongoing problem. The sterilized animals eventually die, but they don't produce any more cats. Over time the problem is reduced," she said.
Ferals that are captured, sterilized and re-released get a tiny notch in their ear to mark them as altered.
Whenever possible, tame adults and kittens that can be readily socialized are removed from the colonies and evaluated for adoption. Those whose suffering cannot be alleviated are euthanized.
This program, called Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) can greatly benefit a community. A coalition of local animal organizations implemented TNR on Rikers Island in Queens, N.Y. in 2002. Nearly 300 cats in approximately 20 colonies were trapped over several months.
They were sterilized, given rabies shots and released back to the area with a long-term monitoring and feed system in place. Adoption of some cats led to a drop of 20 percent in the feral population.
Since 2002, only a handful of litters have been found each year and attrition has lowered the overall numbers to approximately half of the original population.
"With this type of program in place, we can put a huge dent in controlling the feral cat population," said Ferguson.
S.P.O.T. is a non-profit spay neuter clinic offering high quality, low cost sterilization. The cost to sterilize a dog (male or female) is $55. Female cats cost $40 and male cats are $35. Feral cat sterilization costs $40 and includes rabies and ear tip. Vaccinations are $10 each.
The organization holds a vaccination clinic every Monday from 1-7 p.m. Surgeries are by appointment only.
S.P.O.T. is located in Cloverdale at the intersection of S.R. 231 and S.R. 42. They can be reached at (765) 795-4336.