Feral cats have become a growing problem in the Putnam County area. While many people are disgusted with it, others have taken it upon themselves to make sure the cats are cared for as much possible.
This year Barb Gaber and two friends have taken it upon themselves to use the trap-neuter-release practice to help safely control the cat population.
Many people don't know the difference between a stray and a feral cat. One important distinction is that a stray cat is not afraid of people while a feral cat will most likely crouch down low and run away in the presence of people. Feral cats, however, are not adoptable while strays are.
"Most of them are born to feral mamas and they can't be tamed," Gaber said.
Feral cats are known to form natural colonies. Due to their reproductive nature, a single cat can have at least three litters a year. Feral cats also have a tendency to help nurse other cats' litters. It's estimated that there are probably 300-500 feral cats in Putnam County.
The group practices the trap-neuter-release technique to help control the population. They trap the cats using "Have a Heart" traps and then cover them with a blanket to calm the cat down. They are then transferred to S.P.O.T, a non-profit veterinarian in Cloverdale, to be neutered and vaccinated.
After being neutered, the cats get shots for rabies, fleas and worming, as well as ear tipping, a process of which cuts off a small section of the cat's ear to show the cat is neutered. The cats are then released.
"It's not good to release them somewhere else," Gaber explained. "It's actually very cruel because these cats are in unknown territory."
Cost of this process is around $62 per cat. Members of the group pay for most of the cost out of their own pockets.
One local woman, Marian Harvey, has paid out of her own pocket for 150 cats to be neutered and vaccinated.
"There have been some donations," Gaber said. "It's amazing, the people who don't have much money are the ones who feed these kitties."
The goal, Gaber said, is to trap and neuter all the cats in the area. The cats will then be unable to reproduce and eventually die off. It's estimated that most of these feral cats only live 5-7 years.
"It is so important that people get their pets neutered," Gaber said. "It's very effective if pet owners neuter their pets or make sure that with reproduction all the kittens have homes."
The closing of the Putnam County Humane Society has not affected their goal whatsoever. With the Humane Society being a no-kill shelter, it would not take in feral cats.
The group is catching cats all over Putnam County. Members also make sure the cats are doing well after they are released by keeping a log and checking up on them on a regular basis.
A Haunted House fundraiser to benefit the effort is scheduled for Oct. 21 and 22 at S.P.O.T in Cloverdale. It will run from 7:30-11 p.m. and costs $5. The fundraiser will also include a bake sale.
For more information on the trap-neuter-release technique, visit www.alleycat.org.