- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The numbers of unwanted cats in the county can be overwhelming.
In fiscal 2012, the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville euthanized 76 percent or 4,564 of the total (5,987) cats received. This is an average of 380 each month. And there are large numbers of feral cats that are breeding throughout the county, only adding to the numbers of cats. A kitten can start breeding at 6 months old and then can have up to three litters of kittens every year after that.
It’s a heartbreaking situation for animal advocates and cat lovers who hear of starved and diseased cats and see the number that are killed on area roads.
“They multiply really rapidly,” said Diane Harris of Mechanicsville. If you are feeding a stray cat that isn’t spayed or neutered, “you’ll have so many, so fast.”
Harris is the vice president of Feral Cat Rescue of St. Mary’s County, a nonprofit group that advocates advocate spaying and neutering to hold down the county’s cat population. The rescue group recently announced that it has received a grant for $11,875 to provide free spay and neuter services to cats in the Lexington Park area. It is the largest grant Feral Cat Rescue has received since the group was organized in 2007. The funds need to be used by May 17, 2013. The group that provided the grant does not want to be identified, according to Harris.
If an equal number of male and female cats are brought in (it costs more to spay a female than it does to neuter a male), then 250 cats would benefit from the grant.
Those feeding a stray cat in their backyard or at work in the Lexington Park ZIP code and even those with domestic cats that they keep inside can get those cats spayed or neutered free just by calling the rescue group at 301-475-5059, which will contact the Well Pet Clinic in Lexington Park to provide a voucher for the free service. If someone needs help trapping a stray to take them to the clinic, Feral Cat Rescue can provide advice or volunteer assistance.
“Maybe we can get many many cats spayed and neutered this year with this awesome chance,” Harris wrote in a mass email about the grant. “Maybe we can stop the overpopulation and the euthanization that follows.”
Harris recommends those who live outside of the Lexington Park ZIP code area also take their cats to the Well Pet Clinic, which provides low-cost spay/neutering services and other vet services, like rabies shots and de-worming, on a regular basis.
Harris estimates that approximately 125 vouchers for the free spay and neuter services have already been distributed as the result of the grant.
Connie Petty of Leonardtown is the founder of Feral Cat Rescue of St. Mary’s County. “We thought there would be a struggle to get people to do this, but they are coming in,” Petty said. “It has been wonderful because people are responding.”
Petty sees the response as an indication that the cost is what keeps people from taking care of the problem. “Because there is an offering for something free, and they can afford free,” she said.
“The answer is spay/neuter,” Petty said. “They are going to keep on multiplying if they are not caught.”
In addition to pursuing grants for its programs, Feral Cat Rescue of St. Mary’s County also participates in a variety of fundraising efforts throughout the year. Between 40 and 50 volunteers are involved with the group that also is active in cat adoptions.
Cats, cats and more cats
Feral Cat Rescue is at Petco in California on most Saturdays and every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with adoptable cats and kittens. Visit www.feralcatrescue.com for pictures and bios. Gifts of cat food and litter are gratefully accepted. Financial donations toward the group’s efforts are also appreciated. Donations can be sent to Feral Cat Rescue Inc., P.O. Box 623, Great Mills, MD 20634.
To learn more about the rescue’s spay/neuter grant, call 301-475-5059.