04/15/13 — Efforts ready to curb cat issue

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Efforts ready to curb cat issue

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on April 15, 2013 1:46 PM

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A feral cat peeks out from the woods -- a member of one of the many cat colonies.

Feral cats are a constant concern in Goldsboro for the city's animal control personnel -- and despite efforts to curb growth -- the population is still increasing.

"They are a serious problem in Goldsboro," said Cary Saulcon, Goldsboro animal control worker. "In seven months, a baby cat will have its own babies, it just keeps multiplying."

An all-volunteer program, Operation Catnip, based in Raleigh is working to expand resources in Wayne County.

Operation Catnip promotes an alternative to euthanasia that they say controls the population better.

The method heralded by organizations like Operation Catnip, Spay and Neuter Assistance Program of North Carolina and Alley Cat Allies is to trap the cats, to neuter or to spay them and then to return them to where they were trapped from, otherwise known as TNR.

Feral cats live in groups called colonies and they live anywhere there is food to eat, experts say.

Cats from a colony are trapped and sterilized. When they are returned to the area, a feral cat caretaker manages the colony to ensure the cats are healthy.

The idea behind the TNR method is that when a feral cat colony is merely rounded up and euthanized there is a void left where there are resources in an area and no competition, which allows more feral cats to move into the area and breed, often resulting in a larger population, this is called the vacuum effect.

The idea is that a colony of sterilized feral cats act as a place holder stopping other cats from flooding the area and not adding any new kittens to the colony, which keeps the population in an area manageable.

Programs like operation Catnip Raleigh often lend humane traps to people so they can catch the cats and take them to clinics to have them sterilized.

Operation Catnip has set up a website dedicated to spreading information and furthering their programs in Wayne County located at www.waynetnr.org, according to Marie Brewer, a volunteer with Operation Catnip.

The program also maintains a hotline so that citizens can get information about taking care of feral cats and also report feral cat colonies in an area for the organization to tack and maintain, the number for the hotline is 919-647-4206.

They also offer vouchers for the cats to be sterilized at other shelters, which cost around $50 each. The vouchers cover the sterilization along with a rabies vaccine, pain medication and the cropping of the left ear.

The section removed from the left ear marks the cat as sterilized and as part of a managed colony so it is not trapped again.

One area of Goldsboro known for feral cats is the partially wooded area in between Kmart on Berkeley Boulevard and the Burger King on Spence Avenue.

Two distinct feeding areas can be identified near the edge of the woods by water bowls and empty cans of cat food set out around the water bowls.

In another area, a litterbox is set up and wood chips are strewn around the area with storage boxes turned on their sides like shelters for the cats.

Saulcon believes one of the major causes of the formation of the cat colonies is people who just leave the cats behind when they move.

"They just leave town and turn the cat out or sometimes a family member dies and their family doesn't want the pet so they just leave it," said Saulcon. "They get the valuable stuff and leave the trash and the pets."

He says he suggests they take the animals to a shelter but most of the time the response he gets is, "It's not my cat," and that people don't feel obligated to do anything about the pet.

There are volunteers in the area who take responsibility for these colonies keeping them fed and healthy as they live out the rest of their lives. Anyone who wants to volunteer, become a feral cat caretaker or donate money for vouchers can visitoperationcatnip.org/ or snap-nc.org.