Tammy: Thank you for taking an interest in cat issues and I am pleased to help “enlighten” our canine cousins. Most dogs are only interested in what the cat is eating and those little morsels they leave in the litterbox that seem so tasty. I am honored.
Rumpy: I love ALL animals! Now I know that every community has feral cats, whether they admit it or not.
Tammy: Yes they are and the biggest problem is that people feed the cats, but don’t get them fixed or medical attention.
Rumpy: Why did your community decide to do something about it?
Tammy: We live in a fishing village. So for many years the myth that a cat “belongs” or will live well in a fishing village was the belief of choice for most. The cats outnumbered the humans and they were sick and dying. I knew the cats had to be fixed, but the local vets wanted over 100.00 per cat.
Rumpy: That could get pretty expensive!
Tammy: Luckily, the first low/no cost spay/neuter clinic had just opened in Jacksonville and that’s how I learned about TNR. I felt this was a much more economical and humane solution to the problem other than letting them continue to breed and die. And it would stabilize and eventually reduce the population.
This kitty was caught in a humane trap and was neutered.
Rumpy: So what exactly did you do?
Tammy: I borrowed some traps from the clinic and began trapping. They had just received a grant to spay/neuter all feral cats in my area since our reputation for being a “cat village” was well known. So I started trapping and haven’t stopped since.
Rumpy: Hooray! And what’s been the result of all that hard work?
Tammy: It has been incredible. For a few years we had no kittens born in my area; however with the economic downturn, many cats were dumped here and in the past 2 years we’ve only had 3 litters born. It has cleaned up our community and the caretakers are able to handle the cats, so the feeding stations and colonies are cleaner and healthier also. It has also educated many people who would otherwise not have been aware of the resources and benefits of TNR.
Rumpy: What do you mean by “dumped” cats?
Tammy: When people lose their homes, they dump their cats. Our location on the water, next to low income housing and a Navy base has meant that Mayport Village is literally the center of the cat universe. People began to hear about our program and assumed their pet cats would be cared for out here or people that don’t like ferals in their yard, will trap them and then dump them here.
Rumpy: So people actually abandon their cats there rather than surrender them to animal control?
Tammy: Yes, as more people have become aware of us and our location, we have seen an increase in “dumped” social cats. In fact 4 more were dumped last week, however with our colony maintenance and community involvement, we are alerted to new cats and they are trapped.
Rumpy: Are other communities doing the same thing to manage feral cat populations?
Tammy: We have had out of state communities call for information on how to start a program. Locally, because our city instituted the Feral Freedom program through the city’s Animal Care & Protective Services, most in the community are aware of TNR.
These cats are healthy and well fed thanks to Mayport Cats, Inc.
Rumpy: That’s wonderful! But it must cost lots of money. Who pays for it all?
Tammy: We work on donations, no cat/caretaker is denied because they can’t pay. Ferals don’t have anyone to pay, so we take donations and get grants. We have even traded out working at the clinic to help pay our spay/neuter bill. We have 2 fundraisers a year. While we do not have alot of funds and are an all volunteer group, we always seem to have enough for “one more cat”.
Rumpy: Animal welfare volunteers are some of the most dedicated humans I know! So what’s the last word on managing feral cat populations?
Tammy: Education! This is the key to clearing the myths about feral cats and abandoning your cat or any animal. It will NOT be ok on it’s own, even if it is “just a cat”. Ferals are usually in great shape, it’s the dumped house cat that we find in terrible condition.
Please make an effort to get your cat fixed, even if it’s a male. While he may not have kittens in your laundry room, he will be out populating the entire neighborhood.
Be a part of the solution, even if you don’t like cats, you can still support what cat caretakers are doing or your local spay/neuter clinic.
If you are a caretaker, continue to educate yourself, keep your colony area clean and get them fixed! Feral cats are the “pit bulls” of the cat world. Through education, compassion and legislation, these dogs have been elevated to beloved dog status, we can do the same with ferals.
I hope this answers some of the questions dogs and humans may have about cats and ferals. If you or your readers need any further info, we are more than happy to help! Thank you on behalf of feral and abandoned cats everywhere.
Rumpy: Thank you soooo much for being my guest today! And thanks to Mayport Cats, Inc. for helping all those homeless kitties!
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The photos used on this post belong to Mayport Cats, Inc., and were used with permission.