CARE provides assistance to Chatham County residents who are willing to be caretakers of community cats. Assistance is provided on a case by case basis and as funding is available.
WHAT ARE COMMUNITY CATS?
“Community cat” is an umbrella definition that includes any un-owned cat. These cats may be “feral” (unsocialized) or friendly, may have been born in the wild or may be lost or abandoned pet cats. Some community cats are routinely fed by one or more community members, while others survive without human intervention. Whatever a cat’s individual circumstances, the term “community cat” reflects the reality that these cats’ “home” may be within the community rather than an individual household, although many individuals elect to feed and provide shelter for these cats on their own property.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SPAY OR NEUTER COMMUNITY CATS?
One female cat can have more than 3 litters of kittens in a year. With an average of 4-6 kittens per litter, it’s possible for a single, unsterilized cat to give birth to more than 18 kittens in one year. Female kittens may become pregnant at five months of age, starting the cycle of unwanted litters and compounding the over-population problem.
HOW DOES CARE HELP COMMUNITY CATS IN CHATHAM COUNTY?
CARE provides traps and consultation to anyone who wishes to trap these cats on their property as long as they are willing to continue to provide food, water and shelter for them. CARE assists with spaying or neutering these cats, along with providing vaccines and microchips. This is known as Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return (TNVR). After surgery, the cats go back to their original location where they are cared for and monitored by the property owner or other volunteer from the community. Unsocialized, adult cats have their left ear tipped (by clipping the top of the ear), which is the universal symbol of a feral or unsocialized fixed cat, so they can be easily identified as having undergone sterilization surgery and vaccinations. Once spayed or neutered, they cannot reproduce. CARE has occasionally been able to place friendly, community cats.
CARE can also provide plans for feeding stations and cold weather housing options for community cats to provide year-round comfort and safety. If CARE has foster space available, we are sometimes able to socialize young, feral kittens and help them become suitable family pets.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HELPING COMMUNITY CATS? Because the cats can no longer reproduce, there are fewer kittens born and the colony has the potential to decline in size over time. Spaying and neutering also greatly reduce nuisance behavior. Once the cats are fixed, fighting, yowling and other noise associated with mating stops almost entirely. The foul odor caused by unaltered males spraying to mark territory disappears and the cats, no longer driven to mate, roam much less and become less visible. The cats themselves are healthier and less likely to spread feline diseases. Meanwhile, rodent control is maintained by the cats’ continued presence.
Not only does TNVR reduce the numbers of unwanted kittens, but providing rabies vaccinations to these cats also helps create a barrier to the spread of the disease in the cat population as well as in wildlife. Even though rabies in cats is very rare, this makes our county’s rabies prevention program even more effective.
Finally, CARE microchips every community cat it neuters which allows the Animal Resources Division of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department to return these cats to their “home” if trapped or turned in to the shelter, which reduces significantly the number of cats euthanized in our county animal shelter.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT COMMUNITY CATS?
If you see stray cats or kittens and are interested in helping them, contact CARE. If you have community cats on or near your property and are interested in keeping them safe and healthy, CARE can loan you traps and help you get them spayed or neutered as long as you are willing to continue to feed and provide shelter for them.
For more information about community cats, visit Alley Cat Allies or Neighborhood Cats. For more information about CARE’s Community Cat program, email us.