It was a Free For Fer-alls—and strays and any other cat who lives outdoors and needs to end its reproductive life whether it knows it or not. 95 cats were spayed and neutered, well, except they ran out of time for these three and they ended up at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society for surgery first thing in the morning. But in all, 95 cats were served by three veterinarians who volunteered their Sunday to prevent hundreds, possibly thousands, of kittens from being born on the streets. All cats had surgery, were ear-tipped to show they are fixed and are in a managed colony cared for by a responsible individual, and also received a rabies vaccine and flea treatment.
Unlike other clinics which are a mix of owned, recently rescued and a few stray and feral cats, this clinic was free and was intended for cats being returned outdoors after their surgery. We’d love to take them all in, and when there are spaces to fit them we do, but now, in the middle of summer, everyone who can foster is full of kittens. Many people brought multiple cats, a mother and her kittens or an extended family, or three or six or more from one colony of cats living outdoors, hoping to get them all fixed and then feed them outdoors unless something better could be found. If a pet cat were to be scheduled, as they sometimes are for these, those still need to pay the regular rates but get all the same services.
Often they were people who cad called the hotline for help with a mother cat who’d had kittens under their porch and who they’d been feeding, and they were willing to continue feeding and caring for them outdoors if they could get them spayed and neutered. This is a wonderful kindness by a person who doesn’t need to care and responsibility but who is taking care and responsibility anyway, and because they are usually inexperienced at catching a wily mother cat and her tiny bouncing kittens other rescuers will often help with loaning a trap and helping with capturing the little family.
This “free” clinic actually costs about $1,500 and the underwriting for it comes from various sources, a small portion from supporting organizations, but most of it comes from donors. Last month I posted about a YouCaring fundraiser to raise $1,500 for an extra clinic about the six already scheduled for 2013, and enough donors came through and raised the money. Later this year, that clinic will help to catch this year’s kittens who will be old enough to reproduce beginning next spring.
These three spent some time in the cool shade of my front porch, watched over by Mewsette, before I drove them up to the clinic in Tarentum where they’d spend the night, then be picked up by their colony manager and returned to their familiar home.
In addition to the successful YouCaring fundraiser, HCMT also hosted a highly successful online auction from July 20 through July 27, raising…(drum roll)…$5,175!!! That’s a lot of free and low-cost care for cats in the Pittsburgh area!
Clinic Dates Through 2013
NO-CHARGE CLINICS (FERALS ONLY)
8/25 – BEAT THE HEAT CLINIC
10/6 – Fund for Feral Cats partial sponsorship for National Feral Cat Day
FAST TRACK CLINICS
($30 PER FERAL – See CLINIC INFO for other costs)
10/27 – BLACK CATS FREE – HAPPY HALLOWEEN
BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION—STOP ANIMAL OVERPOPULATION! HAVE YOUR CAT SPAYED OR NEUTERED.
In 13 years HCMT has served over 15,000 cats, and clinics in the spring and summer often treat over 100 cats at each clinic, roughly twice each month. They served 371 in the first three months of this year alone.
Think about that for a minute now…spay and neuter surgeries for 371 stray, feral and owned cats in just three months. With the reproductive lives of that many cats effectively put to an end, imagine how many other kittens won’t end up out on the streets or in shelters. In between the free clinics they also offer very low-cost spay and neuter for owned cats, which provides an alternative for people with limited incomes or several cats who need to be spayed and neutered at one time.
Also, nearly all the cats I feature each week for adoption were rescued through people who volunteer to monitor, feed, trap and assist outdoor cats for the Homeless Cat Management Team and organizations working with them. If we need to reduce populations of cats living outdoors, the number of cats entering shelters and work toward being as close to “no-kill” as possible, we need to support and practice TNR and spay and neuter of all cats.
You’ll find specifics below or visit www.homelesscat.org for information, instructions and the hotline number. For any clinic you need to call a hotline and leave a message to schedule an appointment and a volunteer will return your call with instructions.
Support and volunteer
HCMT opened their own clinic with a matching grant from Animal Care & Welfare, and their free clinics are funded in part by the Fund for Ferals, plus donations from individuals and those who use the low-cost services offered by the clinic.
Every clinic reduces the populations of cats living on the streets and prevents the births of potentially thousands of kittens. Any donation would help defray the cost of these clinics and help cats living outdoors, in shelters and even in foster homes. A small donation in honor of one of your cats or a person who was instrumental in teaching you about cats would help all cats in need. Also, if you know of an individual, an organization or a group of people who would like to make a donation and can sponsor a free clinic, you would have a huge impact on the lives of cats in the Pittsburgh area.
HCMT also needs volunteers for clinics, up to 20 per clinic for various duties and different shifts. The discussions in the weeks before each clinic of where cats need to be trapped, who needs traps, where there were kittens, who might need to be moved and who could transport cats was constant to be certain to get as many cats into each clinic as possible. Individual volunteers also spend countless hours in the days leading up to the clinics trapping and holding cats, transporting, and caring for them for a day or more afterward, not to mention the volunteers at the clinic itself.
Volunteer or donate. Call Homeless Cat Management Team hotline and leave a message, 412-321-4060.
You must pre-register for any clinic.
- First, call 412-321-4060 and leave a message; someone will return your call and complete your pre-registration.
- Second, once you have pre-registered for the clinic you want to attend, and you will receive a confirming phone call to be included in the clinic. Feral cats MUST arrive in a standard humane box trap (Havahart, Safe-guard, Tomahawk, Tru-Catch, etc.) for the safety of all involved. Rescue and owned cats can arrive in carriers.
If you have any questions, please call the hotline number and ask!
All clinics are held at the HCMT’s clinic at 207 Allegheny St, Tarentum, PA 15084.
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About the HCMT Clinics
My article on Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT) clinics was recently published in Pittsburgh Pet Connections Magazine, outlining what TNR is about for each community, and what actually happens at the HCMT clinics. Visit Trap-Neuter-Return and the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh and read all about the clinics, along with lots of photos.
A TNR program…involves people who volunteer to identify each cat living in groups or colonies outdoors, trap it for spay or neuter and veterinary care, and then feed and care for it in the neighborhood ore remove it as the situation requires. With a colony of cats without reproductive hormones and fed regularly most of the irritating issues of cats living outdoors are eliminated. There’s little left to caterwaul about, male cat spraying is vastly reduced, they hunt and kill far less because they are fed, and they can’t reproduce so new cats are only lost or escapes, dumped cats, or owned cats who roam outdoors, and the colony no longer grows with each season of new kittens. In fact, lost cats can be returned to their owners, friendly cats are often pulled for rehoming, and any kittens are generally kept indoors to be socialized and put up for adoption after spaying and neutering. If a cat becomes ill or is found to be injured, the colony caretaker will get that cat the veterinary care it needs.
Colony caretakers also tend to track the owned cat populations in their neighborhood and if a cat is found to need assistance or an owner needs to know about veterinary care the caretaker can provide that information. If a person is found to be keeping unaltered cats who are producing kittens, the caretaker will offer that person information on low-cost spay/neuter options and possibly even assist them in taking advantage of a low-cost clinic.
Visit Trap-Neuter-Return and the Homeless Cat Management Team in Pittsburgh to read the rest and see lots of photos.
The issue of feline overpopulation
Cats left in colonies will produce as many kittens as their bodies will allow if left unaltered, leading to disease and suffering and way too many kittens who then go on to produce more kittens.
It’s not likely, but a cat can have up to five litters in a year, bearing 6 or more kittens per litter over the course of as many as ten years, which adds up to about 300 kittens from one female cat in the course of her lifetime, not to mention the kittens her kittens produce.
More realistically, say she only has three litters of four kittens per year as Mimi did, that’s still a dozen new kittens, and even with an average 50% survival rate, that’s 60 kittens born over five years. Now add in all the kittens that those surviving kittens produce in addition to their mother, and it’s just out of control.
Ever-expanding colonies are also often the targets of abuse and “extermination”. Shelters are already full of cats who need homes, so rescue is unlikely.
The Homeless Cat Management Team offers the “Trap-Neuter-Return”, or TNR, service for feral cats which is an internationally-recognized method of helping to solve these problems by stopping the cycle of kittens and overpopulation. They just can’t produce any more kittens—and they don’t engage in the most annoying feline behaviors, such as spraying, calling for mates, caterwauling and fighting, noisy and odorous activities that often turn people against cats and colonies of strays and ferals.
This service is now available for household pets or even cats simply kept outdoors if they are owned by a person. This is intended to reduce stray and feral populations in colonies, cats who aren’t owned by anyone, so before registering for the clinic you must first register as a colony caretaker. For more details on the process of registering yourself as a colony caretaker and registering for a clinic, please visit the Homeless Cat Management Team’s website at www.homelesscat.org. You can also find other clinic dates and information on how you can help feral cats in many other ways.
If you’re not near Pittsburgh and you’d like to find out if there is a TNR organization near you, visit the Feral Cat Organizations listing on the Humane Society of the United States’ website. You can also find information on the Alley Cat Allies’ website under Make Connections. You can find yet more resources on the ASPCA website under TNR and Colony Management.
You don’t need to manage a colony top help feral cats. You can donate to, assist or even start a local TNR program in your area. The HSUS’s article What You Can Do to Help Feral Cats covers finding local organizations, listing options and how to pursue helping or starting a local organization, and they also have a Program Fund that you can donate to in order to assist them in helping local organizations form and operate.
Alley Cat Allies is all about assisting colony managers, and you can also donate to this organization in order to help the larger effort of local organizations.
And Alley Cat Allies has what I think is the most comprehensive information on just what feral cats are and how to care for them, including several articles on winter care, outdoor shelters, feeding and providing water in winter and avoiding hazards from chemicals like road salt and anti-freeze.
In addition to the articles, they also have a Video Library that demonstrates how to trap ferals, how to care for them, the clinic procedures and even how to speak to the public about feral cats.
You’ll also find information on other topics, such as feeding strays and ferals, letting your cat mix with strays and ferals and legislation around the country and in Canada regarding their treatment.
Here are the quick links to the sites above:
It’s difficult for we who love cats not to think of each of them as potential companions for us, but true feral cats were never pet cats and while they can be tamed they are a few generations removed from human contact and they’ve adapted to life without the assistance of humans. The TNR program stops the cycle of reproduction and provides them with vaccinations and care that help to protect the larger society of all cats, but the intent is not to provide them with ongoing veterinary care as we do our indoor cats, or to find them permanent homes.
That’s not to say that feral cats can’t come in. I’ve seen some feral cats who’ve been brought in to shelters for various reasons, usually because a colony was threatened by abuse or extermination, and I even rescued a single cat from a feral colony years ago, my little Moses who was near death from starvation, literally laying down and not moving she was so far gone. She was young and learned to live in the house, and she and I enjoyed nineteen years of a close and loving relationship, but I could never pick her up, she was terrified of other people though she was timid and never acted out.
A friend adopted a rescued feral from a shelter where she volunteered, and MacKenzie mingles with the other cats but has her rules, especially the one about not being put in a carrier or she’ll offer to slice open your hand, and other clever cat tricks.
Find a low-cost clinic near you
Spaying and neutering surgery can be done for as little as $25.00.
Also look in the menu on this blog under “Assistance” for links to local shelters and spay/neuter clinics plus a searchable database to find the clinic nearest you anywhere in the United States and parts of Canada.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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