Help Reduce Stray and Feral Cat Populations: Homeless Cat Management Team Free or Low-cost Spay or Neuter Clinics

One of my favorite ear-tipped neighborhood cats.
One of my favorite ear-tipped neighborhood cats.

Cats end up living on the street in many ways but usually not by their own choice. They are left behind when people move, they are placed outside as if they are trash when they are no longer wanted, sometimes they unintentionally escape. The reason cats end up outside may be behavioral, or their owner’s financial or emotional issues, but cats end up abandoned and need the help of the community to rescue them and find them another home.

Cats can begin reproducing as young as four months old. An unspayed female cat can have an average of two litters per year with an average of four kittens, some are even more prolific. Her kittens can be ready to produce kittens four months after they are born. If none are spayed or neutered by the next year, well, you can do the math.

But kittens can be spayed and neutered as young as two months, weighing at least two pounds. All those extra kittens never need to be born.

HCMT has spayed or neutered over 1,000 stray, feral and pet cats per year since its founding in 2000. Clinics in the spring and summer often treat over 100 cats at each clinic, roughly twice each month, and more with trapping and rescuing cats between clinics.

Think about that for a minute now…spay and neuter surgeries each year for over 1,000 stray, feral and owned cats. 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?

The Homeless Cat Management Team is a freestanding “Trap-Neuter-Return” (TNR) organization in the Pittsburgh region. Our mission is to lead the way in ending the overpopulation of companion animals in our region by providing high-volume, high-quality, low-cost sterilization. We also assist and support community cat caretakers who work with HCMT with trapping, transportation, cat food and shelter and veterinary care.

HCMT also has clinics open to the public for rescued and pet cats, which provides an alternative for people with limited incomes or several cats who need to be spayed and neutered at one time, such as an “accidental” litter of kittens and their mother.

As part of HCMT’s TNR process and mission to end feline overpopulation and reduce populations of cats living outdoors, volunteers also assess all kittens and friendly cats HCMT has rescued for adoptability and socialization, and after spay/neuter and age-appropriate vaccines offer them for adoption through the sister organization, a network of volunteer foster homes called Pittsburgh C.A.T.

TNR clinic
“Clinic Panorama”

2017 Homeless Cat Management Team Clinics

Feral Cats vs Rescue Cats

A feral is a cat that will be returned to the outdoor location where it was trapped after surgery. A rescue is a cat that either has been or will be adopted as a pet after surgery. Only feral cats are eligible for No-Charge clinics. Both feral and rescue cats can be treated at Fast Track Clinics.

NO-CHARGE CLINIC DATES

No-charge clinics are free for feral cats only and are sponsored by individual donors and fundraising events. The service includes the surgery, pain medications, flea treatment, ear mite treatment if needed, and rabies vaccine. Cats are ear-tipped to show they’ve been spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies.

  • August 6: in memory of Steve Milko
  • September 2: in memory of Milton Lendl
  • September 30: sponsored by Belle Vernon Kitten Rescue Sponsorship
  • October 14: sponsored by Fund for Feral Cats
  • December 9: sponsored by Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser

FAST TRACK CLINIC DATES

Fast Track clinics are for any cat who needs a low-cost spay or neuter. Ferals cost $30.00. Rescue and pet cats cost: male, $40, female, $55. The cost includes the surgery, pain medications, flea treatment and rabies vaccine. Only feral cats are ear-tipped. Other vaccines and services are available at a separate cost.

  • July 23
  • August 20
  • September 16
  • October 29
  • November 18

How to register for a clinic

All clinics are held at HCMT’s clinic at 207 Allegheny St, Tarentum, PA 15084. You must pre-register for any clinic. Walk-ins are not permitted.

First, call 412-321-4060 and leave a message; someone will return your call and complete your pre-registration. HCMT is all volunteer and this may take some time. Clinics fill up quickly and it’s best to call at least two weeks in advance of the clinic you want to attend.

Second, once you have pre-registered for the clinic you want to attend, 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, one cat per carrier. They will be placed back in their carrier or trap for recovery after surgery.

Support, donate and sponsor

HCMT opened their own clinic space in Tarentum, north east of Pittsburgh. Their free clinics are funded in part by donations from individuals, but the biggest portion of the funding is a $1,500 sponsorship by one donor. HCMT would love to offer more opportunities for clinics, so consider sponsoring one yourself, or your business or an organization.

Sponsors for the clinics listed above include family members of board members and volunteers. Milton Lendl, father of a board member, grew up on a farm, was an Ivy League graduate and a real animal lover according to his daughter Lisa who serves on HCMT’s board. His wife Jeanette Lendl regularly sponsors clinics in his memory and also runs a small sale table at clinics to raise extra money.

Ardel Milko runs flea markets and sponsors the clinic nearest her husband Steve’s August 6 birthday with the proceeds, sponsors purchase of materials for use in the clinic at about $100/month, and she also volunteers at the clinics.

In May HCMT received a call for help for a half dozen or so kittens dumped on a farm, but when a volunteer picked up the carriers holding the kittens she found 24 kittens in each carrier and one adult cat who was not their mother. The kittens were malnourished and full of fleas and parasites with upper respiratory infections bordering on pneumonia and infected eyes that could leave them totally blind. In July after two months of treatment those kittens are well and healthy and lost very few eyes, and are up for adoption. Many generous people saw HCMT’s need and donated money, goods and volunteer time, and what was leftover sponsored a clinic to hopefully prevent that sort of thing from happening again.

The Fund for Feral Cats is a Pittsburgh organization that assists local animal welfare organizations in their mission. They are sponsoring the clinic closest to National Feral Cat Day.

In May HCMT held its second annual Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser, raising $14,355.55 which sponsored a clinic and helps cover the costs of rescues like the 48 kittens, the six hoarding cases in which HCMT has assisted the Pittsburgh Police in rescuing cats in the past year, the everyday expenses of rescuing cats and caring for cats at our clinic building between spay/neuter clinics, and just paying the bills.

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.

Volunteer

HCMT also needs volunteers for clinics, up to 20 per clinic for various duties and different shifts, with most of them not requiring medical training, and also volunteers who love cats to help daily to feed, medicate and play with the cats in our clinic for medical treatment.

Volunteer or donate. Call Homeless Cat Management Team hotline and leave a message, 412-321-4060 or visit www.homelesscat.org to find more information and to find links to our Facebook groups.

. . . . . . .

About the HCMT Clinics

My article on Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT) clinics outlines 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.

gray and white cat nursing two gray kittens outdoors
A Stray Cat with Her Kittens

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.

stray black cat
Stray black cat.

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 to 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:

Alley Cat Allies
Alley Cat Rescue
HSUS Feral Cat downloadable handbook 

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. Please check my Shelters, Assistance, Spay/Neuter page for opportunities in Pittsburgh and 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.


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Art With Donation from Portraits of Animals!

marker illustration of 63 cats
“The TNR Story”, 8″ x 14″, Sharpie markers © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

This award-winning art was inspired by working in post op at the May 25, 2014 Homeless Cat Management Team TNR clinic. I’ll make a $5.00 donation to HCMT for each poster sold to help spay and neuter more cats so there won’t be so many to rescue. Quantity discounts are available if you want a stack for a clinic or event. Read more about this artwork and purchase a print of this sketch.

 



All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

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Weekly schedule of features:
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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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