Community Cat Program Helps 1,700-1,800 Cats a Year, Says Paws Humane Society Outreach Director
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Ownerless cats roaming the streets may not seem like a problem at first glance, but they can quickly multiply out of control.
There are two main ways to manage them in Muscogee County, according to Paws Humane Society Outreach Director Erin Lucas, who oversees the Paws Humane Community Cat program. Although euthanasia is an option, the Paws Humane Society prefers to trap, neuter, or neuter and return (TNR) unowned cats to the community.
“Paws Humane has run the Community Cats program for seven and a half years,” Lucas said. “He was born with the City of Columbus through Animal Care & Control in partnership with Best Friends Animal Society, the large national non-profit organization. The City of Columbus was supposed to continue the TNR program after the three-year contract with Best Friends , but they couldn’t pursue it, so Paws went ahead and took over and took on that financial burden to help the community.
Lucas estimated that Paws Humane Society TNR between 1,700 and 1,800 cats per year through the Community Cats program. She also estimated that the program had helped around 10,000 cats in its history and prevented many more from being born on the streets.
For identification, Paws Humane Society cuts off the left ear of every cat in the community after it has been spayed or spayed. But Paws Humane Society doesn’t just neuter or neuter cats, Lucas said. Community cats are also vaccinated against rabies and feline distemper and receive a month of topical flea and tick prevention. If a cat is brought in with injuries, a veterinarian will examine it.
Lucas explained that the Community Cat Program obtains ownerless cats in three ways.
“So the first way is our voucher program,” she said. “This is where people can get vouchers that pay for the cost of the surgery and trap cats on their own and bring them to one of the partner clinics that perform the surgeries, including Paws.”
The program also removes cats from Animal Care & Control that would otherwise be euthanized, treats them and returns them to their communities.
“And then PAWS is also actively trapping caregivers up to three to four times a week to help people who have large colonies or are elderly or don’t have transportation,” she said. .
Trapping the right cat in a large colony can be tricky.
“If a colony has a large amount of cats, that’s when we recommend getting our help with the colony,” Lucas said. “That way we can do mass trapping and have all the cats at once and try to fix them rather than making a big colony one or two cats at a time.”
If someone chooses to trap a cat on their own, Lucas recommended withholding food the night before so the cat is more likely to enter the trap to reach the bait.
“You can come to Paws and borrow up to two humane traps at a time as long as they use them for TNR purposes,” Lucas said. “We just take a credit or debit number and keep it safe until we get our traps back. This way, if we never see our traps again, we can be reimbursed for the cost.
Paws Humane Society does not know how many colonies of feral or stray cats exist in Muscogee County. But as for those he knows about, he prefers not to publicize them, Lucas said.
“We don’t really like to report them because feeding cats, if you see them in the community or interact with them, can actually endanger their well-being,” she said.
Lucas explained that when people who aren’t the cats’ primary caregivers feed them, they can alter the cats’ schedules and territories. A possible consequence of this is that cats are hit by cars because they might be crossing the streets at peak times of the day. Additionally, she said leaving trash such as cans can put cats at risk by upsetting business owners and community members.
However, Lucas said it’s a good thing that dedicated carers feed the cats in the community.
She said the Community Cat Program was partially funded by grants, but stressed that it needed financial support from the community. She said the program saves Muscogee County citizens money in the long run by preventing the birth of kittens that would end up with Animal Care & Control.
Lucas said she considers the wildcats in Muscogee County to be well managed. While Muscogee County cats are overcrowded, Lucas believes the more people learn about the Community Cat Program and free resources for cat owners, the better the problem will be handled.
“I think through the community chat program, studies have shown that it works to reduce the population,” she said. “It’s just a matter of spreading the word and finding local donations and donors who will support this so we can continue our mission to save lives.”
Click here for more information on the Community Cat program.