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Friday, May 16, 2008

Crowd control: Spay Day helps reduce unwanted cat population

By Charlotte Huntley/Contributor

To Do: The next Spay Day is Friday, May 23, 2008. Appointments required. Call (262) 473-4769

Feral cats--those that have escaped from domestication and become wild--breed at will, leading to an explosion in the cat population, says Lela Schuster.

Terry Mayer/The Week
Lela Schuster befriends a cat at Touched by a Paw cat rescue and shelter in Whitewater, Wis.

To tackle the problem, Schuster, vice president and spay and neuter coordinator for Touched By A Paw Cat Rescue and Shelter has been working to provide low-cost spaying and neutering services in Walworth County.

"There are a lot of feral and free-roaming cats," Schuster said. "Those are high-priority; they're just breeding at will."

Touched by a paw has been working with Shelter Outreach Services of the Dane County Humane Society to offer a high-volume, low-cost spaying and neutering program, which is held on the fourth Friday of each month at Richmond Town Hall at W8776 Territorial Road in rural Whitewater.

Founded by Janna Burhop as a cat rescue organization in Whitewater, Touched By A Paw houses about 80 cats in their facility, and there are about 50 more adoptable ones in foster care.

Since it is a nonprofit organization and supported by donations, they can't keep up with the need.

Terry Mayer/The Week
The shelter hosts a monthly spay and neuter day providing affordable services.

Schuster said they are doing 450 spay/neuter procedures per year. "We've been doing this for almost a year-and-a-half," she said.

"At spay day, we get between 30 and 40. We need to get our own shelter cats done, but two-thirds to three-fourths of the cats are from the community," Schuster said.

"There are so many people who want to do the right thing for their animals or stray animals and they don't have the means. Just those few things-getting fixed and vaccinated-makes a huge difference in the health of that individual cat." The cost is $40 per cat, male or female.

The best scenario to keep the cat population in control is to focus on spaying and neutering cats in a particular area, attend to as many cats as possible, and then move out from there. Schuster demonstrated, making a small circle with her hands and then enlarging the circle.

The method for handling feral cats is the called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, and it has shown to reduce the cat population in study after study.

These cats are docked on their left ear to show that they have been fixed and vaccinated, then are returned into their habitat with good results.

"The surgical procedure uses dissolving stitches and surgical glue so there needs to be no follow-up after surgery," Schuster said.

Schuster said they give advice about how to capture those cats and recommend using Have-A-Heart humane traps. "One of the most important things for humane trapping is to cover the trap so that the animal doesn't feel so panicked."

If a person has a cat that needs to be spayed or neutered, Schuster said to call Touched By A Paw at (262) 473-4769 and leave a message and your phone number. Schuster will return your call and ask about the cat and the situation. "Because it's a limited resource, we have to prioritize, unfortunately. Our goal is to focus on those in need-the people as well as the animals."

Schuster said that they really need eight volunteers during spay day, and if they had more, there could be more spay days, volunteers could work in shorter shifts and some could volunteer to feed the volunteers. To volunteer, Schuster said, "People have to be serious."

The male cats are done in the morning, much like an assembly-line, and the procedure takes about five minutes.

The procedures for females take longer and are done one at a time.

Each cat is given antibiotics and vaccinated for rabies and distemper.

Fighting, biting and behavioral problems are quite common in unneutered males, which is good way of spreading diseases such as feline immune disorder.

After sterilization, cats will gain weight and their fur will get glossy. Tomcats will become more docile and less territorial.

Schuster said, "It helps individual cats, it helps the animal lovers and this is the best way to reduce the population."

Touched By A Paw Cat Rescue and Shelter can be reached at (262) 473-4769 and is behind Reflections of the Past at 182 W. Main St., Whitewater.


For information about the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, see www.alleycat.org .



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