By NIKKI YOUNK
HOMESTEAD, Wis. - A group of Florence County residents has found a humane way to deal with the overabundance of feral cats in the county.
Cat Advocates members Billy McCoy, left, and Sarah Giddings prepare to release three feral cats onto a caretaker’s property Homestead, Wis. The cats had just recently been neutered as part of a new trap-neuter-return (TNR) program in Florence County.
It's called trap-neuter-return, or TNR.
The process involves catching feral cats in live traps, sterilizing and vaccinating them, then returning them to their colonies.
Since its beginning in May, the volunteer group Cat Advocates has successfully completed the TNR process on five cats.
Cat Advocates member Billy McCoy said that he was inspired to start a TNR program in Florence County when he began having a problem with cats lingering around his house in Florence.
"I started trapping them and bringing them to the shelter, but most of them were feral and unable to interact with humans, so they had to be euthanized," he explained. "That's when I looked for a better solution."
According to McCoy and Sarah Giddings, another Cat Advocates member, there are currently excessive amounts of feral cats in downtown Florence, the Keyes Lake area, and parts of Aurora and Homestead.
"Many of these cats are being killed," McCoy pointed out.
McCoy said that through his research, he found that TNR is much more effective at controlling feral cat colonies than trap and kill methods.
"If you kill them, more will move in," he added. "An established colony that is sterilized won't reproduce and will keep new cats from coming in."
Once a month, Cat Advocates members have been taking trapped feral cats to a free neuter/spay clinic in Green Bay, Wis.
While a cat is under anesthesia for the sterilization process, the veterinarian will also clip off the tip of the cat's left ear.
This practice marks the cats as TNR cats, so volunteers will know not to re-trap them, and citizens will know that they are sterilized and vaccinated against disease.
McCoy said that, ideally, Cat Advocates will return the sterilized cats to their original homes. However, if they feel the cats may be in danger at their original homes, Cat Advocates will move them to a new location.
For example, McCoy and Giddings recently took three cats from the Keyes Lake area and released them at a caretaker's property in Homestead. There, the cats will have access to food, water, and a barn for shelter.
Cat Advocates is currently seeking additional caretakers, veterinarians, and volunteers of any kind.
Caretakers either allow a TNR colony to live on their property, or simply look after a nearby colony.
Since Cat Advocates may not be able to continue using the Green Bay clinic, members are looking for any local veterinarians who would be interested in offering sterilization services.
Donations of money and live traps are also appreciated.
For more information, see the Cat Advocates page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/florencetnr, or call McCoy at (715) 889-4654 and Giddings at (920) 227-7918.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.