Fitchburg Women Launch Nonprofit to Help City’s Feral Cats

July 30, 2018

Sentinel & Enterprise

FITCHBURG -- Two city women launched a nonprofit this year to reduce the number of feral cats that call the city home.

“The life of a feral isn’t easy, so if we can at least fix them and vaccinate them it helps with their overall life span,” Kathy Goguen said at her home on Friday.

In January, Goguen and Judy Reardon launched Street Cat Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to trapping, vaccinating, then spaying or neutering feral cats in Fitchburg.

Goguen and Reardon met when a colony of cats appeared outside the District Court House one winter years ago, said Reardon.

Both volunteered to help catch them, and at the time the two learned of their common interest in supporting felines, whose well-being they believe doesn’t attract the same attention as other domesticated animals.

“A dog gets loose, you call animal control, people come out and help. ... A cat goes missing, nobody cares,” said Reardon.

So a couple times a month, Reardon and Goguen use a metal trap to catch feral cats around the city. They rely on tips from the community to learn where cat colonies are.

The women place a bit of food in the back of the cage, then wait nearby until a cat enters and a trap door shuts, leaving the animal unharmed, but admittedly startled, said Goguen.

They drape a towel over the trap to keep the cat calm, then take them to the Merrimack River Rescue Society Catmobile, a traveling clinic for spaying, neutering and vaccinating cats against rabies.

Goguen and Reardon estimate they’ve fixed and vaccinated 500 cats over the past five years while volunteering to do this work with various nonprofits.

One goal is to prevent feral cats from reproducing, said Goguen, because feral cats struggle against wild animals, disease and the elements.

“They’re not reproducing, and bringing more kittens into the world, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” she said.

When feral kittens are caught, Goguen, through a partnership with Ahimsa Animal Haven in Templeton, fosters them before they are adopted out.

They estimate they have caught 50 feral kittens who were still young enough to be socialized, domesticated, and adopted.

Both Reardon and Goguen said the number of feral cats in Fitchburg has remained relatively flat over past years.

Controlling the population isn’t easy, they said, because failing to catch one female cat can mean the repopulation of an entire colony.

“It’s very easy for it to explode and then the problem starts all over again,” said Reardon.

Street Cat Angels must pay to spay, neuter and vaccinate the feral cats, said Goguen, at a cost of about $60 each.

They rely on donations to do the work, with help from Street Cat Angels Secretary Michelle Hammond and fundraiser Cindy Cote.

Reardon and Goguen said they don’t see the feral cat population disappearing any time soon, but they said a requirement already in place for dog owners could help.

Requiring cat owners to license their animals with the city could help prevent pets from becoming feral if they escape or are left behind by their owners, Reardon said.

“You have to license dogs. (Why not) license cats? We domesticated them, so treat them like you would a dog,” she said.

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