Volunteers to trap, neuter and release 40 feral cats

March 10, 2019
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Marcia Tolley, of Huntington, left, treats a feral cat for ear mites on Saturday at Merritts Creek Veterinary Center. One By One Animal Advocates and Tri-State Spay and Neuter conducted a trap, neuter and return for cats from five feral colonies in Huntington and Barboursville.

HUNTINGTON — For friends of felines, even free-roaming feral cats deserve the same care and compassion as their cousins living on couch cushions and backyard decks.

Animal advocates in Cabell County spent the past week humanely trapping and taking in 40 cats from five feral colonies in Huntington and Barboursville so the felines could be spayed or neutered over the weekend. After a few days of indoor post-operation recovery, the cats will be returned to the colonies to live as they were.

The practice is known as trap, neuter and return (TNR), a humane and effective way to improve the lives of feral cats while reducing the population over time. Each cat will also be vaccinated, checked for ear mites, receive flea and tick medicine, and have their ears slightly snipped to note they have been spayed or neutered.

The weeklong effort was coordinated jointly by One By One Animal Advocates and Tri-State Spay and Neuter. The operations were to be conducted by Dr. Jacqueline Chevalier of Merritts Creek Veterinary Center in Barboursville over the weekend, where the cats will remain until they recover enough to be released.

Volunteers have been in and out of the Merritts Creek clinic to feed the cats and clean the cages in preparation for this weekend’s operations.

“The driving force behind this effort is a shifting focus from domesticated animals to also include feral colonies,” said Heather Aulick, president of One By One Animal Advocates. “Overall, we want to decrease the feral animal population in our area, but we feel that all animals deserve to have their health needs met and to live the healthiest life possible while they’re in a colony.

“They matter even though they’re feral.”

The matter of cat colonies has drawn widespread attention recently in the wake of the suspected poisoning of dozens of feral cats living near the Huntington Mall last month — a crime still under investigation by the Cabell County Sheriff’s Office.

Cat colonies are common, particularly in urban areas.

Trap, neuter and return is not about eliminating feral cat colonies, but allowing the cats to live healthier lives in their outside environments. The practice will benefit the humans they interact with as well, said Teresa Atkins, a One By One volunteer.

“Many neighborhoods and parts of our city are overrun with feral cats that are simply

not adoptable,” Atkins said. “By using the TNR process, the cats can live healthier lives in the community, but the population is stabilized and will eventually decline. Studies also show that once cats stop mating, negative behaviors like roaming, spraying and fighting dissipate.”

The location of the colonies was not disclosed as not to be disturbed by well-meaning good Samaritans during the trapping process, Aulick said. The colonies are regularly fed by volunteers, and having the cats anticipate normal feeding times allows them to keep better track of the population.

Donations toward the TNR efforts can be made to One By One Animal Advocates via Pay-Pal at onebyoneaa@gmail.com. Dry or wet cat food donations may be dropped off at the Cabell County Community Services Organization, 724 10th Ave., Huntington.