by Elisa Black-Taylor
Don't let me have babies
Good morning readers. Here's one more "good news" article for all of you. Today I'd like to tell you about a mobile clinic for feral cats. I've chosen Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon (FCCO) because I believe they have a battle plan in place that will reduce the feral cat population.
I hope all of my readers will see that similar groups in their own communities read this and adopt some of their methods (and their logic).
This is one of those articles full of information. Due to this, I've placed the research links as I go along. You won't need Kleenex with this one as it's a crash course in feral cat education.
Please bookmark this page as it's a lot to take in with one reading.
The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon is a 501c3 organization based in Portland, Oregon. They offer a low cost spay/neuter program for stray and feral cats. The colony caregivers have to commit to caring for the colony after the ferals are altered. This doesn't have to fall on one caregiver. Two neighbors could agree to keep the cats supplied with food, water and some type of shelter.
I'd like to talk first about the organization itself. Then I want to tell you their approach to solving the feral issues that I believe are basically the same worldwide.
Their motto is "Dedicated to the humane treatment of feral cats and to the prevention of future generations." This group is supported through donations and do not receive any taxpayer or other public funding.
FCCO group was created by a group of Portland, Oregon veterinarians in March of 1995 and originally called Feral Cat Coalition of Portland. The name change came in 1998 when a mobile van was purchased through a grant by the Leonard X. Bosack and Bette M. Krueger Foundation. It was the first of its kind in North America. The mobile unit literally goes to where the cats live to perform surgery on the many cats the caregivers trap and bring in.
This mobile hospital, a 24 foot unit, is built specifically for spay/neuter surgery. It has a surgical suite where 3 veterinarians can work simultaneously, a prep area and an anesthetic room. FCCO also has a stand alone clinic in Portland, Oregon that opened in 2008 and has 4 surgical tables.
FCCO has the right idea on how to curb the population of the ferals. They serve seven Oregon and southwest Washington counties with low-cost surgery and other veterinary treatment. This page explains how their TNR works and has a guide for those interested in starting their own program.
In July 2010, FCCO received around 900 phone calls(the usual is 400) This resulted in 600 surgeries for feral cats and kittens. The mobile unit runs an assembly line operation. One after the other is brought into the unit by the "trappers." The cat is prepped, anesthesia given, and surgery performed. Cats who appear to be suffering are checked for FIV/FeLV. Those testing positive are humanely euthanized. I hate this, but reluctantly agree it's necessary since we're dealing with feral colonies and don't want the whole colony infected. Rabies and distemper vaccines are given along with minor medical care such as ear cleaning and flea removal.
The process begins by the caregiver filling out an online application. The caregiver is given an appointment when they turn in the application. A trap deposit for $50 is left and an agreement signed not to trap anything except the cats they plan to bring in. I've included the link here because I feel it may be of use in other parts of the world for those wanting to start up a similar program. Once the trap is returned, the deposit is refunded. FCCO has never had to keep the deposit.
The colony caregivers have to commit to caring for the colony after the ferals are altered. This doesn't have to fall on one caregiver. Two neighbors could agree to keep the cats supplied with food, water and some type of shelter. I remember my dad had a storage building with a square cut out near the bottom. It was large enough for a cat to get through. This is where the neighborhood ferals came to sleep and eat and drink. My parents were "caregivers" back in the 1960's. There just wasn't a formal name for it back then.
I love the mobile approach because it gets the surgery to the cats. This would be an ideal business opportunity for a new vet interested in using the TNR approach. I can almost picture 3 students graduating from veterinary school and going into business together.
This IS a business and run as one. It has to be to succeed. It takes a board of directors with not only veterinary skills, but skills in organization and fundraising. It must also practice solid protocol. Many subjects are discussed on the FCCO website, including ideas that worked and which didn't. Working with the caregivers and giving TNR volunteers the motivation to bring in the ferals was key in making the program successful. Not having electronic records when first starting out was a negative. Any business that wants to succeed must use computers or they're doomed from the start. What we do.
They even have posters and brochures you can print out. These could be made to adapt where YOU live. I'm only giving it as a reference as to how the business end of the coalition works to inform people they exist and are there to help.
Now I'd like to talk about their philosophy on feral cats. First I'd like to give credit to Julie Levy who did a study (referred to in this article) on feral cats last year at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. Julie learned that of all the cats born in the United States, only 20% have human families. The rest are strays and ferals. Her study also determined that only around 11% of caregivers know about the low cost TNR programs.
FCCO is tackling the staggering reproductive issue by getting to the cats before reproduction age. Educating the public that kittens can go into first heat at a younger age than most people realize is the key to ending feral reproduction. FCCO tells cat owners they are fine to wait until their cat reaches 6 months of age IF the cat is kept away from other cats and not be allowed to mate. Otherwise they like to spay/neuter at 2 months of age and the kitten must be at least 3 pounds.
I believe this plan will work, especially if cat lovers will pass this article to the caregivers they know. Also send the link to anyone who loves cats, owns a cat or is a feral caregiver. I hope I'm not leaving anyone out. And to the future veterinarians, I'd like to inform you there are many grants that will help you get into this type of business. You just have to do some research and find them.
I hope my readers will find time to study all of the pages on the links I've included. There is much more information I didn't have room to include. They've also stood up to those who want to get rid of feral cats because of the bird issues. I'm also including
href="http://www.feralcats.com/publications/USFWSResponseLetter.html (broken) that link because it's important for people to realize removing the cats won't solve the issue.
I'll end this now. I hope you've learned a few things today. I learned one thing I didn't mention and want to add it in closing. One way to determine a cat is a feral is the ferals aren't very vocal. They've learned to be quiet in order to survive.
Unlike the ferals, I NEVER learned to be silent.