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Dear Ms. Kitty: Shining a spotlight on issue of feral cats

By: Sherri Albertson Special to The Gazette
October 14, 2013
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photo - Feral cats at Douglas Memorial Park in Cape May, N.J., gather for mealtime on Friday, Aug. 3, 2007. Volunteers feed the cats everyday. Government officials say feral cat colonies on Cape May are eating the Piping Plover, a threatened and protected species of shore bird. The federal government is considering intervening on the side of the birds.  (AP Photo/David Gard)
Feral cats at Douglas Memorial Park in Cape May, N.J., gather for mealtime on Friday, Aug. 3, 2007. Volunteers feed the cats everyday. Government officials say feral cat colonies on Cape May are eating the Piping Plover, a threatened and protected species of shore bird. The federal government is considering intervening on the side of the birds. (AP Photo/David Gard) 

Wednesday is National Feral Cat Day. Spearheaded by Alley Cat Allies, based in Maryland, this year's theme is "Architects of Change for Cats. Blueprints for Building Humane Communities."

National Feral Cat Day began in 2001 as an effort to educate communities about the issues surrounding feral cats, advocate for ordinances addressing feral cat colonies and demonstrate how communities can support the many Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs. There were 450 events nationwide last year.

So what is a feral cat? The term simply means that the cat is living in an outdoor colony with little human interaction. Typically, these are cats that are dumped outside and left to roam and breed unchecked. Some refer to them as alley or street cats. While many characterize them unfairly as mean or vicious, they are really just terrified of humans and trying to survive using their natural instincts.

Locally, the recent statistics surrounding feral cats are staggering as nearly 5,000 have been euthanized in Colorado Springs annually, according to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR). More than 30,000 have been euthanized each year statewide.

Several rescue groups and animal clinics from El Paso, Teller and Fremont counties have formed a coalition called "Catch Us If You Can," which is backed by three national organizations - Alley Cat Allies, the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network and the Foundation for the Protection of Animals. Locally, efforts are supported by St. Paws Thrift Store, Gigi's and others. The goals of the project are to raise awareness of feral cats and promote spay and neuter activities throughout the year. Organizations involved include HSPPR, Pueblo Animal Services, Look What the Cat Brought In, the Hamlett Spay and Neuter Clinic, Happy Cats Haven, Wild Blue Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, Canon City's Pet Project and the Teller County Regional Animal Shelter.

TNR is a long-term population management program that ultimately benefits the cats and the community. The feral cats are trapped humanely, neutered or spayed, vaccinated, ear-tipped and returned to their colony to continue living as best they can with assistance from trained, volunteer colony managers who provide food and shelter. The cycle of reproduction is stopped and the cat populations eventually stabilize, and then decline as the cats age.

For more information on feral cat programs, email the coalition at catchus ifyoucan.co@gmail.com or call 602-1867. To make a monetary donation or to donate needed materials, go to socoanimalcoalition.org.

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Albertson co-manages Happy Cats Haven, a rescue and adoption center at 1412 S. 21st St. Call 635-5000 or visit happycatshaven.org.

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