Smith urges patience regarding feral cat population

The Elk County Humane Society is planning to begin a trap, neuter and release program to help control the feral cat population within the county. While the program is expected to begin sometime this year, Humane Officer JoAnne Smith urged the public to be patient as the society waits for all of the necessary grant funding to become available. "We're about halfway there," Smith said with regard to the funding. "Hopefully the rest of the funding will come in the first part of this year. It's about $12,000 just to equip the room and that doesn't cover the veterinarian's costs."Smith added that once the funding is in place the society plans to begin with a low-cost spay/neuter clinic for the general public to "get its feet wet" as the start of a larger-scale program it hopes to implement. "Once we get our feet wet, we are shooting to do what's called a trap, neuter and return program. It will start in a target area. It's going to require a lot of help from the public and a lot of volunteers. We're still doing our research on it and how to do it properly, so that we do it with the least amount of stress to the cats and to the community," Smith said.She explained that the program will entail the trapping of cats in a feral colony. Those cats will then be spayed or neutered, as well as ear-tipped. They will also be tested for feline leukemia and given a rabies shot. Then they will be returned back to the colony. "What that will do, obviously number one it's going to control population. They're not going to keep reproducing," Smith said. "A female cat can have three litters a year and they average six kittens per litter. It's going to keep the colony under control and eventually that colony is going to die off." Smith noted that if an entire colony of cats were to be trapped and removed, another colony would simply move in to take its place. She also remarked that the feral cat problem is not unique to this area and is a country-wide problem that has been going on for a long time. "Every single feral cat can be traced back to somebody's unaltered domestic cat," Smith said.For more on this story, see the Jan. 14 edition of The Daily Press.