Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 13, 2014

Second Chance for Cats works toward fix in overpopulation of feral cats

BLUEFIELD — One cat was waiting in the shade when Darlene Little arrived with some food. A second one quickly appeared and kept its distance. Two black cats came out of the brush and approached a large, flat rock as Little opened cans of cat food and called out, “Kitty, kitty, kitty! Kitty, kitty, kitty!”

It was another afternoon at one of Mercer County’s cat colonies. Soon about a half-dozen cats of varying shades and ages were munching on the free food. Little asked that the location of this particular colony not be disclosed — people might dump more cats there if they heard about it. She and her fellow members at Second Chance for Cats recently had to rescue six kittens from a nearby trash bin: They had managed to catch four so far.

“One of the kittens must have gotten a back leg caught in the dumpster,” Little added.

The leg had to be amputated, but the kitten is now at an animal clinic: One of the workers there fell in love and wants to adopt it.

Cats gathered around Little while she fed them, but they otherwise stayed out of reach. A black cat allowed itself to be petted and even stretched out for more affection. Besides feeding the cats regularly, Second Chance has had them all spayed or neutered, she said. They had also been vaccinated against rabies.

Unfortunately, this care does not solve the problem. New kittens keep arriving, and people across Mercer County keep calling about homeless cats that keep multiplying.

“I’d say we get six calls a day and sometimes more from people needing help with cats or kittens,” Little said as she sat down and watched the cats eat. “People start feeding a stray cat, which is decent, but they don’t get them fixed, and before you know it the cat has kittens.”

Cat colonies often start when owners move and abandon their cats, or dump them in places where they believe people will feed the cats, Little said. In many instances, the owners do not want to take the cats to an animal shelter.

“Really, this is a harder life for them,” Little said. Cats that had eaten their fill started wandering away and finding spots in the shade. “They’re out with the traffic, and the dogs and the animals, and starving to death.”

Left on their own, cats will multiply their numbers quickly.

“Let’s say a female cat can have two to three litters a year. An average litter has four to six kittens, so do the math,” Little stated. “Let’s say you have two girls cats and two boys. Six months later they interbreed. They all multiply out exponentially.”

The colony Little was feeding had a half-dozen or more cats, but she had talked to people who had seen colonies with 50 or more. Catching these feral cats and getting them spayed or neutered helps control the population, but in many instances, they have become antisocial and cannot become house cats. There are exceptions, but getting the strays while they are kittens helps them become pets that people are willing to adopt, she said. Second Chance for Cats loans live traps for people who want to catch and help kittens wandering their communities.

People who start feeding cats can help by getting them spayed or neutered, too. By feeding the cats, they have practically adopted them.

“A cat you’ve been feeding for three years is not a stray,” Little pointed out, adding she knew of one man who had been feeding cats for five years; now he has 17 wandering around his home.

Getting a pet spayed or neutered if often not as expensive as pet owners might think, she added. The cost varies from veterinarian to veterinarian, so shopping around could yield an affordable price.

“Call two or three vets,” she urged. Second Chance for Cats does help pet owners with the cost when possible.

Donations can be made to Second Chance for Cats, 874 Littlesburg Rd., Bluefield, WV 24701 or by going on the Internet to www.SecondChanceForCats.org.

Little can be contacted at 304-324-0806.

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