According to a study by Nico Dauphine and Robert J. Cooper of the University of Georgia, there are between 148 and 188 million cats in the United States, and an estimated 60 to 100 million of them are feral or unowned. October 16 was National Feral Cat Day, acknowledging the fact that scores of cats, of all ages and states of health, strut anxiously down an alley near you in search of food, warmth and security. Local nonprofit MEOW Now took the day to get the word out about their mission to “Manage and End Overpopulation Wisely.”
What does ending overpopulation wisely look like? Trap, neuter, vaccinate and return (TNVR) is the preferred practice for MEOW Now, a registered 501(c)3 that partners with a host of animal welfare organizations across the region, such as the Humane Society of Pinellas, Friends of Strays, Pinellas County Animal Services, Pinellas Animal Hospital and Operation: SNIP.
“We are a group of people who believe strongly that this practice is beneficial not only for the cats we neuter and vaccinate,” says volunteer Nikola Couling, “but also for the community of Pinellas County in general.”
The TNVR practice is systematic. Once an outdoor home, called a “colony,” is located, cats residing in it are sterilized, vaccinated, ear-tipped and then returned to the colonies where a caregiver provides food, water and other care as needed. As time progresses, the population within the colony begins to stabilize then decline as nature takes its course through natural attrition.
While the Humane Society of Pinellas offers to perform free sterilization surgery on cats humanely trapped by individuals, MEOW Now is the first and only organization in Pinellas County to provide TNVR services. But TNVR alone is not enough. The group also provides advocacy and caregiver support, including the facilitation of foster services for kittens found in the field who are too small – and at times too sick – for spay/neuter surgery. Fosters help to care for and socialize the kittens so that they can be adopted, and MEOW Now offers training as well as pays for necessary medicines and veterinary care.
MEOW Now relies heavily on citizen support. If you are interested in knowing more about the work or supporting the organization visit meownowfl.org.