One cat and her kittens, left un-altered, can create almost 5,000 cats in seven years. MEOW Now and Friends of Strays want to change that.
Friends of Strays welcomed MEOW Now to the shelter’s programs to enhance their Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) efforts in St. Pete and Gulfport. The shelter received a grant to continue these efforts.
Both nonprofits came together to help spay/neuter and vaccinate free-roaming cats so they can live healthier lives.
MEOW Now began their TNVR efforts in 2015. The program’s helped more than 10,500 cats receive treatment. Friends of Strays has a similar program, but the two programs have underlying differences.
Friends of Strays has ‘Pinellas Cats Alive!‘ which is a TNVR program “designed for an individual who may have one or two free-roaming cats around their neighborhood that they would like to have spayed or neutered.” MEOW Now does the same thing, but for colonies of community cats. A “colony” referes to four or more cats in one group.
What Is a Community Cat?
Jessica Salmond, Communication & Marketing Manager of Friends of Strays, explained “a community cat is an unowned, free-roaming outdoor cat, not someone’s pet. Sometimes people call them strays or feral, but ‘community cat’ kind of includes all of that in one.”
MEOW Now works with the caregivers of these community cats in order to strategically trap them for vaccinations. Caregivers are people who tend to feed the cats on a schedule, which makes it easier for volunteers.
“We go out, we work with these people and we trap them. Then we always return them back to the field because that’s where they live,” said Athena Kemske, MEOW Now volunteer.
Volunteers receive information from caregivers about the community cats. Kemske said she talks with the caregivers to figure out a plan to trap every weekend, which timing varies from early in the morning or early evening.
Volunteers use humane live traps that lure cats in with food. Over the weekend, they trap the cats, then on Monday or Tuesday, the cats go into Friends of Strays for their surgeries. They cannot return to the field until they clip the cat’s left ear.
“This means like a little part of their ear’s clipped off and that’s to let everybody know that cat has been through our program so it doesn’t need to be bothered again,” Salmond said.
MEOW Now is a program only for caregivers, which they can request assistance online, and others cannot request this program on the caregiver’s behalf. With Pinellas Cats Alive! you don’t have to be a caregiver to have one or two cats in your neighborhood go through the program.
“There’s no cost to the general public. We only take donations. So if they have a lot of cats or even just a couple of cats that are around that they feed, we would do more than happy to come in and trap them,” Kemske said.