Living on a rural homestead for the last fourteen years we have seen our share of animals needing care and we've adopted quite a number, including a Shetland pony running loose on the interstate and a goat needing a home when his master was moving to a city apartment. But nothing matches the volume of stray cats running loose, cats that appear to be very healthy and obviously many came from a home from which they must have been "dumped off." When you have a barn and horses, people looking to be rid of their cats just drop them on the road out front and I think the animals must see an invisible sign that says "A Cat Lover Lives Here."
So, where am I going with this post? Well, I want to quickly sing the praises of "Operation Catnip," a local organization managed by the Humane Society and operated in conjunction with the University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine to spay and neuter feral and stray cats as a service to the community. Some funding is provided by the county but the workload is done by volunteers, including advanced veterinary students who with proper oversight examine the animals for good health, give them basic shots for rabies and perform the medical procedures in a set-up reminiscent of a military hospital under heavy use. The animals are sedated, run through a series of stations to complete the process and are released back to the person who brought them in. Within a day they are back to normal and ready to continue life as they know it, but without a threat to health or continued creation of more unwanted kittens.
The sponsor bringing home the cat has the responsibility to either return it where it was found, adopt it or find someone who wants the animal. In most cases, they stay nearby, particularly in a situation like my family has with a barn and horses. The good news is we won't have to worry about any unwanted kittens and they make great pest control agents. In case you don't know, if you have a barn and horses, you will attract rodents and nothing is better than barn cats to get the job done.
Just like the little kitten says in the caption at the top of this article, Operation Catnip in Alachua County deserves a big "Thank You" shout out for what they do. They take donations to help defray the cost and they also need volunteers. My wife volunteers one weekend day each month in support of their spay and neuter operation. She always comes home with a smile on her face, knowing that up to three hundred cats on a single day will not become a kitten creator in the wild. We are fortunate to have this operation in our community. If there is no such program in your community, you might want to make a suggestion to your local officials. For as sure as the sun comes up each day, you have a feral cat problem wherever you live.