The Blairsville area is partnering with two nonprofit organizations to address the growing problem of homeless cats.
“We’ve received a number of complaints from residents about feral cats running through their neighborhoods,” said Township Manager Mike Baker. Some people complain that cats cause a certain amount of distress and others are concerned about the well-being of the cats themselves. They have reported seeing cats that look sick. So there’s a wide range of how people perceive them.”
The Humane Society of Indiana County, one of two no-kill shelters in the county (the other being Four Footed Friends), referred him to SNIPP. This means Spay and Neuter Indiana PA Pets. With the help of Kimberly Rose, Bonnie Adair, a co-founder of SNIPP and mayor of Burrell, enlisted the help of Blairsville, founder of the Cat Aid Network (CAN).
Their meeting resulted in plans to increase community support for the sterilization clinic and clinic scheduled for 4 December with a second clinic to take place on 12 December. They are asking for volunteers to help hunt cats and volunteers to keep cats locked in cages. In garages or basements after surgery. They are also asking for donations to pay for surgeries that include rabies injections and ear flips to determine which cats have been spayed or neutered. If there are enough donations, the cats will also be vaccinated against distemper.
“We are looking for 50 cats and the vet charges $50 for a male and $65 for a female,” Adair said. This means between $3,000 and $3,500. We are looking for contributions, and SNIPP will pick up what we have. “
According to Baker, the town has pledged to support the project. “I don’t know at what level,” he said, “but we will be there to support them.”
SNIPP was established in 2014 in response to the county’s massive dog and cat populations, and the lack of shelter space to accommodate them. A low-cost spay and neuter program reduces the number of unwanted litters.
“We were making about 1,000 cats a year,” Adair said. “Then the pandemic hit and there were 860 in the first year, and this year, I think we did 560 so far. Last year we did 40 dogs, and this year it’s decreased significantly.”
One reason for this decline, she added, is the difficulty of finding veterinarians in low-cost clinics. Dr. Becky Morrow, founder of Frankie’s Friends in New Kensington, used to run low-cost clinics in the area, but she left to work teaching out of state. Frankie’s friends resumed clinics and identified the Blairsville Project.
CAN has a network of nurseries in Indiana, Westmoreland, Cambria and Allegheny counties. All rescued kittens and kittens prior to adoption are spayed or neutered. CAN offers low-cost clinics and their Last Litter program takes unwanted kittens, and sterilizes the mother cat for its owners.
Both nonprofits will help set up traps where the colonies live.
“It’s not central or in a specific area,” Becker said. “Cats are in all three wings. But it’s not like we’ve been overrun by cats. Not in any way. It’s just that people are reporting on them, and maybe sometimes they’re reporting on the same groups.”
Cats will need temporary warm places to stay after surgery.
“The drug interferes with the ability to regulate body temperature for 24 hours,” Adair said. “So we are looking for heated garages or basements where traps can be placed. They will have food and water and bottoms of traps lined with cardboard and urinating pads. Boys can go out the next morning, and females are held for a few days because the surgery is more invasive. There is no reason to deal with them what They weren’t sick and needed medication.”
The cats will be sent back to where they were trapped, and that won’t make everyone happy. While some anxious residents fed them fond of them, others just wanted them to go from their balconies and flowerbeds.
“But people need to understand that if you remove cats in an area, it is possible that some other cats will move in,” Adair said. This is called the vacuum effect. So if people think the problem will be solved by destroying the cats, it probably won’t be solved.”
She explained that sterilization and neutering work to stabilize society. There is little fighting and wandering and foul-smelling urine. Cats tend to settle down where they are welcomed and fed.
“So they’re less annoying to other neighbors,” Adair said. “And the silver lining is that not everyone will tolerate kittens.”
In addition to trapping and transporting, CAN volunteers will help educate residents about the program and options for people who live near the colonies.
“We’re going to have a deterrent for people who don’t want cats in their yards,” Rose said. “They make something out of plastic so that if you bury it under the mulch, the cats don’t want to use the mulch as their bath. Another motion-activated product that sprays puffs of air will scare the cats away, so they don’t come to your porch.”
A local church group expressed interest in setting up community cat shelters, and Rose also contacted local Boy Scouts to see if they would come on board. Shelters are made of plastic storage tubs insulated with foam or reflective material and filled with straw.
Sometimes people who take care of community cats are suspicious of any programs. Rose tried calling the two of them, but said, “They won’t answer their door. A lot of people think we’re going to take these cats away, and for some of them, cats are all they have.”
Rose and Adair point out that it is “not a cat problem,” but instead a “people problem” caused by people not spaying and neutering their cats, and allowing them to roam outdoors. Some people consider cats to be expendable.
“They became the furry version of the goldfish,” Rose said.
Baker commends the volunteers’ efforts to help the cats and help the city.
“I am very impressed with SNIPP and CAN,” he said. “They are very proactive and very pro-animal and will not destroy these animals. They will help them be healthy, they care about them. This speaks very well for these organizations.”
Donations for the project can be sent to SNIPP at 949 Campbells Mills Road, Blairsville, PA 15717. For information about baiting and volunteer work, leave a message at (724) 422-7974, and wait for a return call to check plans.
“We really hope this is a great example of how cities deal with feral cat populations, because, frankly, every town has a problem,” Rose said.