Combating kitten season

Ambassadors for God's Creatures turn donated foam boxes into houses where feral cats seek refuge from winter's chill.

ALEXANDRIA – The City of Alexandria is teaming up with a county animal welfare organization to help get a colony some believe includes about 100 stray cats, possibly the largest ever reported in the county, spayed and neutered.

Susan Blake, executive director of Ambassadors for God’s Creatures, said the colony in and around an abandoned building was reported to her Sunday night by Alexandria residents seeking help with care for the animals, most of which she estimates are less than a year old. She said the strays probably were congregating there because of three ladies who live nearby and have been feeding them.

“Probably 100 is less than what it really is,“ she said. “They’ll go to the food source, and if no one comes to the building they will go to where there is reliable food, which is these three ladies’ houses,”

Stray cats have been a persistent problem in several Madison County communities, including nearby Elwood. The largest cat colony in her memory was in Pendleton where a woman bought a farm that came with about 80 cats, seven of which were pregnant and all of which she ended up keeping after they were spayed and neutered, Blake said.

There likely already are pregnant cats among Alexandria colony’s felines, she said. With cats being able to birth about three litters with an average of five or six each in a year, she fears the population will explode even more.

Most of the cats in the Alexandria colony are clearly malnourished, and many may require veterinary treatment beyond spaying and neutering, Blake said. Inevitably, she added, it’s possible some of the cats may be too sick to save and will need to be euthanized.

“Honestly, the food is my least worry, It’s the spay and neuter piece that drives me crazy,” she said.

In a letter to Alexandria Mayor Todd Naselroad, Blake estimates the Ambassadors will need to raise a minimum of $8,600 to cover the costs of spaying and neutering, vaccinations and treatment for disease. This doesn’t include the estimated $75 a day necessary to feed a colony that large.

The organization also is seeking volunteers willing to spend up to five hours a day setting and monitoring traps, housing cats overnight and transporting them for surgery and treatment the following day in a process known as “trap, neuter and return.” Because many of the cats are feral they aren’t suitable to be housed with families and likely would try to return to the colony, Blake said.

“Any new ones that come into the colony need to be spayed and neutered,” she said.

Anderson-based Ambassadors, which often partners with the Humane Society and Animal Protection League, also is seeking farmers willing to house the cats in their barns where they can help eliminates problems with rodents.

The colony also requires one or more colony keepers who ensure the animals are fed, medications are administered and that any new cats that come into it are treated by a veterinarian, Blake said.

She said what’s really needed is more assistance from the municipalities and the county.

However, Naselroad said though the city at one time had an animal control officer, there’s no money in the budget for one.

“We don’t have money to help her financially. We just don’t but we’re going to partner with her to raise some money,” he said. I’m going to try to assist them as much as I can.”

“It would be so much easier on us if we had an animal control officer,” he said. “If there is a way we can add this to our police department’s budget next year, it will be done.”

And problem is not just for individual communities to solve, Naselroad said.

“I think it is a Madison County problem. I think Madison County should help us,” he said.

“Every town and city in Madison Count is going to have issues, and we don’t have the money to take care of stuff like.”

Naselroad said he was unaware of the cat colony prior to Blake’s call.

“We’ve had dog complaints in the last six months, but we really haven’t had cat complaints,” he said.

To help, contact Ambassadors for God’s Creatures at 765-623-5011.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

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