By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A new nonprofit in Stillwater has set its sights on reducing the feral cat population.
One of the group’s organizers, veterinary student Megan Dayton, said Operation Catnip will trap, spay, neuter and treat as many cats as it can get to help control the feral cat population.
Dayton said with the help of volunteers and 300 traps Operation Catnip plans to treat nearly 300 cats on the first clinic day on May 5. The group will have eight clinics each year, which will treat an estimated 1,600 cats.
Dayton said organizers have been planning Operation Catnip since March 2012. Cats captured by volunteers who are loaned traps will be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, treated for parasites and marked with a clipped ear — the universal sign a cat has been spayed or neutered.
Dayton said it costs approximately $30 to treat each cat. Grants and donations from the Summerlee Foundation, Kirkpatrick Foundation, Buel J. Staton Charitable Trust Foundation and Zoetis have helped get the project up and running.
Keeping the project going will cost approximately $30,000 a year, Dayton said.
The nonprofit is modeled after a similar one in Gainesville, Fla., which has run for 10 years and seen a 60 percent reduction in feral cat numbers.
Dayton said the cats cause problems in the community by making noise, being aggressive and spreading disease to pet cats. Because the cats are wild they cannot be tamed and are rarely able to be adopted.
"I think it's going to take care of some of our feral population," said Animal Welfare Officer Mary Dickey. She said with limited staff and resources, trying to make a dent in the population is nearly impossible. She said she hopes to see a reduction over the next few years in complaints. This could mean euthanizing fewer cats. Last year, animal welfare had to put down 89.
Dayton said those interested in volunteering or donating to Operation Catnip can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit its Website at operationcatnip-stillwater.org. Dayton said each clinic will require 70 to 100 volunteers.