By Megan Sando
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Feral cat trapping in Stillwater will take place this weekend by residents who see a stray nuisance near their homes and businesses.
The wild cats are lured into cages not to be euthanized. No, Operation Catnip spays, neuters and vaccinates them before returning them to their colonies.
Operation Catnip was started by founder and President Dr. Lesa Staubus, who is a faculty member at Oklahoma State University School of Veterinary Medicines.
Staubus said OSU is not affiliated with Catnip but without the use of the school’s veterinary medicine hospital none of the nonprofit’s services would be possible.
Services include providing the traps free to residents and then using a trap-neuter-release system. Staubus estimates hundreds of feral cats live in Stillwater.
“Where there is food, there are cats,” she said.
Residents receive traps, which will be baited with the cat’s favorite food. Saturday, residents place the wire-box traps in the shadows.
The trap spring shuts when a cat enters it for a tasty meal, she said.
Traps are placed where the cats feel the safest. In fact, Staubus said so many cats are in the shadows that only estimates can be made as to how many there are.
“Cats are successful breeders,” she said.
Before the age of 1, a cat can have up to two litters per year and four to six kittens per litter.
With an average number of five cats per litter over five years (the average lifespan of a feral cat) it is 25 cats per year for a single female, multiplied by the hundreds, according to Operation Catnip Gainesville.
Staubus said she wanted to start the operation in Stillwater after visiting the University of Florida in Gainesville.
“There is such a cat overpopulation problem that we spend tax money to control it,” she said.
Many cats will be euthanized through the state.
“Those of us who care about cats would like to decrease that,” Staubus said.
Stillwater Animal Welfare Director Mary Dickie said the role of the city won’t change.
Dickie supports the nonprofit as a board member.
“When feral cats are picked up, they are euthanized,” Dickie said.
“Some can be sent to be adopted through the Humane Society, because there is no time limit for adoption there. Neonatal kittens are given to Tiny Paws.”
Dickie said her office doesn’t go looking for feral cats unless they are asked to.
Stillwater Humane Society Director Jackie Ross-Guerrero works closely with animal welfare. She is also a board member for Operation Catnip.
“Our organization supports it 100 percent,” Ross-Guerrero said. “We volunteer to help through donations with towels, blankets, sheets, handing out traps and doing intake on Sunday.”
The Humane Society is a private organization that rescues animals from animal control.
When animal control has no space, Ross-Guerrero takes the animals so that they won’t be put to death.
Operation Catnip started in May and will have eight operation days throughout the year, once a month, excluding summer and December.
So far, the Catnip crew has operated on 100 cats.
Vice President Megan Dayton said she hopes more than 200 more cats will be treated Sunday.
The facility is equipped to operate on 200 to 300 cats per clinic day, Dayton said.
It is estimated that there is a 70 percent trap success rate. The goal is to bring in at least half of the 200, Dayton said.
“There are a lot more feral cats than people think,” she said.
To make a dent in reducing the feral cat population, 85 percent must be brought into the clinic to start decreasing birthing rates, Staubus said.
Some common populations for feral cats are trailer parks, restaurants and areas where they will be fed — such as schools or neighborhoods.
“It’s a very wonderful opportunity that OSU can do this for us,” said Tiny Paws President Holly Chapples.
Staubus said one goal is to reduce the number of neonatal kittens.
“The way we will track our success will be through numbers Holly and Mary provide, as far as the number of cats brought in,” she said.
Chapples also serves as a board member for Catnip.
Chapples said by reducing feral cat populations, the spread of disease will be reduced.
“A feral cat can’t live with a person,” she said. “They are very stealthy. We will never not have kittens, but we are hoping that the numbers will decrease after Operation Catnip is in effect for a while.”
Catnip will take any cats that are feral but also stray.
Staubus said that cats without a vaccination tag on display are breaking the law.
“If a cat is loose without one, it is a uncontrolled breeder,” she said.
Cats taken into the clinic have the left tip of its ear clipped, as a universal sign for the community that the feral cat is spayed or neutered.
Catnip is looking for volunteers to provide anesthesia, assist with surgery and make follow-up phone calls.
Staubus said the organization is in need of donations.
Larger donations can be handled personally.
Volunteers and donors can contact Operation Catnip through its website or Facebook page.
The next clinic is Sunday.