Go forth and do not multiply

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Levy County will have less stray and feral cats breeding on its streets thanks to a local Trap-Neuter-Return program.

On Thursday, Oct. 29, members of Sheltering Hands Inc., an organization that rescues and finds homes for pets in Marion and Levy Counties, received about 39 feral cats needing to be spayed or neutered.

Kathleen Fleck, president of Sheltering Hands Inc., said the cats—trapped by volunteers in Cedar Key, Williston, Otter Creek and Chiefland—would be spayed and neutered, vaccinated, medicated for parasites and then released back to their particular colony or area after an overnight stay.

“Certain areas are becoming more of a problem,” Fleck said. “We’ve seen more of it in the last year, more stray cats.”

Fleck said that because of the state of the economy, the number of abandoned animals is on the rise.

Fleck said out-of-control cat populations “impact the health of cats everywhere.”

Left unchecked, feral cat populations can also threaten humans with rabies and cause a lot of damage to wildlife, she said.

“Keep them in a healthy, low-impact population.  It helps reduce impact on wildlife.”

Karen Parker, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said there are about 5 million feral and free-ranging cats statewide.  

She said that unlike feral cats, which are wild and without owners, someone usually claims free-ranging cats.  But having an owner doesn’t mean a cat can’t cause damage.

She said the FWC estimates about 120 million mammals and 30 million birds are killed each year because of cats.

“These numbers (animals killed) are best documented for threatened and endangered species,” she said.

Mike Schenk, assistant director for Levy County Animal Services, said since January, LCAS has received 1,109 cats, 3/4s of which were feral and had to be killed by euthanasia.

“We get people that call on numerous occasions, almost on a daily basis, saying they have stray cats,” he said.  “Most are feral.”

Schenk said most people are unwilling to adopt a feral cat.  

“It takes a lot of work.”

Schenk added that 300 of the cats received since January were sent down south to various rescue facilities with the hopes they would be adopted.

Fleck said Sheltering Hands Inc., was able to provide the spay/neutering service because of grants the organization received from the Florida Animal Friends.

She said Sheltering Hands Inc., got $25,000 from the organization.  Half the money will go for treatment of feral cats, she said.  The remainder will go toward providing the same service to cats owned by low-income families.

Fleck said there would be another spay/neutering set for Nov. 19.

For more information, contact Sheltering hands Inc., at 352-817-0663 or shelteringhands@embarqmail.com