The feral cat population in Wythe and Bland counties will be less productive by summer’s end. That’s because the Wythe-Bland Trap Neuter Release Program is gearing up for a second session toward the end of August.

The program is a community service to people living in Wythe or Bland County who are in need of spay or neuter services to prevent further population of feral cats.

Through the program, feral cats will be scanned for a microchip prior to surgery, spayed/neutered, have their ear tipped, be given pain medication via injection, be vaccinated for rabies and distemper, and receive flea/tick treatment. People who know of feral cats that need to be spayed will need to humanely trap the animal and bring it to Community Animal Clinic in Wytheville, which has volunteered to host the program.

The Wythe-Bland Animal Welfare League is sponsoring all cats for the Aug. 24 program. The cats will stay overnight and will need to be picked up on Sunday, Aug. 25.

Wytheville veterinarian Rachelle Kopp and veterinary technician Jordan Sowers, who both work at Community Animal Clinic, started the program this past spring, when 21 cats were neutered. In August, they plan to neuter 50 felines that have already been registered.

“We had heard of other events but none were close to here,” Sowers said. “So we decided we needed to bring something close into the area.”

Kopp said that throughout the year, the clinic is tasked with finding home for kittens, and there are just not enough homes.

“We just knew the need (for neutering) was there,” she said in an email “TNR programs are beneficial to our feral cat population because it slows down population growth, can decrease fighting although not entirely and slows the rate of transmission of viral diseases like FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). Colonies of cats can live out their lives with less stress and without exponential growth from reproduction.”

Kopp said some people suggest killing feral cats, but numerous studies have shown that this just causes a vacuum effect, and that more cats just fill in the empty space.

Kopp said TNR has had overwhelming support from rescue organizations, clients of the clinic and community members.

Once a cat is delivered to the clinic in a trap/carrier, the team separates them into male/female rooms. If the sex is unknown, they try to make an educated guess based on the cats appearance. Caretakers are given paperwork to sign. All cats are identified with index cards that link them to the owner. The cats are given numbers as identification.

“Once all cats are in, the fun begins,” Kopp said. “We have a team that gets the cats out of traps/carriers and sedates them, a team that preps for surgery, one doctor who is castrating male cats and another spaying the female cats, a technician is drawing up sedation for the sedation team also the vaccinations and pain medications, a team monitoring during recovery.”

Once the cats are moving and waking up, team members move them back to the carrier trap to recover completely. Also, the prep team scans each cat for a microchip and the doctors tip the cats left ear.

“After all cats are done and all are awake, I will go in and give them canned food,” Kopp said. “This will be enough (until) the next morning when the caretakers are required to pick them up.”

Sowers said it only takes a few minutes to spay and vaccinate a cat, especially with a strong volunteer turnout like they had in the spring.

“We had so many volunteers that we had like a conveyor belt going,” she said.

The program is using volunteers that are employees at Community Animal Clinic because they are familiar with the clinic.

“Only those of us that have been vaccinated for rabies are allowed to handle the cats while they are awake,” Kopp said, adding that she hopes the TNR event will become a regular community event three or four times each year.

“We just don’t know yet,” she said. “But the demand is definitely there.”

The program can accept cats that re 16 weeks or older. Kittens that are 6 to 16 weeks old have a chance at being adopted into a home. If a caretaker cannot find homes for younger kittens, they can be included in the TNR as young as 10-12 weeks. Pregnant cats can be spayed as well. If a cat has kittens that are too young to be weaned, they must wait until they are weaning and then she can be spayed.

Kopp said trapping a cat can be difficult, especially when you need it done at a certain time. She suggests using humane feral traps or a regular cat carrier – put a can of food in there to lure the cats in. Only one cat per carrier can be accommodated.

Sowers stressed that the program is for feral cats only, not house cats or pets.

“Our goal is to release them into the same spot they were living in,” she said.

It costs about $30 for each cat, and donations are welcome.

“We can definitely use it (donations),” Sowers said. “We are hoping to accumulate donations so we can have an event every three months or so.”

For information on trapping a cat and participating in the program during future events, call 276-200-5140, email WBCTNR@gmail.com or visit the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wbctnr/

To contact reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email mrothrock@wythenews.com

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