Her love of animals has led Kady McMoran to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help rescue abandoned pets. It’s prompted her to clean poop out of shelter cages, and it’s inspired her to serve on animal rescue boards of directors.
The Marion woman attributes her devotion to animals’ well-being to her mother. “It’s my mom’s fault,” she said, explaining that as she grew up if there was a hurt bird, turtle or other critter, “we had to help.”
However, McMoran believes her love of living creatures is in her DNA. “I was born loving animals,” she said.
She does her best to help them. She’s worked for animals in Texas, Utah, Louisiana and North Carolina among other locales. Now, she’s putting her skills to work in Smyth County.
McMoran learned to trap cats safely and humanely at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, the country’s largest no-kill shelter.
In Texas, she trapped more than 800 community cats, which are un-owned cats that live outdoors. Some are feral while others are lost or have been abandoned by people are socialized.
Now, McMoran is putting her skills to work locally.
For the past two years, she’s been working with the Smyth County Humane Society to implement a Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) program to curb the community cat population.
In a TNRV program, community cats are humanely trapped, taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped (a recognized sign that a feral cat has been neutered and vaccinated), and then returned to its outdoor home.
With TNRV, McMoran believes that cat colonies stabilize. Research backs her up.
The approach takes time, but the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and similar organizations cite multiple studies that show that TNRV does stabilize feral populations.
In a May interview, Bill Turman, Smyth County’s head of animal control, noted that over the last 20 to 30 years, Smyth County has experienced a significant drop in dogs euthanized at the shelter. He attributed that to ongoing and widespread efforts encouraging people to spay and neuter dogs.
Over about 18 months, McMoran estimates that she’s helped trap more than 80 cats for the humane society’s TNRV program. However, she said, that’s only a fraction of the community cat population. She’s got between 200 and 300 cats on her list to trap now and, she observed, “those are just the ones I know about.”
Feral and community cats aren’t just a problem in Marion and Smyth County.
The Humane Society of the United States, citing a number of studies, says that estimates vary greatly on the number of feral, or community, cats in the United States. Those estimates range from 10 to 90 million. While acknowledging that there’s limited evidence available, the national Humane Society says the actual number may be in the 30 to 40 million range.
Though the numbers are staggering, the society says, “The real problem is that only about 2 percent of them are spayed or neutered… and continue to reproduce generations of outdoor cats.”
Turman noted that each female cat can produce three to four litters of kittens every year. That’s typically about 12 kittens a year.
Female cats can begin reproducing at between four and six months old and will continue going into heat until they die.
McMoran urges people to spay/neuter their pets. She said that many clinics will now perform the surgery on cats when they reach 2 to 3 lbs., usually at about 10 weeks.
She also urges people not to let their cats have even one litter.
For individuals who need financial assistance, she urged them to check with the humane society, the Margaret Mitchell Spay/Neuter Clinic, Holly Help or the Washington County Animal Defense League.
As for the efforts to help the existing community cats, McMoran doesn’t plan to stop, but she said, “I can’t do enough. There’s so many.”
She’s willing to train people how to trap cats. However, she emphatic that someone shouldn’t try to do it without training, noting that cats can easily be injured without proper surveillance and technique.
For those who want to help in other ways, she said, even folks who can only volunteer a few hours a month are welcome and needed.
“We desperately need help. I can’t say that enough,” McMoran said. From students to retirees, there’s a way to help, she added.
McMoran said perks come with volunteering – from new friendships to opportunities to travel to knowing you’ve made a difference.
Many people are afraid that volunteering with the humane society will be heartbreaking, said McMoran, but she added, “You’ll have a lot more happy endings than you think.” She finds the work so rewarding, she wishes she could do it full time.
As heart-wrenching as her work in New Orleans was and living off peanut butter sandwiches and getting one cold shower a week for 47 days, McMoran experienced enough rewards that she didn’t want to leave.
She invited anyone who would like to learn more and/or volunteer with the humane society to attend the non-profit’s next meeting on July 8 at 6 p.m. on the Iron Street Mall at 112 S. Iron St. in Marion.