Nonprofit works to reduce homeless cat population (w/video)

DID YOU KNOW?

• One unspayed cat, her mate and all of her offspring will produce more than 2 million offspring over the course of eight years.

• By spaying and neutering one female and male cat, more than 2,000 unwanted cats can be prevented in four years.

SOURCE: SPAYUSA.org

It's Wednesday morning, and Jean Dunham, 69, of Victoria, sits in her car holding a spool of string as she looks across a residential yard in south Victoria.

It looks like she's about to fly a kite, but on the other end of the string is a wooden drop trap. Two cats, one Siamese and one black, approach the food under the trap with caution. As they do so, Dunham yanks the string, dropping the trap over the cats.

Neighbors peer through their windows as Dunham and two other women transfer the cats to snap traps for transport to a veterinarian to be neutered or spayed and returned to the area.

"Get a couple of old white ladies out here with traps, and we become the center of attention," Dunham said.

Dunham is one of the founders of Victoria Trap Neuter Return, a nonprofit dedicated to decreasing the population of homeless cats by trapping, neutering or spaying them and returning them to the area they were found.

"The emphasis is on return," said Dunham, who said the organization cannot find enough homes to take in all of the homeless cats.

Noe Garcia, one of the neighbors on the block where Dunham was trapping, said the Siamese cat she trapped was having about two litters every year. Garcia was not familiar with the organization but was glad to hear it was trying to cut down on stray litters, he said.

"It's the same story we hear everywhere," Dunham said about stray cats' offspring.

Dunham said the nonprofit has spayed or neutered more than 3,000 cats since 2011 when the organization was established. The organization provides food for 12 homeless cat colonies in downtown Victoria, she said.

The cats in the program are spayed or neutered by Dr. Sandra Cochran, a veterinarian and owner of Acres of Animals Boarding Kennel. She said the cats also are given a rabies vaccination and treated for worms and fleas before they are released.

"So everybody can be as healthy as possible when we send them back to where they came from," she said.

The left ear of the cats is clipped before the animals are released to notify caretakers that they've already been treated, she said.

Cochran said she noticed an abundance of stray and feral cats when she moved to Victoria 30 years ago. She said unspayed cats multiply quickly.

"There are a lot of well-meaning people who want to help, but they don't realize that feeding an unspayed cat isn't helping anybody," Cochran said.

Trish Rodriguez, 24, of Cuero, said she doesn't blame the stray animals but the owners who do not get their cats or dogs fixed.

"If people took the time to spay and neuter their cats and dogs, this wouldn't be a problem," she said.

Rodriguez said she wished more groups like Victoria Trap Neuter Return existed in the Crossroads "because trap and kill is such a cruel and senseless way to 'help' our area."

Dunham said there are about a dozen off-and-on volunteers for Victoria Trap Neuter Return. She said it's hard to calculate how much of their own money each of them has spent taking part in the program.

"You don't do this for any other reason than you are just dedicated to the animals," she said. "I'm a firm believer that when you're a part of a community you have to give back somehow. That's what we're doing."