Logansport and Cass County have a feral cat problem, and the Cass County Humane Society is working toward a solution. The shelter is in the midst of its annual Van Gogh Society Trap Neuter Return Program, which aims to reduce the number of strays around the city and county.
“By spaying and neutering them, that’s 50 less cats that will come in (to the human society),” said Lisa Terry, executive director of the humane society. “…The whole idea behind the feral trapping is to not have them end up here. If they’re spayed and neutered, they can’t and won’t.”
Terry brought two volunteers to a farm east of Logansport on Monday. A humane society van was filled with traps, newspaper, wet cat food, paper plates and long white sheets. They quickly got to work assessing the residence’s cat situation and setting traps.
Cats that go through the Van Gogh Society TNR Program have the tip of one of their ears removed to indicate they are spayed or neutered. The program is named after Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch painter most commonly known for painting The Starry Night. Van Gogh famously cut off his own left ear after an alleged argument with his friend, roommate and fellow artist Paul Gauguin.
There is high demand for the Van Gogh Society TNR Program in Cass County. Residents with large feral cat populations on their property can apply for the program by filling out a paper registration. The property is then added to the long list of properties participating in the program. However, it can take a while for the human society to get through the list.
“We can only afford to do it like every two weeks,” Terry said. “I have to raise the money. Then we have to coordinate with Monon Vet Clinic in Monon, Indiana, because they are really generous to us. They save seven, eight, nine, 10 reservations. If we don’t catch that many (cats), I have to fill those spots with cats or kittens from (the) because they have saved that time for me. We normally have some we can take, but the whole goal is to take as many (cats as possible) from that particular location.”
Linda, the homeowner who participated in the program Monday, said she signed up nearly a year ago. She asked to be identified by her first name only to prevent even more people from releasing cats near her residence.
“People dump their cats. That’s how all this got started,” Linda said. “There’s an old bridge down over here. People dump (the cats) down there and they find their way up here. They’ve even dumped dogs and everything else down there. My neighbor, she takes the dogs. She rescues the dogs and takes care of them, and I get the cats.”
Linda estimated that she has at least 20 cats currently living in her barn. She sets out litter boxes, toys, food and blankets for the cats, but their population has continued to grow.
One of Linda’s large male cats was already neutered, but she did not believe that any of the other cats in her barn had been spayed or neutered. It is possible for cats to have multiple litters of kittens each year after they reach maturity at about four months old, so their numbers can grow quickly. Linda currently has at least four young kittens on her property.
Terry said the cost of spaying and neutering cats can be prohibitive to people who want to stop feral cats from having kittens on their properties, especially since it can easily cost over $50 for each cat. Linda added that she has noticed the cost of cat food steadily increasing as her cat population grows.
“I just can’t do it. They’ve gotten so far ahead of me,” she said. “It’s costly trying to keep them fed. It got to where they get so much and that’s it. They can go hunt.”
Terry noticed that some of the kittens showed signs of inbreeding. She pointed out the way the kittens’ eyes were set and said inbreeding is not uncommon in feral cat populations. She added that inbred cats can struggle with genetic defects and health problems.
Linda pleaded with Cass County residents not to dump their animals. She said there are always other homes and humane societies that will accept them and added people can take care of those cats. She said she is worried about future generations of cats born on her property.
“You get to like I’ve got here,” she said. “Another round of these cats having litters and we’re going to have deformed cats because they interbreed. It’s terrible. You end up with birth defects and everything else. I don’t think people realize what comes of all this.”
Terry and her volunteers lined the humane traps with layers of newspaper. Then they opened cans of wet food and scooped some out onto paper plates that they sat at the back of each trap. The traps were then placed strategically inside different areas of the barn.
Linda followed the humane society’s instructions not to feed the cats for a few days before the volunteers arrived Monday. As the volunteers hid behind a wall of wooden slats, the metal traps sprang shut with loud snaps when hungry cats ventured inside to enjoy the wet food.
After the cats were trapped, they were moved outside and the traps were covered with one of the long sheets. Covering the traps helps the cats stay calm and reduces the chances of them hurting themselves or the volunteers.
The humane society volunteers caught eight cats in Linda’s barn. Spaying and neutering those eight cats may not stop the other cats from breeding, but it will hopefully make a difference.
Greg Abbott, a Royal Center resident, said the Van Gogh Society TNR Program made a difference on his property. He was buying a lot of cat food and had counted nearly a dozen feral cats outside his home. Volunteers visited Abbott’s residence earlier this month and trapped seven cats.
“I thought it was fun,” Abbott said. “It was interesting trying to decide where to put all the traps to catch the cats. Then we just waited.”
Abbott enjoyed working with the volunteers so much that he decided to volunteer himself. He was one of the volunteers who went with Terry to catch feral cats at Linda’s property.
The cats from Linda’s barn were transported to Monon Veterinary Clinic to be spayed, neutered, and treated for any serious diseases on Tuesday before being released back onto Linda’s property Wednesday morning. Linda will be able to tell which cats were spayed or neutered because those cats will have one of their ears tipped.
“I think the program that Lisa’s got going here is just awesome,” Linda said. “I think it would be great if we could get a lot of people to donate to this cause and help her out a little bit. And don’t dump your cats. Get them fixed.”