Lady and the trap – taking on feline over-population Northwest Indiana might well be on its way to solving an over-population problem

Written by Contributor. Posted in Community News & People in the News, Featured

Published on June 20, 2018 with No Comments

By Dee Dunheim,  Animal Public Relations

Trap Neuter & Return (TNR), along with the Independent Cat Society (ICS) in Westville teamed up to coordinate volunteers to capture abandoned and stray feral cats and bring them to veterinarians. Females are spayed and males are neutered and all are given rabies shots.

“Amazing as it sounds, a pair of cats and their offspring can have 420,000 kittens within seven years,” reports TNR project leader Jodi Dusek. “Even a four- or five-month-old kitten can get pregnant,” she says.  ”Females might have as many as three litters a year, each ranging from three to seven kittens.”

Initially in 2012, Dusek reached out to organizations, clinics, veterinarians, shelters and volunteers for help, but no one responded.  So she and her husband, Bernie Howard, began to handle the situation on their own.  ”I learned everything I needed to know on the Internet,” admits the woman who now instructs others how to gently trap roaming feral felines and bring them to a vet to be sterilized, then they are always released where they were found.

The ICS/TNR PROJECT Facebook educates people on what to do and how to do it, while creating a forum for those whose hearts are in the same place.

“Social media is huge for us,” says Dusek.  ”Communicating through Facebook keeps our program up and running. More and more people are pitching in, volunteering and donating. Donated supplies can include canned or dry foods, disposable spoons, garbage bags, paper plates, tarps, laundry detergent to wash blankets and towels, and bleach to sterilize humane traps between each use.

“I started with ICS in January of this year and officially began trapping on March 1.  We called our ICS/TNR PROJECT a  ’trial run,’” explained Dusek.  ”And, already we have taken care of 109 cats.   Our numbers are already proving that it’s a success. Each and every cat done is a big deal.”

Companion cats should live their lives safely indoors. But when they find themselves outdoors, either lost or abandoned, even the tamest, most loving feline will become feral just to survive.

Suffering through freezing winters and extremely hot summers, terrified and vulnerable without food, water and shelter, they might appear wary or ferocious.  And, since kittens born into such situations have never experienced human kindness, the little ones have no idea what to do or where to go.

Dusek and her husband discovered a mother cat with two older kittens and four baby kittens in a mobile home community. “The cat was somehow feeding and protecting all of them, but she was not adoptable. She had become wild,” says Dusek.

Four were captured and adopted into new homes. The mother and two older kittens were spayed and neutered and returned to the community.

“After two years,” said Dusek, “Bernie and I  still see the three cats in the neighborhood and are thrilled that no more kittens have been born.

First, each live trap is baited with food and covered with a blanket or sheet to keep the cat calm. A pee-pad and towel in each cage help make the animal comfortable until a volunteer picks it up for the trip to a carefully chosen veterinarian.

Then, when a vet alters a feral cat, about one-quarter inch of the left ear is removed. This identifies the cat as having been fixed. “We call it ’Snip ‘Em and Tip ‘Em,’” said Dusek.

Donations from individuals, groups and organizations are what pay for the all the surgeries and other care.

“ICS is extremely supportive of our efforts,” said Dusek.

The all-volunteer group in Westville has cared for and adopted thousands of homeless cats and kittens to forever homes during its more than 40 year history.

Dusek also administers the Facebook support group called  FERAL TAIL TALES,  boasting more than 6,500 members in rural areas from Indiana to  Indonesia.

“We’ve all become one big team,” Dusek said. “It’s utterly and truly amazing.”

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