By Gina Spadafori
March 10, 2015
It wasn’t long ago that even the most well-meaning animal lovers believed the kindest thing that could be done with feral cats was kill them. When I started writing about pets and their care in the early ’80s, I thought so, too. After all, a dead cat never feels hunger, or fear. The elements present no problem, nor do cars or cat-haters.
And most of all, dead cats never reproduce, delivering kittens into their own lives of misery.
Skip forward to now, and I can truly say I was wrong, wrong, wrong about these cats. They can be managed, they can be neutered, and they should be allowed to live as community cats.
That’s why I was thrilled to learn about Operation Catnip, a Florida program founded by a pioneering shelter medicine veterinarian to manage cat colonies so kittens can be prevented and the cats can be cared in place. And kudos to PetSmart Charities for providing an education grant to kick it off. From the news release:
An innovative Florida program that has been spaying, neutering, and vaccinating unowned cats since 1998 is about to share its successful model with the nation.
Founded by Dr. Julie Levy, director of the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, the trap-neuter-return (TNR) program known as Operation Catnip has been running free high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinics for community cats in Gainesville for more than 16 years.
Since its founding, the organization has cared for more than 45,000 cats. In 2014 alone, they helped 2,693 cats and prevented the births of a projected 6,142 kittens who might have been born to the now-sterilized cats in the first year following surgery.
“Our vision is to train an army of veterinarians to spay and neuter America’s community cats,” said Levy. “This approach, along with vaccination, will allow us to reduce cat population, control infectious diseases, and improve the lives of the cats.”
While there are still plenty of organizations — sadly, some of them well-known animal “advocacy” groups — who still believe in killing cats, the tide has turned. As more veterinarians are trained and more people understand how these cats can be kept alive in good health without causing problems, the better lives will be for them.
Extermination has never been an acceptable solution, and now, we have a way forward that will truly give these cats the lives they deserve.
Operation Catnip is something every animal-lover can get behind — and should.