Program to help Kinston deal with feral cats

Program to help Kinston deal with feral cats

Like countless other communities across the country, Kinston has a feral cat problem. Within the city limits, hundreds of outdoor cats exist in colonies. This is largely the result of neglect and abandonment, as some people send their cats outdoors and forget about them.

Over time, these colonies grow as the cats reproduce. In the past, cats like these would have been trapped and most likely killed, as feral cats are generally unadoptable.

Last week, the city of Kinston took a monumental step towards safeguarding the well-being of its feline friends. These cats are now getting a second chance thanks to concerned citizens and outreach and assistance from the Lake Norman Lucky Cat Program, a trap-neuter-return-manage (TNRM) nonprofit program based near Charlotte.

The Lucky Cat Program was formed out of a similar need just outside of Charlotte more than 20 years ago. Charlotte had a serious overpopulation problem, but instead of allowing the cats to be trapped and killed, they put together a TNRM program for their community.

The program has since expanded into a four-county region. They have helped thousands of cats and prevented tens of thousands of unwanted kittens. During this time, animal control for the area also began using TNRM, and it now partners regularly with citizens needing help with community cats.

When leaders of the Lucky Cat Program heard of Kinston’s community cat dilemma, they got involved and offered to help Kinston facilitate its own TNRM program. In addition, they are providing the funds needed to pay for the first 150 cats to go through the new program. Each cat will be spayed/neuteredm and given their rabies and distemper vaccinations.

They'll also be ear-tipped, a procedure where the top tip of the left ear is removed, a globally-accepted indicator the cat is in a TNRM program. If the cats are friendly enough, they will go into adoption programs. If they are feral, they will be returned to a managed site with shelters and proper feeding stations.

There is a difference between a stray and a feral cat. Where a stray cat is used to people and will either approach someone or just simply walk away a few steps, a feral cat is wild. If they see people, they will either hide or quickly dash away.

Kinston's Kim Williams is leading the new initiative called the Lucky Cats of Kinston as the local Community Director for the Lucky Cat Program. Williams previously served on the Lenoir County SPCA board of directors and has been a TNRM advocate for many years.

“This isn’t a problem that started overnight and it won’t be fixed overnight,” Williams said. “Sadly, this is a direct result of irresponsible pet owners dumping their cats and kittens, or not getting their pet cats spayed or neutered. This project is bigger than me and larger than what I can do alone. Our most urgent need is volunteers to help, feed, and trap.

"We need volunteers to build feeding stations, housing and many other needs.”

The Lucky Cats of Kinston program hopes to facilitate the TNRM program throughout Lenoir County as a resource to help citizens with stray and feral cats, just as the Lake Norman Lucky Cat program has done for its region. The free-roaming community cats found throughout Kinston previously experienced little intervention unless a complaint call was made to Animal Control.

When a complaint call was received, Animal Control would trap and remove the cat. If the cat was feral and unsociable, the cat would be euthanized. If the cat was friendly, it would go to the shelter in hopes of adoption. Unfortunately, this scenario no longer made sense to continue due to the high volume of cats needing help.

Like many other municipalities throughout the region who have embraced TNRM for their community cat problems, this humane solution offers the most success in reducing the overpopulation of these cats.

“Cats are part of our environment and have been close companions for thousands of years," Williams said. "Feral cats are not social with humans. They are wild animals, just like a squirrel or a raccoon. We just have an overpopulation of the cats. We need to humanely trap these cats and then return them to their environment. Relocation is not an option. They need to be where they can live and thrive and make a habitat.

"This is allowing them to live out their lives as healthy and happy cats without adding more to the population."

This new initiative not only will save cats lives, prevent unwanted future kittens, but will also save thousands of Kinston taxpayer dollars, as the new initiative is at no cost to the town.

“This will alleviate the concerns of the community worrying about all of the stray cats," Williams said. "We are progressive enough in trying to deal with this issue."

However, this project needs volunteers to be a success. If you are willing to volunteer, please contact Williams at 252-361-1300 or email LuckyCatsofKinston@gmail.com. If you don’t have time to volunteer but would like to help, donations are needed for cat food and supplies.

Donations can be made online at luckycats.org; please put “Kinston” on the subject line. One hundred percent of all donations received will go to help Kinston community cats.

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