‘Feed a stray, fix a stray’
MONTGOMERY – “Be part of the solution,” comes a plea from five very concerned citizens who have taken action to control an overpopulation of feral cats. Starting in Montgomery within their own neighborhood, it didn’t take long for them to realize the problem was just about everywhere. According to Tom and Terri Wehry, colonies of unsheltered cats have increased in the Montgomery community. “There are a lot of renters not getting cats neutered,” said Tom Wehry who lives in the borough. His wife, Terri said that this has been an ongoing problem in Montgomery. The cost can be prohibitive for many.
Raising awareness became a goal and soon three others joined the couple to combat a problem that is rising out of control. The group known as Tri -Town TNR which means “trap, neuter, and release” is seeking help from anyone who wants to join them. “We started a year ago to control the breeding,” said Gretchen Guyer who has been raising funds to pay for the neutering which takes place at Beckoning Cat Project in Williamsport.
“Many are not caring for their cats. Average costs are well over 300 dollars to get a cat neutered and treated for diseases. However, it will only cost 67 dollars if we take the cats to the Beckoning Cat Project,” said Terri Wehry. “That will include shots for distemper and rabies. We have been doing this out of our own pockets.”
Starting with social media the group reached out to the community, and had a yard sale and a raffle to raise some money to purchase supplies. The cats are trapped mostly during the night with food and cages. “They are treated right. We let the area know when we are going to trap,” Guyer said. Using their Facebook page, Tri Town TNR publicizes photos of the cats they capture to make sure they are not getting someone else’s cat. “People around us have helped,” she added.
So far they have trapped 14 feral cats, 8 from Montgomery and 6 from Muncy. They are in need of the cages, only having two so far at a cost of 25 dollars each. They are all pet lovers and want the cats to be taken care as they keep discovering litters of kittens.
“One male cat that breeds with one female cat can produce over two million cats (offspring) over 8 years,” said Kerry Perry, owner of Beckoning Cat Project. Perry, who is from Picture Rocks, saw the problem escalating in her neighborhood and four years ago she opened The Beckoning Cat Project as an effective way to reduce the growing colonies. After Williamsport, she said that Muncy and Montgomery areas had the biggest problems with stray cats. “Since 2014, we have neutered 17,000 cats,” said Perry.
Once a cat is captured and neutered, it’s left ear is clipped at the tip. Then the cat is released back to their colony. It is hard to domesticate them once they are in the wild, according to Tri Town TNR. Guyer explained that colonies of cats stay together and if they are not returned, other cats will come and take their place causing more breeding. “They are very territorial.” Plus feral cats don’t live as long as domestic cats. Their life span is close to 5 or 6 years whereas house cats can live up to 20 years.
Many do not know there is an alternative for “high quality, low-cost neutering.” Besides the Beckoning Cat Project, low income vouchers are offered from the SPCA for adoptions. “We are trying different things to bring about more awareness,” Perry said.
The shelters are full and sometimes it is easier to find homes for kittens. But by 4 months they need to be fixed and vaccinated. At six months they start to breed. “One cat can breed up to three times a year,” Guyer said. “It’s crazy how fast they can breed.”
Robert Hoover, mayor of Montgomery, said his town has adopted the “Compassionate Communities” program. This is a way to get more residents involved to help. “This is a community problem,” he said. “If we all work together, we can fix it.” Compassionate people are feeding them, but this is not fixing the problem according to the mayor. “We need to control them more, and stop the problem from growing.”
The township or borough will help defray the cost with vouchers if they are part of the “Compassionate Communities” program. Cost for neutering will be $25 according to Tri-Town TNR. They want to help other communities to get on board with this program and work with getting some funding to provide for the neutering and vaccinations.
“If a little township gets involved to put forward just a few cats, this will fix a problem out of control everywhere,” said Perry.
Guyer added, “It is a growing problem that just exploded! The more we can control the breeding, the better off the town is going to be.”
“It is not humane to euthanize them,” Perry said.
Hoover said, “Cats are not property like dogs and they don’t need to be licensed. Once you start feeding feral cats, they won’t go away. We want caretakers to come to us and let us know how many they have, and we will help them and show them how to set the traps.”
Right now they need more help. Tom Wehry said currently he and his neighbor, Rick Wright are doing all the trapping. “We need to form members in each of the three communities,” he said.
Meanwhile donations are being accepted through Tri-Town TNR at the Montgomery Borough office, 35 S. Main Street or the Beckoning Cat Project at 1417 E. Third Street in Williamsport. They will provide resources for food and traps and show residents how to trap and release any feral cats.
Other organizations that can offer assistance are the PetCo Foundation and the Pet Pantry of Lycoming County.