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The Cedar Key Trap-Neuter-Return program has accomplished all that it can, said Doreen Bauer of Faraway Inn. Last week, TNR spayed and neutered 34 cats, bringing the total number to 535 Cedar Key cats in three and half years.
“At this point, there are only about 50 cats left, and those are the smartest, most tricky, and hardest to catch,” Doreen said. “The really smart cats are the ones breeding. Over time, those 50 will turn into a lot more. We can’t do anymore without the community’s help.”
The largest populations remain on Hodges Avenue, the Watson Drive area, and near the community center. These are the areas with the largest breeding issues, she said.
In order to catch the few remaining cats, Doreen said, it will be up to the people who feed them and know their routines. Traps need to be left out for about a week so the cats to get used them, she said. “Then you slowly move the cat’s food closer and closer to it.”
Once they’re caught, Doreen and her husband Oliver will take care of the rest.
Last week, it took Doreen, Oliver and one other volunteer three days, a total of about 25 hours, to trap the 34 cats. “We are pretty much done with TNR now unless residents can trap the rest. These are the cats that have avoided us for more than three years.”
The Bauers started the Cedar Key TNR program in November 2006 when they looked around the community and saw many kittens without homes. “It’s easy to say ‘Let someone else deal with it,’” Oliver said. “But we felt horrible about it.”
The Bauers have used their pet-friendly, Green Lodging certified business, the Faraway Inn, as a base for the program.
Combining efforts with other entities has made it possible for Cedar Key TNR to help the hundreds of cats living in the island community. “None of this would have been possible without Sheltering Hands, River City Community Animal Hospital and the Humane Society of Inverness. They’re the reason any of this got done.” Doreen said.
“A couple of thousand kittens would have been born over the past few years if not for TNR,” she said. “We would have more cats than people on the island.”
Kathy Fleck, President of Sheltering Hands, and other volunteers from the Williston-based non-profit have been major supporters of the effort. This round of TNR was paid for through a Florida Animal Friends grant awarded to Sheltering Hands, Fleck said. The grant money comes from license plate sales throughout the state and provides spay/neuter options for pets of low income families and feral cats.
Operating on donations, grants, and volunteerism, Sheltering Hands also offers adoptions for unwanted and homeless cats. The organization uses a foster network to house the animals waiting for homes. For more information, visit www.shelteringhands.com or call (352) 817-0663. Each donation can be applied to a specific focus upon request, including animal rescue, adoptions/foster care, spay/neuter for low-income households, spay/neuter for feral cats, or injured animals.
The River City Community Animal Hospital, based in Jacksonville, is a complete mobile hospital on wheels. Veterinarian Pat Gionet and crew travel all over northeast Florida providing low cost animal care. Cedar Key is as far south and west as they travel, Gionet said. “This is my favorite place to go out of all the places we go,” she said. “Cedar Key and Otter Creek are the nicest people we (work with).”
Gionet and crew travel four days a week to different and typically work 60 hours. In her free time she maintains the mobile hospital. “People maintain their own offices, it’s the same thing.” She spends her weekends changing the oil, making repairs and servicing the rig.
River City Hospital makes sure that all cats receive rabies vaccinations and multi-vaccines to ensure their health, Doreen said. Each cat is tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency Virus. Out of 535 Cedar Key cats, a total of two cases of leukemia were found and no feline AIDS.
In the last round of cats, nine had upper respiratory infections. The sneezing runny noses, and gooey eyes – sometimes crusted closed – can be mistaken for something more serious, Doreen said. While they can’t pass the illness to humans or other kinds of animals, they can give it to each other. After about two weeks of medicine, the cat will be back to normal. “They won’t get better without medication,” she said.
Healthy cats are important to the city and serve a vital role, Doreen said. “Cedar Key – being such a small, self-contained community as we are – needs our cats to keep mice and rat populations under control.”