Vt. group helps to control farm cat population - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. group helps to control farm cat population

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It's common for people to dump cats off at farms but it's causing a cat population problem in the Northeast Kingdom and now one group is trying to help.

Randy Mead works hard to keep his farm going in Newport Center.

"It's all about family really," said Mead.

He, his family, and just a few hired hands, milk nearly 600 cows. They've also got quite a few cats working hard too.

"They have a purpose. They hunt birds, mice. You know? They've got a job to do," said Mead.

But the cat population began to get out of control. People dropped off unwanted cats and kittens and it started to cause problems.

"You get over populated and disease goes through the cats, and it's just a mess," said Mead.

"There's so much need out there," said Connie LaClair Knaggs from Felines and Friends.

Mead got some help from Felines and Friends. The group traps feral farm cats, spays and neuters them, and provides vaccinations. Farmers just pay $5 a cat to cover rabies shots.

"Once you do that you start to have a healthier colony," said Knaggs.

Call it a cat club. Feral felines form colonies on farms and they often chase off any new so-called friendly cats, or cats that are tame. They can end up at people's homes. Those cats are causing problems too, filling up shelters.

"We wanted to figure out how we can help these people and help make the intake, the numbers coming to the shelters lessened," said Knaggs.

Just one cat can produce 20 kittens a year. In the last year, the group has trapped and fixed 700 cats.

"We ended up trapping 72 cats at this one particular farm. They thought they had 40 because everything was a brown tiger. They all looked alike. They didn't know," said Knaggs.

Felines and Friends also help train farmers on managing the colony, teaching them how to set up feed stations and keeping an eye out for any new feral cats.

Then they are trapped too. The group surveys the farm for two weeks, establishes a feeding schedule and traps for three days.

Once 30 to 33 cats are collected they're trucked to Middlesex to be spayed or neutered through a grant program. Everything else at Felines and Friends is strictly volunteer and there's much more work to do.

"We haven't even hit the tip of the iceberg. It's a huge problem in the Northeast Kingdom," said Knaggs.

"The farms need the cats, but cats that know what they are doing," said Mead.

Mead was glad to get help. They trapped 25 here and got his farm's cat population under control.

"The farmers have a hard enough time with the cows, then dealing with the cats too," said Knaggs.

If the cats collected are friendly enough the group tries to find them homes. Otherwise, the animals are brought back to the farm after being spayed or neutered.

For more information on Felines and Friends click here and for the free spay and neuter program click here.
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