Teton High School seniors participating in this year’s Youth Philanthropy Program recognized the immediate impact PAWS of Jackson Hole’s Trap-Neuter-and-Return program would have in Teton Valley and chose to partially fund this grant with an award of $730.
Feral cats are community cats that live in colonies. Just as we help our human residents, community cats need our assistance with food and shelter, and they need to be spayed and neutered. Without control feral populations readily grow beyond their resources. PAWS works with Teton Valley residents to Trap-Neuter-and-Return (TNR) feral cats to better support healthy, thriving community cat populations.
Feral cats, often called community cats, are not socialized to humans and they act very differently from a house cat. Community cats have lived without human touch, except for receiving food and (barn) shelter during winter. They are afraid of being contained inside a building or house and they do not look for human affection. They want to live their lives in the wild, with a gentle assist from us.
Populations of feral cats, called colonies, can be stable and helpful, especially to farms and large landowners. Cats keep the rodent population in check. Unfortunately, cats that are not neutered or spayed can produce a mind-boggling number of kittens in a short amount of time. One unspayed female cat, using conservative figures, can produce 375 cats in just five years. Unchecked, males fight and females reproduce until the colony runs out of space and cats become ill.
Rural communities, like Teton County, Idaho, have a huge number of feral cats. While feral kittens can be socialized and adopted, there are so many of them born that local shelters cannot take them in and find adopters. Recently, the Teton Valley Community Animal Shelter turned away several litters of kittens due to space, staffing, and cost of care.
PAWS works with local residents in Teton Valley to Trap-Neuter-and-Return (TNR) feral cats when requested by a landowner. Because these community cats do not do well in shelters or homes, landowners agree to care for their feral cat populations (food and covered shelter such as a barn or shed in winter). The landowner gets excellent rodent control from the cats and the feral population, when spayed and neutered, stays at a manageable level.
PAWS volunteers help safely trap the cats, transport them to a local vet, and return them to their property. PAWS pays a lower negotiated rate to vets that perform the spay and neuter surgeries for feral cats and sometimes covers the cost of testing a colony for cat diseases. This grant covers expansion of their Teton Valley TNR program currently staffed by two volunteers and allows them to support two additional volunteers, purchase more safe traps (5 traps for each volunteer), tarps, pay for cat disease testing in colonies, and provide food for landowners that agree to harbor a spayed and neutered community cat population.
Spaying and neutering our pets and community cats directly reduces the number of animals surrendered to local shelters. Students recognized that PAWS already has a spay/neuter program in Teton Valley well established with negotiated surgery rates with local veterinarians and direct payment for surgeries. While this grant does not cover the spay/neuter program, TNR greatly enhances the ability to keep feral kittens from overpopulating the local animal shelter.