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Bingham Farms

July 23, 2013

MHS offers workshop for potential feral cat caretakers

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

BINGHAM FARMS — All around Michigan, cats are acting more like the birds and the bees these days.

In the midst of mating season, feral cat populations are on the rise in many communities around the state. That means most local animal shelters are seeing a huge influx of homeless cats and kittens being brought to them for care. With only so many resources to care for the hundreds of felines in need, the Michigan Humane Society is continuing its efforts to gradually reduce the region’s feral cat population.

On July 31, MHS will hold a feral cat workshop at its administrative office in Bingham Farms. The evening course will teach concerned residents how to participate in a “trap-neuter-release” strategy, or TNR, which MHS says has been proven to be the best and most-humane method of handling wild cats.

According to Marisa Babbitt, MHS’s sterilization programs coordinator, the TNR workshops were started in May 2011 in an attempt to save as many feline lives as possible, since feral cats aren’t able to be domesticated and cannot be adopted out. The TNR program gives feral cat “caretakers” the tools they need to humanely capture wild cats so that they can be brought to the MHS for sterilization and identification. Later, the cats are released back into their habitat so they can continue to be tracked and looked after by their caretaker.

“It’s imperative to sterilize as many cats as possible. It makes feral cats better neighbors by reducing those unwanted behaviors that come with mating, like the howling and the spraying,” said Babbitt.

Since the program’s inception, Babbitt said, at least 800 free-roaming cats have been sterilized, thanks to around 300 dedicated volunteer caretakers who have taken the course.

“The caretakers make sure they have shelter, food and water. They make sure that they track who is in their colony. We have a very dedicated group of people and we’re very grateful for that,” she said.

Though the shelter’s intake statistics have dipped just slightly, she said there’s no way to be sure the TNR initiative can be credited with reducing the feral cat population. Only time will tell if the program is working, but Babbitt hopes that statistics collected in another four or five years will reflect the efforts made.

The workshop is just one of MHS’s many initiatives to not only end animal cruelty in the state, but also to improve outcomes for animals in the future, according to MHS Public Relations Coordinator Ryan McTigue.

“Unfortunately, companion animal over population is a problem nationwide, and programs like this are essential in lowering the number of homeless cats in our community,” said McTigue in an email.

The feral cat TNR workshop will begin at 5:30 p.m. July 21 at MHS’s administrative office, located at 30300 Telegraph Road, Suite 200, in Bingham Farms.

For more information or to register for the workshop, visit www.michiganhumane.org/feral or call (248) 283-1000, ext. 127. An RSVP is required.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.