- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) - Lanie Fritz is a cat-lover.

She often takes in cats and kittens.

Recently, she has taken steps to organize a group to tackle head-on a rampant feral cat population in Burlington and Des Moines County.

“I didn’t know it was a huge problem,” the rural Burlington woman said.

Awareness dawned about a year ago when Fritz learned about a colony of feral house cats living in a building adjacent to Burlington IA Redemption, on Columbia Street not far from Snake Alley. Stephanie Mowray, owner of the redemption center, had written a Facebook post about the 20 or more cats living in the seemingly abandoned garage next to her business.

And that one place hardly is alone as the only colony of wild felines in Burlington or the surrounding countryside.

In addition to out-of-control breeding, feral cats also are subject to disease, Fritz and her compatriot, Nathalie Girod of Burlington, said in an interview with the Hawk Eye (https://bit.ly/2dGOG6L ).

“We will not be able to save all the cats,” Girod said. “I’m OK with that. We’ll do what we can.”

Their organization, A Street Cat With No Desire, has no facilities, staff, bylaws or board of directors. Just a Facebook presence and a couple of volunteers hoping to build support and raise money for their cause.

“The aim is to try to control the overpopulation of cats having cats,” Girod said.

Fritz and Girod said they have dipped into their own pocketbooks, and know of others who have done so too, for many years. That kind of undertaking is sustainable only for so long, however, and it will be more than a piecemeal effort to get the feral cat population under control, though, they said.

With money and the availability of facilities where neutering and spaying procedures can be performed, Fritz and Girod hope to partner with Iowa City veterinarian Jeanne Hedges, who brings her One Spay At a Time program to Fairfield once a month to spay and neuter cats at discounted rates. Volunteers, primarily people who trap the cats and bring them to be fixed, will be necessary to keep each cat for two or three days after surgery.

After a couple of days of recovery, the cats would be released back into the community. While some cats might be eligible for adoption, more won’t. Animal shelters already are overloaded with cats and Fritz and Girod won’t turn them over for euthanasia. By limiting the cats’ ability to breed, the feral population eventually will stabilize and then decline, they say. That, in turn, will help reduce the spread of disease.

The obvious first set of supporters, Girod said, are people who already are befriending and feeding feral cats. Trapping instructions and other tips for addressing feral cat populations are available from Maryland-based Alley Cat Allies at www.AlleyCat.org .

Click the link for the Community Cat Care page for detailed information.

People who feed feral cats have a special responsibility, Girod said, because the steady food source contributes to more frequent procreation. A feral female can have up to four litters a year, Girod said.

“If you feed them and call them a name, you have claimed them as your pet,” she said.

Abandoning a cat compounds the problem, Girod added, and people who can’t commit to a cat for its lifetime should not get one.

The organization’s scope will be limited to feral house and barn cats. Cat owners are expected to take care of that responsibility on their own. It’s a misconception, Fritz said, that female cats cannot be fixed before their first heat cycle.

Nonprofit status to enable tax-deductible donations and to qualify for grants to cover surgical costs is a goal, Fritz said, but achieving it is a complicated process. Donated legal advice would help to address some of those questions. For now, a GoFundMe account is the primary avenue for the two-member group to receive financial support.

Donations of food and traps also are needed. In some cases, cats that are trapped may need veterinary treatment, or are sick and must be euthanized. Money to support those possibilities is needed, too.

Even with a large outpouring of support, there is no quick fix. Making an impact, Fritz said, “will take years” of concerted effort.

“It’s so many cats, I think people are overwhelmed,” Girod said.

Some would rather ignore the problem. Other would rather resort to killing, they said. Girod and Fritz, however, ask people to think and act with compassion.

“We’re all interconnected,” Girod said. “(The cats) should have a decent life, just like we have a decent life.”

___

Information from: The Hawk Eye, https://www.thehawkeye.com

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