Trapping feral cats for their own good. It's what the Humane Society of Saginaw County is focused on, as the problem continues to grow.
The process of trapping feral, or community cats is not a walk in the park. Sometimes, it can take hours and it always comes with a big price tag.
Elizabeth Quarm, director of the Humane Society of Saginaw County says, "It costs us from intake to adoption on average $250 a cat."
Quarm is spearheading this mission, hoping to cut down on the over population of feral cats here in Saginaw.
"It's very bad. There's colonies that we know of that have 50-100 cats" says Quarm. The Humane Society of Saginaw County, not to be confused with the Saginaw Care and Control Center, is not funded by the county or anyone.
However, Quarm says they're only one of a few organizations in the county that offer a low cost spay and neuter program for low income pet owners. She says they also have a 'Trap, Neuter, and Release' program also known as TNR. It's aimed at cutting down the high rates of feral cats.
They head out to the colonies in the area with a team and traps. They place those traps down with food inside, and once a feral cat walks inside, they take the trap and transport it, eventually spaying or neutering the cat.
They then give the animal a rabies vaccine and if it's adoptable they place it in a foster home. If the animal is not adoptable, they release it back into the wild.
Quarm tells us they also spend a lot of time talking with nearby residents to educate them on their mission, and what they're trying to do with the community/feral cats they see wandering around their neighborhoods.
Quarm says the problem with feral cats needs to be tackled now. "They can go into heat as young as four to five months of age and become pregnant. The gestation period is 60 days, so they could have three liters a year." If you do the math, that's quite a lot... especially if there's hundreds of cats in several colonies throughout the county.
Because the Humane Society is not county funded, Quarm says everything they do is either out of their own pockets or paid for by donations.
She tells us that the Humane Society is run solely by un-paid volunteers, most of which have other full-time jobs. The organization is currently in between offices and does not use a shelter to keep animals. Instead, they foster the animals out to workers and volunteers.
Right now, Quarm has about 35 foster cats in her own home. She feeds them and takes care of their individual medical needs until they can get better and be adopted into their forever home. If that seems like a lot of cats, there's even more!
Quarm says she utilizes people in the community like Dawn Holcomb to be a foster. Holcomb says this problem is "out of control."
She currently has a handful of kittens in her home right now. She says she's been taking in feral cats from shelters and off the streets since she retired five years ago.
"You're just sitting there at night and a stray animal shows up that's beaten up, it's hurt, it's skinny, it's hungry, and it comes to your back porch, so you feed it, and you have to get it care" says Holcomb.
Without spaying and neutering their cats and the lack of resources, the Humane Society says they just keep multiplying.
"It's very sad, and it's so overwhelming because we cannot do this alone" says Quarm. She tells us the Humane Society went to the Saginaw County Commissioners asking for funding for their TNR program, but they've yet to file the necessary paperwork asking for county funds.
Quarm says, "We would like Saginaw County Government to come up with some funding because we believe this is a community problem and it's much bigger than our capabilities."
Bonnie Kanicki, Director of the Animal Care and Control Center says she also recognizes how big of an issue this is and has started a special group with the same goal in mind as the Humane Society. "I facilitate a community cats committee to review the problem to see what could potentially be done" says Kanicki. The committee is just getting started, but if it comes to fruition, it could help.
Kanicki says they eventually plan to come up with a proposal and present it to the County Commissioners asking for money on behalf other rescues, and even individual citizens who trap feral cats and get them spayed or neutered on their own time and with their own funding.
Now as time goes on, Quarm say the problem is only going to get worse. The Humane Society says they're always in need and there's plenty of ways you can help them out.
"We greatly appreciate donations. If someone wants to help with fosters for us, we'll provide the food and vet care. We just need someone with some space in their heart and home to make room for these animals. If you'd like to help, you can find more information on the Humane Society of Saginaw County's website.”
Moving forward, if either the Care and Control Center, or the Humane Society create a formal proposal, it will have to be up for a vote with the Saginaw Board of Commissioners.