Columbia animal shelter traps and releases feral cats

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COLUMBIA – Boone County Animal Care specializes in TNR, which stands for trap-neuter-return.

TNR Coordinator at Boone County Animal Care, Diann Stelzer said it’s a necessity here in Columbia.

“There are a lot of stray cats here. It’s unfathomable to think about how many cats are actually here because you may or may not see them depending on where you are,” Stelzer said.

One Columbia resident, Zachary Zito has noticed quite a number of cats around his neighborhood off of Green Meadows Road. 

“There’s a lot of cats that hang around my neighborhood,” Zito said. “I haven’t seen any collars on the cats, but they seem friendly for the most part, a lot of them will come and let you pet them.”

Stelzer said if you see it being a problem, call Boone County Animal Care and she’ll come out and set traps.

“First thing I do is go out to the area and see what’s there, how many cats, I kind of take a number count and assess, are there any cats that injured? What kind of resources am I going to need? Are there any kittens?” Stelzer said.

Then she sets her traps and patiently waits for the cats to come to her.

“I’ve spent four hours or longer trying to catch one kitten in a trap because if they aren’t going to come to you, they aren’t going to come to you,” Stelzer said. “And then other times, you can just walk right up to the cat and pick it up.”

Stelzer said the more time the cat has spent outside, the harder it is to catch.

Boone County Animal Care evaluates the cats after they are caught. They offer medical care to the ones that need it, in addition to the spay or neuter surgery.

“We’ve amputated a leg before, taken off abscesses, repaired things, done dentals on cats” Stelzer said. “And these are all cats that will be released back.”

Stelzer said the recovery from the surgery depends on the cat, but is usually only 24 to 48 hours.

“They get internal stitches that dissolve, and are glued on the outside,” Stelzer said.

Before Boone County Animal Care drops the cats back off, they make sure they have a caretaker. 

“We make sure they have someone that is going to watch over them, and that’s what makes this whole process work,” Stelzer said. “We aren’t just dumping them back outside, we are actually giving them all the things they need to survive- a caretaker that will provide them with food, water.”

Stelzer said most cats have a thick winter coat that keeps them warm outside during the colder months. 

Zito said he wouldn’t mind being a caretaker, in a sense, he’s already bonded with one stray. 

“There’s one specific cat, he was just nice and let me come up to him a couple times and pet him,” Zito said. “We actually named him Marcelis, he’s a nice little friend that roams around our neighborhood.”

Although it isn’t recommended, some feral cats are kept and put up for adoption. Stelzer said sometimes the cats simply want to be domesticated. In other cases, sometimes the cat just needs extra medical attention.

When the cats are given the spay or neuter surgery, they are given a small, green belly tattoo to mark them. Stelzer said for the cats that are definitely going to be released back, they give them an ear tip.

“An ear tip is just cutting off the little top part of the ear, so from a distance I can tell they have already been fixed,” Stelzer said.

Zito said he think TNR is a necessity and he’s glad they do it here in Columbia.

“We don’t want a million cats running around because that could be a serious problem eventually,” Zito said.

Stelzer said if you want to set a trap yourself, Spay Neuter Project in Columbia will loan you a trap for a fee. You will be reimbursed when you bring the trap back.

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