The feral felines of Greensboro find hope through FCAP

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The feral felines of Greensboro find hope through FCAP

A feral cat rests after its surgery. The FCAP spays and neuters the feral cats of Greensboro to assist the overpopulation of local rescues and shelters.

A feral cat rests after its surgery. The FCAP spays and neuters the feral cats of Greensboro to assist the overpopulation of local rescues and shelters.

A feral cat rests after its surgery. The FCAP spays and neuters the feral cats of Greensboro to assist the overpopulation of local rescues and shelters.

A feral cat rests after its surgery. The FCAP spays and neuters the feral cats of Greensboro to assist the overpopulation of local rescues and shelters.

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Early in the morning, last Sunday, thanks to six veterinarians, over 20 volunteers, a dilapidated building, and a whole lot of dedication, 60 feral cats were spayed or neutered in under three hours.

Since 1996, the Federal Cat Assistance Program (FCAP) has performed this grueling task once a month. Anywhere from 60 to 100 cats can be spayed or neutered with up to 25 volunteers and 11 volunteer veterinarians. They are a Trap-neuter-release (TNR) program, which means that they do not put the cats into shelters, but instead release them back into their colonies. Their mission is to slow the vicious cycle of cat reproduction in the area in order to reduce the overpopulation of rescues and to save cats from possible euthanasia.

“I didn’t understand why they put the animal down just because they aren’t social, so I went online and found Alley Cat Allies,” FCAP founder Pat Noll said.

Alley Cat Allies is a global foundation based in Bethesda, Maryland that work in communities to either TNR or Shelter-Neuter-Return (SNR) cats for a low cost. They have a similar mission as FCAP, but on a larger scale. Noll was able to go to a conference of theirs to get what she needed to begin her own cat clinic program in Greensboro.

“(It was difficult to) find vets that are willing to do anything, because that concept was very new in 1996,” Noll said.

Unlike Europe and other foreign nations at the time, the United States would simply euthanize feral cats as they could not be adopted by people. Despite the view on feral cats, Noll was able to find a few veterinarians and volunteers, and they rented offices to carry out the procedures and storage units to hold the traps.

The biggest issue sometimes is trying to get the community to understand, because I can’t take them away or just make them disappear”

— Pat Noll

The program has made great change in the community as rescues and shelters now see feral cats in a positive light, and want them to be outside where they belong. When animal control finds cats, they either call the shelter that will bring them to FCAP, or call FCAP directly.

“We need to get a handle on the TNR because kittens are being born and people are bringing them to the shelters which are over run,” English teacher Lora Medley said.

Medley is known for her love for cats, as she currently owns 19 and regularly volunteers at FCAP. She has been helping trap the feral cats for two years and has been going to the clinics for almost one year.

The actual process of the TNR, begins with trapping the cats by luring them in with food. The traps are set up by volunteers and are then brought to the clinic in Greensboro.

At the actual clinic building, it begins with the organizing and counting of the cats; their initial paperwork is attached to their traps as they await to be anesthetized. When they are unconscious, they are tied down, belly up, to a wooden board and a volunteer shaves and cleans the area that will be operated on. Next, they are either brought to the female operating station, which is a separate room where their more in depth surgery occurs, or to the male operating table where they are more easily neutered. After that, they are brought to a station where volunteers groom, vaccinate, and give tick and flea medicine. Lastly, they are brought back to their cages for a final check up, paper work fill out, and-if needed-a heat up if they are at a low temperature after the surgery.

Also after the surgery, the tip of their left ear is snipped off to let people and animal control know that they have a caretaker and that they have been through the TNR process.

“It’s so sweet because they’re all hissy and growly before, and then they get their shot, and they’re all rag dolls,” Medley said. 

Medley is known as one of the most dedicated volunteers and even plans on creating her own cat lounge in Burlington to further assist the overpopulated rescues.

“The building is taking longer and the actual process of setting up a non profit is expensive, but if I bring those cats into my lounge it will free up the space in (the Sparkle Cat) rescue,” Medley said. 

Medley is at the last station in the process and is always happy to hold the cats and hug them before they are put back in their traps. She pities the cats that have to live on the streets instead of with a loving owner.

“Being a feral cat on the streets is a hard life; they are prone to diseases and they get into fights, so sometimes they come in with conditions that we can’t fix,” Medley said.

Some cats do come in very ill and are unable to make it through the surgery; however this is rare in the fact that the vets are very good at what they do.

“The biggest issue sometimes is trying to get the community to understand, because I can’t take them away or just make them disappear,” Noll said.

Often the community doesn’t understand the saving of feral cats, but this is the proven humane way that reduces feral cats. If the cats were simply euthanized, their community would rapidly reproduce to replace those that were lost.

FCAP solely relies on volunteers and donations to continue their program. This is difficult, but over the years, the community has spread from Guilford to Forsyth, Alamance, Randolph, Yadkin and more. Now, volunteers are more reliable and there are even a few regular donors.

“We’ve outgrown this building and I’d like to see us be able to give more continuing education about cats and how to prevent the overpopulation and really educate the community at larger,” Noll said.

At the moment, when cats are brought in by others, FCAP charges $10 per cat, instead of the normal $45 to $5o. This creates a more realistic price for those that need a large colony of cats TNRed.

Megan Harkey

“I believe that everyone has equal intrinsic value, which applies to the cats as well,” Dietrich said. “We all show that we value the cats and think them worthy of love through the care we provide.” Volunteer Olivia Dietrich said.

Dietrich is a UNCG graduate with a bachelors degree in biology, and her initial volunteering hours were for her senior project. She finds a moral good in caring for forgotten and ownerless cats and enjoys being able to help them humanely. She is experienced in trapping and most of the stations as she has been volunteering since December, 2015.

Dietrich is hoping to attend NC State University for her graduate degree.

“One of the things that I love about this organization is that we have a very big core vet community and a core volunteer community, so it’s nice to have consistency with our volunteers,” Dietrich said.

Doctor Jason Hulin is a volunteer veterinarian that began his time at FCAP to get more experience in the operation on the cats. He began to help out his freshmen year of college at NC State and it has greatly helped him through both his undergraduate and graduate years.

“Most students don’t get this kind of experience; you get like two spay and neuters and then you graduate,” Hulin said, “so it was a good selling point for jobs.”

These volunteers and many others make FCAP possible through hard work and hope for the feral felines of Greensboro.

Even though the numbers of cats are still high due to their rapid reproduction, the future for FCAP is bright as the community  has begun to accept their process.

“I get to learn from everyone that participates,” Noll said. “And I see a lot of young students come through here that end up going to veterinarian school.”

Learn more about FCAP at http://www.feralcatassistance.org/index.html. There, one can donate and learn how to volunteer at the clinics.

Learn more about the Alley Cat Allies at https://www.alleycat.org/community-cat-care/.

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