The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service has received a $5,000 grant that it plans to use to spay and neuter free-roaming feral cats.
The grant was awarded by the Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies, which awards grants quarterly. Funding from the grants comes from the sale of Washington state “We Love Our Pets” license plates.
“Our ask was focused on our community cats,” said SCRAPS director Lindsey Soffes. “That’s what we’ve earmarked the money for. We’re really excited. We know we need more resources for our kitties in Spokane.”
Soffes said she believes this is the first time SCRAPS has received a grant from the Washington Federation. The grants have been given out since 2007 and are entirely focused on spaying and neutering dogs and cats. By the end of 2015, the organization had awarded $530,000 in grants that paid for almost 17,000 surgeries.
People in the community trap feral cats and bring them in for surgery. The tip of one ear is taken off to show that they’ve been fixed and the cats are released back to where they came from. “This year we will have done 1,000 of those surgeries,” Soffes said.
Soffes said she doesn’t have the staff to trap feral cats to be fixed, but hopes to do that in the future. SCRAPS is trying to do research on where feral cats are concentrated to see where to trap to have the maximum impact.
No one is quite sure how many feral cats there are in the area, she said. “I haven’t been able to find a study, but the number I see thrown around is 200,000 free-roaming cats in Spokane,” she said.
Cats have the ability to reproduce at a rapid rate. A female cat can have three or four litters a year and the average litter size is four, though some litters are much larger than that. “This season we saw one litter of 11,” Soffes said.
A female cat will go into heat about once a month if she does not get pregnant, giving the male cats lots of chances. Soffes said her organization and others who perform similar services will have to spay and neuter a lot of animals in order to make a dent in the number of feral cats.
The number of community cats people are bringing in is increasing, but Soffes said she’s not sure if that’s because there are more feral cats than there used to be or if more people are using the spay and neuter services.
The cats that are brought in by the public are always checked for a microchip to see if they belong to anyone before the surgery is done, Soffes said. Some don’t have microchips or a collar but seem friendly and socialized. Sometimes people trap and bring in housecats that just got caught wandering through the neighborhood, she said, but there’s no way to tell who is who without a microchip or a license.
Soffes said SCRAPS offers free microchips at their monthly vaccine clinics, and she urges people to get their cats microchipped.
“We know that the rate of licensing is quite low,” she said.
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