BY JULIE GRAY
Recent visitors to the Monroe County Humane Association (MCHA) Facebook page have been treated to a video showing a homeless black-and-white tomcat (let’s call him Tom) joyfully leaping out of a humane trap back to his old life after being neutered and vaccinated for rabies.
The reason for the spring in Tom’s step is the medical treatment organized for him by the brand-new Community Cat Program. A joint effort between MCHA and City of Bloomington Animal Care and Control (BACC), the Community Cat Program’s goal is to control the population of free-roaming cats like Tom.
Known as feral or community cats, these undomesticated felines are happily living outside in colonies of four to 15. They would never be able to adjust to an indoor life as pets. “But left to themselves, cats can reproduce very quickly and very early,” explains MCHA executive director Rebecca Warren. “Beginning in late February, cats and kittens flood the shelter. And a lot of the litters that end up at the shelter are the product of these unaltered community cats.”
So Warren and BACC Shelter Manager Virgil Sauder decided to launch the Community Cat Program to stem the population boom at its source. The program is funded by a charitable trust established 35 years ago by a local family.
Lanie Hines, a veterinary technician and longtime cat advocate, is the program’s resource coordinator. Hines is already out in the field, helping people trap and transport cats to and from Pets Alive, the nonprofit veterinary clinic where they are altered and vaccinated. While the cats are still under anesthesia, the tip of one of their ears is cut off. Once the cats are back outdoors, their tipped ears serve as a tipoff that they are not someone’s beloved, lost cat.
Hines can help with all aspects of community cat care, including how to feed the cats and build low-cost winter shelters for them — and she’s elated to be doing it. “This is where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says.