Saturday, January 24, 2009

Baytowne Wharf - Photos of feral cats

This is a partial collection of the feral cats trapped in and around Baytowne Wharf from March 2009 until February 2010. Cats that were trapped and removed/adopted are not included in this photo collection. There are no photos available for the 3 cats trapped from May 2009 until August 2009.

All cats in these images currently have their left ears cropped for identification as spayed or neutered and have received all vaccinations for rabies, distemper, and feline HIV/FeLV.

Update Feb 1, 2010: Two cats near Cabos have been trapped and relocated to a farm in Central Walton county. These cats had been socialized over time by visitors and local
employees and were not afraid of people. Still wild and likely to bite or scratch if touched, these cats had learned to approach people for food. They are both sterilized and up to date on all vaccinations. They will be help in a kennel for 21 days before being released in their new location where they will be fed and cared for.

Click on the image for a closer view and to print or read descriptions.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The 'Spay and Stay' Volunteers

A few of our Volunteers...

Contact us if you'd like to help with the 'Spay and Stay' program. We're always in need of trappers, feeders, and foster homes!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

Our community is participating in a volunteer program called “Spay and Stay” in an effort to control and reduce the outdoor cat population in the community. Our primary goal is to ensure that the cats living in our community are healthy and unable to reproduce. Here are some common questions about this program, with answers.

Why are we participating in this program?
* Over the past few years there has been a rapid increase in the number of feral and stray cats in our neighborhood. If this increase continues it will have a negative impact on the quality of life in Sandestin.
What is a feral cat, how would I recognize one, and can I pet it?
* A feral cat is a cat that has been abandoned or born in the wild and is no longer tame able. They act like any other wild animal.
* A feral cat looks like any other house cat but you would not be very successful trying to get near one and they should never be rubbing against your leg like a house cat. The feral cats who have been trapped and fixed by the "Spay and Stay" group will have a cropped left ear that can be recognized from many feet away.
* Do not approach or try to pet or handle a feral cat (fixed or not). They can be very dangerous when they feel cornered or threatened.
What is "Spay and Stay" and Trap-Neuter-Release?
* Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) is a national program where volunteers trap feral cats in a community and take them to the vet. At the vet the cats are examined, treated for fleas and worms, vaccinated, sterilized, and marked for identification through ear cropping and micro-chipping. The cats are then returned to the area where they were trapped and observed at local monitoring stations to make sure they stay healthy.
Who are the Volunteers?
* The volunteers who run the program in Sandestin are all Sandestin homeowners who care about their community and want to make sure it remains a great place to live. They work with the non-profit group Feline Friends of Destin to obtain discounted prices for Veterinarian services. Even with these discounts, it costs around $100 to trap and take care of each feral cat. The volunteers need your financial support to keep this program running so please consider a tax-deductible donation for a project that has a DIRECT impact on your quality of life.
Is this approach endorsed by the Sandestin Owners Association?
* TNR is, and has been endorsed by the SOA for over 10 years. It is the chosen method of feral cat population control in the common areas of Sandestin. The SOA encourages all associations to follow this approach. The SOA contributes annually to "Feline Friends of Destin" to support these ongoing efforts. The SOA 2009 budget gave $2,000 to the Feline Friends of Destin to help cover the veterinary expense of the program. In 2009, the SOA gave an additional $1,000 to help cover these expenses. The 2010 SOA budget will give the Feline Friends of Destin $2,000 to help cover these expenses. (verified with the SOA).
Is the Trap-Neuter-Release program used in other Sandestin neighborhoods?
* Many individual neighborhoods are currently actively participating in the "Spay and Stay" program including but not limited to: Linkside, Beachwalk ,Tivoli Terrace, Baytowne Village, The Anchorage, Deerwood, and Crystal Lake. Dozens of homeowners have also individually contacted Feline Friends for assistance. This accelerated Sandestin program has only been in place since September 2009 so this list is expected to grow to include most neighborhoods. Since September 2009, volunteers have trapped and spayed / neutered 75 cats. At an average of $100 per cat, additional financial support is requested from participating neighborhoods and concerned homeowners.
* There are no communities currently following the "Trap and Kill" philosophy in Sandestin.
When and how do you trap the cats?
* The volunteers normally trap mornings and late afternoons Monday through Thursday. We have access to vets Tuesday through Thursday each week and we never want to keep an animal in a trap longer than necessary. Except for special circumstances, we never trap on a weekend. We will normally notify your management company if we plan to be in your area trapping the following week.
* We use humane traps built especially for cats and set our traps for 2 – 3 hour periods. We cover the traps with towels so the animals are not agitated after being trapped. We never trap overnight.
* When an animal is trapped we take it to a safe place to rest before delivery to the vet. After surgery all cats spend the night in a garage with food and water before being released the next morning. In this way we ensure the animal has recovered completely from surgery.
At what age do you Spay / Neuter cats?
* After about 10-12 weeks of age, as long as the animal is at least 3 pounds in weight.
If we’re trying to reduce the number of cats in our neighborhood why are we trapping them then putting them back?
* Trap-Neuter-Release (the national program that we locally call "Spay and Stay") has been proven to be a more effective and humane solution than trap and remove for the following reasons:
1) If you trap and remove the cats, more cats eventually move in to replace the ones taken away. Sandestin is a great place to live and it appears we aren’t the only ones who know this!
2) When you use TNR to control the population you ensure that the animals are healthy and disease free and that they cannot reproduce. Neutered males will no longer exhibit the mating habits of spraying and fighting. Spayed females will no longer go into heat and attract other male cats.
3) Feral cat colonies are territorial. They will drive away most strange cats that come in from the outside.
4) We estimate that a feral cat lives an average of 5 years outdoors in Sandestin. Over time the size of the colony will be reduced.
Why can’t we just stop feeding the cats? Won’t the cats go somewhere else then?
* Cats are creatures of habit and are generally drawn to an area because they like it. There is shelter and food so they stay. Most of the cats around your neighborhood today were probably born there. If feeding were stopped in the central location, a few cats might leave but most would just plunder for food and become a nuisance. While they would not be getting fed regularly in a central location, they would probably be getting food intermittently from homeowners and guests. This creates a REAL problem because it forces the cats to get MORE FAMILIAR with humans in order to survive.
Will we ever get rid of ALL of the cats with this program?
* Outdoor feral cats will likely always exist in and around Sandestin primarily because of the mild climate here and the bad choices some pet owners make (abandonment and not sterilizing their pets). The best tool we have to manage the number of cats living with us is TNR. Beyond that, we must also educate cat owners about the importance of getting their own pets fixed, make sure they know the stray cats they feed MUST BE brought into the "Spay and Stay" program and, as a community, we must work hard to make pet abandonment a thing of the past.
How long will it take to get rid of half of the cats we see running around today?
* This is difficult to predict but a good estimate would be 3 to 5 years. It’s important to remember that if we do nothing the population will increase exponentially. A slow reduction is very attractive when you compare it to the potential rapid growth we are working hard to prevent.
I’ve heard feral cats spread diseases like rabies and I’m afraid of them. How can I keep my family safe?
* Cats can get rabies from other animals and transmit it to humans upon contact but it is highly unlikely. The CDC reported that from 1981 to 1999 there were 37 cases of humans with rabies. 22 from bats, 14 from dogs, and 1 from a skunk. By trapping and vaccinating all feral cats in your area we can ensure they will never present that problem. The cats all have part of their left ear cropped off and are micro-chipped for easy identification should we ever need to verify vaccination.
These cats seem wild, I’m afraid they will attack my young children / grandchildren.
* Most of the feral cats in your area are very afraid of humans even though they may lounge around on the sidewalks and grass in plain sight of you. When approached, these cats will run and will never attack a human unless cornered. You would never corner a raccoon or other wild animal – treat these cats the same way. Make sure the kids know this as well.
* If you meet a cat that is very friendly, CONTACT PROPERTY MANAGEMENT IMMEDIATELY. A friendly cat could be a homeowner’s pet. These homeowners need to be reminded that it is Sandestin policy that all domestic cats be kept inside. A friendly cat may also be one that has been recently abandoned. These cats should be fostered and put into an adoption program.
The wild cats kill all of the birds.
* Feral cats do sometimes kill birds. They are excellent predators. However, a feral cat that is fed regularly will not make a habit of this and most healthy, adult birds are quite skilled at avoiding cats. A feral cat’s favorite prey is the rat or mouse. With the alarming number of rats we have on the Florida Panhandle, feral cats are not only tolerated but considered a necessity in many communities. They are also very happy to kill snakes. In this way their predatory habits may be considered an asset.
What if they have fleas and my dog gets them or the fleas get into my house?
* The cats are treated for fleas when they are trapped. We will periodically be putting flea control medicine in their food. This is another reason for a centralized feeding station. Not only are we able to monitor the population but we can effectively administer medication without trapping.
The cats like to sleep on my patio, window ledge, golf cart, car hood, etc. They also urinate in my flower bed and leave a bad smell. How can I make them stop doing this?
* There are many animal repellant sprays available at the pet store that can be sprayed on all surfaces like grass and pavement. Get Off My Garden (internet retailers) and Scoot Deer Repellant (Ace Hardware) are a few of the more reliable products.
* Moth balls, placed in a plastic container with holes in it will produce a strong smell that will last for some time. A few containers of these around the patio will work to keep the cats away. Please DO NOT put mothballs directly on the ground. They contain naphthalene, a toxic chemical that can be harmful or deadly to pets and small children. Mothballs dissolve into the soil when wet and they can kill your plants and seep into the water table.
* A few pieces of double-sided tape placed on a flat surface will discourage a cat from continuing to rest there.
* Coleus Canina is an attractive plant that cats dislike a lot. It is an annual that produces a small blue flower and requires little water.
* For flower beds, try coffee grounds, grated orange or lemon peel, or eucalyptus oil.
* Cats hate water. If you find them in a place you don’t want them to be, a garden hose or a spray bottle can be a great deterrent.
What can I do as a Homeowner to help make this program successful?
* Don’t feed the cats! By maintaining a centralized feeding station we can better monitor the cat population for changes.
* If you want to feed the cats you must be willing to do so every EVERY DAY and assist the TNR volunteers by periodically reporting the number, description and health of all cats that feed at your house. We welcome you assistance but this is not a part time job.
* Report any new cats, sick cats, strange cats, or kittens immediately. You can call your property manager or use the link on the web site.
* If you have a cat, keep it inside. Unless you can walk your cat on a leash like a dog, it belongs in t he house with you.
* Consider donating to this effort. Your financial contribution is critical to the continued success of the TNR program.

Thanks a Million!

Wow - You're the best!
Thanks for helping us help the cats!

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