Feral cats that are not spayed or neutered can quickly become a nuisance while spreading disease and destroying some species of birds.
The program, which has been in place since 2003, has spayed and neutered 138 feral cats in Williams. Feral cats are the result of either being born wild or are former pets that have been dumped. The cats are trapped by volunteers then are spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies and other feline diseases. During surgery, each cat’s right ear is cut flat. This is necessary so that animal control and residents can identify the cats as belonging to a feral colony. The cost of each surgery varies from $51 to $90. The service is available only within the city limits.
“The vaccinations provide these cats some immunity when they are returned to their colonies,” Kali said.
Once the cats are returned to their specific colonies, volunteers provide food and water while monitoring the health of the animals. The volunteer caregivers are trained, Kaliche said. The volunteers know to place fresh water out each morning — especially during the winter when water freezes. The volunteers assure there is no food left out at night that could attract skunks.
Kaliche appreciates the financial support she has had in the past. The city of Williams donated $500 to the feral cat program to get it started. The Williams Rotary Club donated $150 in addition to club members who personally donated to the program. Another family that has since left the area used to donate $10 per month.
“That $10 a month paid for shots for one cat,” Kaliche said.
Another local family traps feral cats and pays the full cost of surgeries plus vaccinations. The family then monitors the colony.
Kaliche admits that feral cat colonies are a problem. Oftentimes, feral cats are inbred, making them susceptible to diseases. They also create a toxic waste problem with their urine and fecal matter. Feral cats are oftentimes aggressive — especially when it comes to food.
“Aggressive feral cats hurt pets,” Kaliche continued. “They also kill lizards and songbirds including robins, finches and blue birds.”
Feral cats are also nuisance issues. According to Kaliche, it is ineffective to shoot, poison or transport feral cats to the humane society for euthanization. Stabilizing a colony is the most effective method in the eradication of feral cats.
“Once a colony has stabilized, the animals die off. Because of their social structure, they do not accept other cats into their colony,” Kaliche said. “Over time, the colony becomes smaller and smaller until the problem is gone.”
Kaliche is proud of the success of the feral cat program thus far. Three colonies have been stabilized as a result of the program. One colony that formerly produced 40 kittens annually produced only two kittens last year. Those kittens were then captured, underwent surgeries and were vaccinated, Kaliche said.
Another colony produced no kittens this year while a third colony produced five kittens.
“WAAG appreciates the organizations who have helped with the program. I appreciate the compassionate effort people put forth in saving these animals,” Kaliche said.
While the feral cat program may not be an instant solution to a problem, it is effective eventually, said Kaliche.
WAAG is chartered with the state as a charity; therefore, any donations presented to the group can be claimed on annual income tax paperwork. Donations can be sent to: WAAG, c/o P.O. Box 23, Williams, AZ 86046.
For more information in reference to the feral cat program, contact Kaliche at (928) 635-2595.