BROOKVILLE — Does it seem like you see stray cats every where you look when you are coming and going from your home? Have you gotten the feeling that your neighborhood has been invaded by felines and there just seems to be more today than there was last month?
That is what some neighborhoods in various municipalities across the region have been experiencing for the past few years as the cat population has seemed to have exploded, especially among feral felines.
Brookville, however, has a group of people who understand that these cats are not “feral” by choice. Most cats would love a warm, safe home with a person to love and care for them.
Sierra Barber has been rescuing both cats and dogs for about eight years. She had been doing that on the side, just helping out when she got in contact with Ginger Verdill, who owns Bill’s Barn Cats.
“She had asked if I wanted to help her with trapping feral cats in the community and I had agreed to doing that,” Barber said, adding that Verdill asked her if she would want to continue the process as she (Verdill) was stepping out because she was looking to go elsewhere.
“At that time I was not real sure. And I wasn’t sure I was going to have the support to back me up. So I chose to opt out of that at first, but then I knew there was a need in the area. I was still getting contacted from people that were asking if I could help because they had feral cats,” Barber said.
By this time she had met up with Jayne Crissman and they had done a trapping by the Medicine Shoppe. Barber remembers Crissman saying to her, “I feel there’s a strong need in the area to continue doing this.” So they continued and went to Plyler’s Restaurant and “there were about 13 (cats) behind there.”
They then got in contact with some of the other women who had helped Verdill with trapping cats and they agreed to continue helping Barber and Crissman.
Stray Cat Central is born.
“So we formed our little group. There’s roughly six or seven of us in the area. Some of them just do the fundraising part of it ... Jayne and I do a lot of the transportation to pick up the kittens going into the rescue and we do a majority of the meet and greets in the area. We have transporters for medical reasons so if we need a transport to the vet we do have a lady that helps with transportation.”
All those involved in the group are volunteers. They do what they can as it fits into their schedules.
Stray Cat Central is in the process of getting its 501(c)(3) to become a nonprofit. The papers have been submitted to the state so the organization is at a waiting point currently in regards to its status.
The group has taken the beginning idea of trapping and releasing and combining it with the idea of rescuing some of the “community felines,” as Barber refers to them.
Since its inception in September, Stray Cat Central has rescued and adopted out 50 kittens. The benefit is twofold in that the kittens find a safe home and as the kittens are removed the cat colony in a neighborhood is not growing.
Barber says the adoption process is “pretty simple. We have a form that they fill out to either foster or adopt on our webpage, which is https://middylee.wixsite.com/straycatcentral.
A team looks over the forms to see if those applying qualify, although Barber says they don’t have a lot of limits. They do want the cat to be spayed or neutered and the home isn’t along a main road. If it is then the cat has to be an inside only cat, otherwise if the location is good then an inside/outside cat is fine by the group.
“We do let them go before they are spayed or neutered under the agreement that they will bring the kitten or kittens back to be spayed or neutered,” Barber said. Many times if everything is good, the person will be able to take their kitten home with them on the meet and greet day.
She noted that allowing the kitten to go its new home before being spayed or neutered does have a benefit. The kitten gets to know its surroundings and become comfortable in the home. Then after its spayed or neutered its going back to a familiar home and so is less stressful.
Barber also said they address an medical issues prior to the feline being adopted. “We will not just give a cat out without it being checked to make sure it’s healthy.”
Since forming in September, the group has adopted out 50 kittens, even having a family from Bellefonte come to Jefferson County to adopt three yellow kittens.
Although waiting for their nonprofit status has limited the fundraisers they can do, the group has received support from area businesses and individuals.
The group has “kitten treats” jugs at some of the local stores. They also have a PayPal account at email@example.com, which they receive some donations through.
Some local stores, Barber says, donate food and litter if the package is ripped and they cannot sell them. They also have done fundraisers through Dan Smiths Candies.
Stray Cat Central does have an EIN number and so it is able to purchase things nontaxed. “We use Tractor Supply a lot for that and Petco.”
But once they receive their 501(c)(3) status, she said they would like to do a Bingo that would be open to the community. They’ve also thought about doing a “paint n sip” event.
The group is also working with a local veterinarian at Jefferson Animal Clinic. The veterinarian is providing support to Stray Cat Central by spaying and neutering the cats at a special price, which is just for Stray Cat Central. The general public doesn’t receive this cost for spaying or neutering a pet.
“I am so impressed with how much everyone has pulled together. I didn’t realize what kind of supports we actually had in Brookville until starting this,” Barber said. “I do feel that we couldn’t do it without them.”
Individuals can help support the group through donations, both financial and pet supplies such as kitten milk replacement, kitten pate, cat food or cat litter. Donations can be dropped off at Crissman’s shop, Scissors and Rayz at 42 Prospect St., Brookville. They can also always use those individuals or families willing to foster a cat or kittens.
Trapping and releasing
Barber noted that the group used Verdill’s list as to where to start when it began trapping “community cats.” Alderton’s Greenhouse was the last area that Verdill had trapped at and since there were still some cats there, that is where the group began. She said they also received some complaints on Pickering Street about the number of “community cats” and they’ve touched on that as well.
It’s hard to trap in the wintertime, she explains, because it is so cold now that they cannot leave the traps because if a cat does get trapped it could potentially die from the cold. “We can’t leave them for longer than like a half hour to an hour and with all the volunteers having full-time jobs the only time we really get to trap if it’s possible is weekends,” Barber said, adding that they’re trying not to trap unless they know there a clinic that they can get the cats to. She’s been working with a clinic in Warren, Ohio, which is a free clinic for feral cats. But they have currently put everyone on hold, she said, because of the weather. For now the group is handling dire emergencies or if a cat is being left outside and doesn’t have shelter or is sick and needs medical attention.
Trapping is not simple, she says. “It’s not as simple as what people think. It takes time and lots of effort and you have to have a good team to back you up, to be willing to help with all of this. It’s not something you can do on your own. I do give Ginger major credit because she did this a long time on her own,” Barber said. “I’m just hoping that we can help the population, and our overall goal is to eliminate these community cats.”
To that end, she noted that it’s going to be kitten season soon and so they recommend anyone that has community cats to call Stray Cat Central when they see a cat is pregnant or they know the cat had kittens. That way at the six week mark the group could potentially get them so that they are not wild. “And we can get them into foster (care) and get them adopted out after eight weeks and they’re socialized.” Stray Cat Central can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stray Cat Central’s main focus is Brookville but there are other such organizations that have started up to help with the “community cats” in their area. Such local groups include: Justice for the Animals in Punxsutawney, Willow Run in Coolspring, and Perfect Paws Rescue has just opened in DuBois. “We really recommend just staying within our town but we are not opposed to helping out Jefferson County. As we know, we should all be working together as a team,” she said.