Two $20 bills or less is all that’s needed to save the life of a homeless cat and keep the number of stray cats from multiplying, feral cat organizations are telling the public today, which is national Feral Cat Day.
It’s a day to thank hundreds of volunteers leading an effort to decrease the enormous population of unwanted felines roaming neighborhoods, without killing them but instead by preventing future litters through low-cost spaying and neutering.
More importantly, it’s a day to encourage the public to help — even if they don’t like cats, organizers said.
The process is called "Trap, Neuter, Return."
"It’s a humane solution. A longterm effective solution," said Denise Stravia, a volunteer for Scottsdalebased Arizona Cats Assistance Team.
The group was nominated this year as the "national organization of the year" by the national nonprofit feral cat group Alley Cat Allies, which created the day five years ago and opposes government spending on euthanasia in favor of a spay and neuter program.
The Arizona group sterilized 6,403 cats in 2004. It has 100 volunteers and is hoping for more to lend a hand.
Arizona Cats offers traps, as well as tips, and sets up low-cost veterinarian appointments for residents who want to help.
For those who cannot trap cats on their own, volunteers assist. Arrangements are made with vets for spay or neuter operations that are $40 at the most expensive, and in many cases as little as $15.
Feral populations increase when people drop off pets in neighborhoods or in parks such as Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, where park ranger Scott Cleaves says they often live only three years and at times starve in days if not accepted by the strays already there.
Preserve officials are looking at how to deal with their feral cat problem.
Nancy Tucholski of Chandler has been volunteering for Arizona Cats for years, and assists in as many as 200 spay or neuter operations monthly at Gilbert’s Prestige Animal Clinic.
She cares for five feral cats she spayed and neutered outside her own home.
"We’re trying to stop that reproduction," she said.
"Once they are spayed and neutered, they don’t multiply, and the colony will die out. If you use the kill method, more cats will just move in."
Low-cost spaying and neutering also is available for pet owners whose cats roam outside. Call (602) 265-7729.
For information on caring for, trapping and maintaining feral cat populations: