Operation Catnip is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization offering no-cost spay-neuter clinics and vaccines for unowned, free-roaming community cats in Alachua County, Florida since 1998. Our services are made possible by the generous contribution of time and service from volunteer veterinarians, veterinary students, veterinary technicians, and cat lovers. The goal of our nonprofit is to prevent unplanned litters and eliminate the excess of cats entering shelters and ultimately being euthanized.
What Are Community Cats?
Community cats include feral cats, stray and abandoned cats, and interdependent colonies of unowned, free-roaming cats. They occupy our porches, backyards, alleys, barns, and neighborhoods. Without a human address to call home, these “neighborhood cats” form colonies where food and shelter are available.
Feral cats are the offspring of stray or abandoned household pets. Raised without human contact, they avoid people. Because feral cats rarely learn to trust people, most do not make good pets. Even young feral kittens can be difficult to socialize for adoption, and are often ignored by pet rescue groups, or euthanized at animal control facilities.
How Many Are there in Alachua County?
Recent study estimated that there are approximately 36,000 feral and stray cats in Alachua County that were being fed by 12% of households. No one knows how many other homeless cats are not being fed. At the same time, there are an estimated 45,000 household pet cats in the county. This suggests that at least 44% of cats in Alachua County are homeless. The study also found that 90% of pet cats were spayed or neutered, as opposed to only 11% of the feral and stray community cats.
In 2009, more than 4000 cats ended up at the Alachua County Animal Services Shelter. The imbalance between the number of cats and the number of homes led to the euthanasia of 69% of those cats earning Alachua County one of the highest euthanasia rates in the nation (26 per 1000 residents). With the help of Operation Catnip’s aggressive TNR programs, those numbers improved to less than 1600 cats entering Alachua County Animal Services in 2013, the county’s only open admission shelter. During that same year, cat euthanasia dropped 89% with less than 250 cats dying.”
Levy JK, Woods JE, Turick SL, Etheridge DL. Number of unowned, free-roaming cats in a college community in the southern United States and characteristics of community residents who feed them. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:202-205.
Why We Embrace Trap-Neuter-Return
The plight of feral cats has captured the hearts of animal lovers for many years, but only recently has a non-lethal option for their control become available. Called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), this humane and effective alternative involves spaying or neutering feral cats, then returning them to their colonies were they are looked after and fed by caretakers. This solution successfully decreases the population, reduces birth rates and improves the overall health of the colony. Performed on a large scale, the success of such programs is felt at animal shelters where fewer cats are admitted for euthanasia.
What Are Spay Day Clinics?
Operation Catnip organizes high-quality, high-volume spay-neuter clinics called Spay Day Clinics. At each clinic, large numbers of community cats are humanely trapped, sterilized, vaccinated for rabies and returned to their colonies where they can no longer reproduce. Our clinics are run entirely by a team of over 75 volunteers (veterinarians, veterinary students, veterinary technicians, and others), and are capable of sterilizing 150 to 200 or more cats in a matter of hours.
All of the cats receive anesthesia, sterilization, rabies, distemper, and feline leukemia vaccines, as well as antibiotics, flea treatment and dewormer, and pain medications. All cats have the tip of their left ear trimmed to help identify them as sterile. Clinic reservations are required and can be made by calling Operation Catnip.
What Operation Catnip does
- Sterilize unowned stray or feral cats from Alachua County
- Provide routine vaccinations at the time of surgery
- Permanently crop the left ears of sterilized cats
- Lend out humane traps free of charge for safe capture and transportation of cats to the clinic
What Operation Catnip doesn’t do
- Sterilize owned pets or strays that are for adoption
- Sterilize cats that will be placed in sanctuaries or shelters
- Accept cats for adoption
- Relocate cats
- Participate in cat trapping for euthanasia
- Participate in cat trapping for release to animal shelters
How many cats have “graduated” from Operation Catnip?
Since 1998, Operation Catnip has sterilized over 44,000 cats. With the continued support of our community, that number continues to rise each year.
How We Fund Our No-Cost Clinics
It costs about $50 for each cat treated to be treated. This cost is very low because veterinarians and other volunteers donate their time, and caregivers donate funds needed to buy a portion of the necessary supplies. Operation Catnip raises the rest of the funds needed to keep the clinics running at full capacity through donations, fundraisers and grants. Operation Catnip does not receive any funding from the University of Florida or any local, county or state agency.
Major Funding Provided By
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