PIQUA — Since Tiffany Pontius helped create the group in April 2015, Purrs in Piqua has spayed and neutered 240 stray and feral cats — and they are still going strong.
“It’s a problem in the community, and we need everybody to work together and be open-minded,” Pontius, co-founder and president of Purrs in Piqua, said.
Purrs in Piqua is a trap, neuter, release (TNR) program that catches stray and feral cats, has them neutered or spayed, then releases the cats back into city rather than taking them to the animal shelter. This is done to keep stray and feral cat populations from rising in the city.
“Already, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” Pontius said.
Pontius, a retired ER nurse, noticed an issue with the cat population in her neighborhood right away when she moved to Piqua in 2014.
“I had never seen so many stray cats in my life,” Pontius said. “It’s very hard to see the suffering of these kittens born homeless. These other cats are just unwanted … The overpopulation and over-breeding is so discouraging.”
She researched options on how to combat this issue and contacted Calico TNR of Springfield. Calico TNR mentored Purrs in Piqua and sponsored the first 30 cats spayed and neutered in Piqua.
“So far we’ve prevented 10,000 kittens,” Pontius said. She explained that spaying just one female cat can prevent up 100 kittens a year. A female cat can have kittens about every four months, and they can have an average of five kittens each time. Then, the female kittens can breed in four months as well, and the number grows exponentially.
According to Pontius, the Miami County Animal Shelter euthanizes 10-50 cats per day, but cats breed faster than trap-and-kill programs.
“The breeding is going on faster on the streets of Piqua than any capture-and-kill program could ever manage,” Pontius said, adding that TNR is more humane.
When Purrs in Piqua has cats spayed and neutered, they also have those cats’ ears tipped. Pontius explained that, while the cat is under anesthesia during the spaying or neuter operation, the veterinarian cuts off approximately one-quarter of an inch or less of the tip of the cat’s left ear.
“It is not painful and does not affect the cat long-term,” Pontius said, adding that this is an international sign that the cat has been fixed.
Pontius explained that there are a number of benefits to TNR. The nuisance behaviors in local cats decrease — including the breeding, howling, and fighting among them — as well as the population of cats can decrease. As more cats are spayed and neutered, tomcats — male cats looking to breed — will leave the area to look for cats in heat with whom they can breed.
This can also prevent cats from wanting to come into the city from the surrounding area. Pontius explained that one breeding cat can bring in four to five male cats from up to two miles away.
“By spaying and neutering inside of the city of Piqua, we’re preventing cats in the country from coming into town,” Pontius said.
By releasing the stray and feral cats, the cats are also keeping mouse and rodent populations under control.
“The health benefits of the cats for rodent control outweighs any health risk by stray cats,” Pontius said.
Pontius said that neighbors feeding stray cats also will not fix issues of cat populations, as the cats will become more of a nuisance by getting into people’s trash. Pontius also suggested harmless remedies of putting orange peels, lemon peels, coffee grounds in one’s garden if they are having issues with cat activity in flower beds. Pontius said the remedies will deter cats from getting into those areas.
“It’s the breeding, not the feeding, that’s causing the problem in this town,” Pontius said. “They’re going to find food. They’re going to be in your trash, and they’re going to be more of a nuisance.”
Simply removing the cats from an area may not necessarily solve an overpopulation problem, either, as other cats may move into the area. Pontius said the cats that they have spayed and neutered, which they release back into that area, will defend their territory and keep other breeding cats out of their area.
Pontius also pointed out that it is illegal to poison cats, even if they appear to be stray or feral. She suspects that almost 20 cats in the past two months have been poisoned, as she has seen one part of town where they had to bury 10 cats and another where they had to bury six.
“Some of those have been beloved pets,” Pontius said. “That is not a solution.”
Purrs in Piqua does not rescue and rehome pets, and they also do not spay and neuter personal pets. Pontius recommends His Hands Extended Sanctuary in St. Paris for low-cost spay and neuter options that are between $31-51. She also recommends that pet owners put collars on their cats so that Purrs in Piqua know that they have an owner.
Purrs in Piqua also has no paid employees. According to their website, 90 percent of the funds raised for Purrs in Piqua go directly to veterinarian costs of completing the spaying and neutering procedures. They try to spay or neuter five to six cats per week.
“We are a group of volunteers,” Pontius said. “We work out of our home.”
Purrs in Piqua is in need of donations to keep their program going. They are scheduled through January with cats in certain locations that they are planning on having spayed and neutered, but they only have the funds to do so through a couple weeks into December.
“We’re very low on funds right now,” Pontius said.
They have a fundraiser coming up at Buffalo Wings & Rings, located at 989 E. Ash St., on Dec. 15. Between 5-9 p.m. that day, 10 percent of food sales will go to Purrs in Piqua.
Purrs in Piqua only operates within the city of Piqua, although they have mentored the TNR group Cat Advocates of Troy, who can be contacted on their Facebook page.
To donate to or contact Purrs in Piqua about stray or feral cats in Piqua, visit purrsinpiqua.com, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Purrs in Piqua Facebook page. Check donations can be mailed to Purrs in Piqua, P.O. Box 221, Piqua, OH 45356.
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