Colleton County pushes ‘TNR’ as solution to feral cat problem

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 4:37 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2022 at 8:42 PM EDT
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - There’s a problem hitting South Carolina, and Colleton County seems to be in the thick of it. There are too many cats, specifically ones not neutered or spayed.

Colleton County Animal Services has been trying to fight the problem as hundreds of cats roam the streets. Because they aren’t sterilized, they are reproducing at an extremely high rate, too fast for the shelter to control.

“We went from killing 88% to saving 86% in a matter of a couple of years, and TNR is really the reason for that,” Animal Services Director Laura Clark says.

TNR stands for trap, neuter and release. The concept includes trapping cats, bringing them to animal shelters or vet clinics, testing them for diseases, vaccinating them, neutering them and releasing them into the environment they originally came from.

Jodie Mullen says she’s done over 400 TNRs for feral cats in Walterboro.

“I try to help them because there’s not many people helping them,” Mullen says.

Mullen says one of the main reasons feral cats are becoming such a big issue is because they can populate much faster than some other animals.

“Most people don’t realize that kittens start reproducing as early as four months old,” Mullen says. “So, in one year, a kitten can become a great grandmother.”

Staff says it’s possible for one female cat to produce three litters a year, which Animal Services says then becomes an issue for neighbors when those cats aren’t fixed.

Some agencies, like Friends of Colleton County Animal Shelter, have even started helping people financially be able to get these feral cats spayed and neutered.

“It normally costs $60 for a female cat and $50 for a male cat, and they pay $10 and FoCCAS pays the other $40,” Clark says.

Animal Services says to make sure you’re not contributing to the problem by leaving food out, as it attracts more feral cats to stick around.

“They go up under people’s houses, under porches, and they get in your car, dig up the flowerbed,” Clark says. “So, they become a nuisance because they’re looking for resources. They’re looking for a safe place to go, looking for food. People who may not want to have cats find that to be bothersome.”

To help further combat this problem, starting in April, Colleton County Animal Services will be bringing in another veterinarian who will be spaying and neutering cats multiple days a week at the shelter.

Clark says three main issues seem to be leading to the problem of feral cats in this area: Dumping cats, hoarding them and feeding but not sterilizing the cats.

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