By Allison Collins
SIDNEY – The lives of 58 feral cats got a little safer and easier, thanks to a no-cost spay-a-thon held Wednesday at Valley Veterinary Associates.
The event, sponsored by Oxford-based nonprofit All Animals Matter, Inc., was made possible through grant funding from the Unadilla Community Foundation, two personal GoFundMe campaigns and individual and distributor donations.
The spay-a-thon, organizers said, was in response to critical and mounting need in the area. Participating cats were trapped humanely by officials at Delaware Valley Humane Society and came primarily from Unadilla, Sidney and surrounding towns.
“The problem is very local and very close to home,” DVHS manager Erin Insinga said. “There’s a huge need in our area … and we have a lot of people who could benefit from a program like this.”
Insinga noted that, though this is the first spay-a-thon the shelter assists with, she hopes it can become a biannual event.
“To their detriment, cats are remarkably efficient producers,” All Animals Matter founder Diane Troxell said. “We are inundated with phone calls and emails asking for help getting feral cats spayed, neutered or placed and there simply are not enough homes for them.”
Using a trap-neuter-release program, she said, ensures the cycle of over-breeding and associated issues gets halted.
“Communities throughout New York face a population crisis of homeless cats,” Troxell said. “As their numbers grow, so does the noise, odor and other problems. TNR returns ferals to their territory and … eliminates or significantly reduces the noise from fighting, odor from spaying and, most importantly, more litters of kittens.”
“It is our mission to help all animals,” Troxell added, “and by spaying and neutering these cats, we will improve their lives.”
Many of the cats serviced, Insinga said, will be released to a Sidney Center farm.
The 58 sterilizations were performed by VVA vets Dr. Jonathan Davis and Dr. Elizabeth Wheeler, with help from roughly seven veterinary technicians on VVA staff.
In addition to the surgeries, which included ear tipping so the cats can be identified if ever re-trapped, patients received vaccinations against distemper and rabies, dewormer, flea-and-tick treatment and testing for highly contagious feline leukemia and immunodeficiency virus.
Erica Ressel, VVA office manager, said vaccinations and medications were donated by clinic distributors. Troxell noted that the vets at VVA were the only in the area willing to perform sterilizations on specifically feral felines while offering the nonprofit a discounted rate.
“It’s a big deal for two vets to do that many surgeries in a day,” Insinga said. “And these are wild cats; it’s a whole different practice when you’re doing feral TNR.”
Ressel said, though a first for VVA, the spay-a-thon was an easy cause to get behind.
“We’re volunteering our doctors’ time … to give back to the community to help address a large, chronic problem,” she said. “We’ll probably do this again.”
“People seem extremely excited,” Ressel added. “Everyone is very happy.”
“One cat can give birth to up to three litters in a year, with an average of four kittens (per) litter,” Insinga wrote in a post to DVHS social media. “If a female cat lives 15 years, that’s a potential 180 kittens in her lifetime. We like to think that we made a small difference today.”
To learn more, find “Delaware Valley Humane Society” or “All Animals Matter, Inc.” on Facebook.
Additionally, visit valleyveterinaryassociates.com.