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Program Matches Barns With Cats

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Humane Society’s Barn Cat Program has placed approximately 25 cats in new “homes.”

The program was initiated to help reduce the number of feral cats around the county – as well as the rodent population.

Each feline has been spayed or neutered and had all vaccinations necessary to allow it to live a healthy life, according to Julie Carter, office manager for OCHS.

Cats looking for new homesThose who participate agree to confine the cats to an area of the barn for the first two weeks, thus increasing the likelihood that the cats will then consider this their new “home” and stay put.

After that period of time, all the cats need is a safe shelter from weather and regular food and water. The reward for the barn owner – superior and dependable rodent control.

“As a concerned citizen and supporter of the Oswego County Humane Society, I’d like to encourage farmers and barn owners in Oswego and neighboring counties to consider helping this group as they struggle to find shelter for their large feral cat population,” said Bonnie Watson of Baldwinsville.

Unlike friendly strays, feral cats are unadoptable.

They are unsocialized (afraid of humans), because they’ve been born in the wild, or have been abandoned or lost and have had to survive on their own for a long period of time, she explained.

“Without human care or intervention, they fall prey to disease, traffic, and worse. Even worse, they reproduce unchecked until people begin to view them as a nuisance and decide to destroy them,” Watson added. “At best, this is an impractical approach. When one colony of cats is destroyed, more feral cats will simply move into the same area, and the problem begins again.”

When rounded up by animal control, virtually all feral cats are destroyed, since they are not socialized to humans, Carter noted.

A stray cat is one who’s either been abandoned or wandered away from its humans and become lost. They can usually be re-socialized and adopted successfully.

A feral cat was born outside and has never lived with humans, or sometimes is a house cat that has become lost and has gone without human contact long enough to become unsocialized to humans.

Even no-kill shelters are unable to place feral cats in homes.

The Oswego County Humane Society is trying a more practical (and humane), solution.

“Feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and then released to property owners or volunteers who provide a safe, warm shelter, food and water,” according to Watson. “Studies have shown that the established colony will keep other cats out of their territory, and since there’s no ability to reproduce, their numbers steadily decline. As an added bonus, they more than earn their keep by keeping the rodent population under control.”

In June, the OCHS began operation of a low-cost spay and neuter clinic; it is using the advocated method of humane trapping, sterilization and vaccination to begin reducing the population of outdoor cats in the county.

The results – no more kittens, so feral cat populations gradually diminish.

The annoying behaviors of mating cats, such as yowling or fighting, stop.

Kittens up to 4 weeks of age are removed from the colony and can be successfully adopted into homes.

“We still have more locations to place cats,” Carter said. “As soon as we have more cats ready, we will place them. We have about 15 sites right now. The program is going very well.”

More than 110 cats have been spayed or neutered at the organization’s clinic since this summer, she added.

The combination of the two programs “has definitely helped,” she said.

Last year, the Oswego County Humane Society received an overwhelmingly positive response to the Barn Cat Program.

Dozens of homeless cats placed in areas as widespread as Amboy/Williamstown, Cazenovia and Syracuse.

There were some, however, who weren’t completely sold on the idea and felt the group was just dumping the animals.

“We make sure they have food and water and good shelter,” Carter said of the program. “We interview the barn owner and they do go through a screening process to ensure that the cats will have a safe environment.”

If you’re unable to adopt a barn cat right now, you can still help by donating cash, food, blankets, straw, large animal crates or small pet carriers to the organization’s Barn Cat Program.

Currently the OCHS has 17 kittens and 7 or 8 older cats in foster homes waiting to be adopted.

“We are always looking for more foster homes,” Carter said.

“Whether you live in Oswego, Cayuga or Onondaga counties, please consider giving help to a cat who has already had a difficult life. Local shelters are filled to overflowing and the Humane Society needs to place over 175 cats before bad weather sets in,” Watson said. “For details on the Oswego County Barn Cat Program, call 207-1070 or visit www.oswegohumane.org”