Reducing the cat population

Rancho Viejo — When Jennie Johnson, director of AdvoCAT, first moved to Rancho Viejo in 2007, it became apparent very quickly that there was a feral cat problem.

For a time, the City of Rancho Viejo even had a cat committee.

Although cats still roam the city, many are spayed or neutered. This is in large part due to AdvoCAT, a trap/neuter/release non-profit.

“I’ve lived here about 10 years, but I’ve had people who have lived here longer tell me that since we started this program, there has been a drastic change in the number of cats,” Johnson said.

Johnson said TNR will reduce population levels in the long-term, even if it is not possible to stop feral cat reproduction entirely.

AdvoCAT pays for a feral cat’s trip to the veterinarian and will attempt to socialize it afterward.

If the cat is unable to warm up to people, they let it back outside, Johnson said.

Johnson provides a temporary home to feral kittens. Right now, she has six, but she has had to take care of as many as 18 at a time before.

“Sometimes it is hard. It does take time. This (group of kittens) is the aftermath of kitten season, so this is a busy time for us,” Johnson said.

In Cameron County, the odds that a stray cat will end up euthanized are high, Johnson said.

The TNR approach is more humane and offers the socialized cats a chance to find a new home, Johnson said.

“We have a partnership with PAWS where they take our socialized kittens and put them up for adoption throughout the (Rio Grande Valley),” Johnson said.

The bills to foster kittens are not cheap. In veterinarian visits alone, the non-profit has spent about $2,000.

The organization pays for these visits thanks to donations and its biannual garage sale, coming up on July 15-16. And the trouble is well worth it, Johnson said.

“I don’t want to see them killed. I want them to have a chance,” Johnson said.