PLATTSBURGH - It's a problem that many don't give much thought to, says Victoria St. John, but the fact of the matter is feral cats are a major issue here and across the country.
"There's at least 60 million feral cats in the United States, if not, more," said St. John, director of the St. John's Feral Cat Fund.
Since 2000, St. John has been working in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties to reduce the population of feral cats - cats that have limited human contact and are often mistakenly referred to as "wild." In the past 10 years, St. John has helped trap, vaccinate, spay and neuter thousands of cats, releasing many of them where they were found, in the hopes of drastically reducing the number of diseased and procreating cats.
"If they aren't spayed or neutered, these cats can keep reproducing four to five times each year," noted St. John.
Given the rate of reproduction and the number of offspring from each litter, tens of thousands of cats can be added to the local feline population. That can be taxing on donor-supported organizations like the St. John Feral Cat Fund and local animal shelters.
"If you have four cats that have litters four to five times a year, that can add up," St. John said of the expenses for animal care.
The goal each year is to mass trap feral cats, collecting as many as 100-200 and having them inoculated prior to "kitten season" during the spring.
"It doesn't always happen, depending on the funding, especially with the economy," said St. John.
The organization relies on fundraisers and donations to fund the veterinary services it receives for the animals as well as in educating communities about their Trap-Neuter-Return program.
Though the St. John's Feral Cat Fund has help from more than 20 volunteers conducting fundraisers and distributing educational literature, the main trapping work is done by St. John, her family and members of the organization's board of directors.