Humane Society targeting feral cats

Brandi Kisner baits a trap outside her trailer park off Cool Spring Road in Strasburg on Monday. Kisner was helping the Humane Society of Shenandoah County trap the feral cats in her neighborhood to have them spayed or neutered and then returned back to their neighborhood. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Humane Society of Shenandoah County is trying to curb the area’s feral cat population one colony at a time.

The organization offers a program in which volunteers trap feral or community cats, take the animals to a clinic in Harrisonburg, spays or neuters the felines and then returns them to the trapping location. The program, funded through grants and donations, helps to keep the cat colonies from growing, said Melisa Miller-Piselli, president of the Board of Directors for the Shenandoah County Humane Society.

Organization volunteer Millie Murphy set traps at Brandi Kisner’s home on Cool Spring Road in Strasburg on Monday afternoon. Kisner has been feeding a small colony of about six or seven cats that roam the small neighborhood and have sired litters. Kisner and her family have kept some of the kittens born in the litters. But the colony continues to thrive and produce more cats than Kisner said she can handle.

“I’m tired of our cats going missing, so we’re going to fix them and see if that solves the problem of them running off,” Kisner said.

The feral cats haven’t posed any problems for the small neighborhood.

Brandi Kisner holds her pet cat, Shinobi, outside home in Strasburg. Shinobi is one of several pet cats she has that were the product of a litter of feral cats. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Everybody knows we feed the cats,” Kisner said, adding that one neighbor also feeds the cats. “Everybody knows to leave the cats alone. They are our cats.”

Murphy and Kisner placed the metal traps around the yard, put wet food and sardines inside and covered the devices with blankets. A platform inside the trap shuts the open door when stepped on by the cat. Murphy picks up the traps the next morning. The Anicira Veterinary Center in Harrisonburg provides transport to and from the clinic and performs the surgeries to spay and neuter the cats. Society volunteers and colony caregivers also transport the animals if necessary, Miller-Piselli said.

The cats trapped at Kisner’s will be returned to the property once neutered or spayed.

The Humane Society trapped 31 feral cats near Mount Hebron Road in the fall and a colony of about 60 felines in the Fisher’s Hill area, Murphy said. The Mount Hebron Road resident who had been feeding the cats helped the volunteers by allowing them to store the traps in a large barn overnight. Volunteers then came with the bus the next day to transport the animals to the clinic.

The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies and the Humane Society of the United States are two of several groups that endorse the trap-neuter-release program the Shenandoah County organization uses, Miller-Piselli said.

In some cases the feral cats trapped through the program suffer from illnesses. The clinic can euthanize any sick cats that can’t be treated and only as a last resort. But that decision is made only after clinic workers, humane society representatives and the resident who allowed the trapping discuss the situation, Murphy explained.

“Nobody likes to euthanize but you have to think of the cat,” Murphy said. “If you’re going to spay and neuter and put it right back out into an environment where it’s not healthy to begin with, it’s not going to be good for the animal. You don’t want the animal to suffer and die.”

Contact the Shenandoah County Humane Society at 421-4842 or by email at info@hsscva.org for more information about the organization’s programs including trap-neuter-release programs.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com