As the feral cat population continues to multiply locally, an organization founded just this year is working toward effective management of the kitten and cat overpopulation in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

For the Love of a Paw Rescue, a nonprofit organization, is addressing the problem of feral cats via education, rescue and owner services.

Santee attorney Chasity Sanders Avinger, one of the group's members, notes that since March 2016, they have successfully placed over 20 cats for adoption and more than 80 cats have been spayed or neutered.  

According to member Jane Cranford Singh, a multimedia specialist at Lake Marion High School, “Theoretically, 49,000 cats can come from one mama cat within a 10-year period when you take into consideration that on average one cat can birth three litters per year and on average there are four to six kittens per litter.”

As a result, many feral cats are euthanized because of the lack of space in shelters and because these animals are not socialized and, therefore, not adoptable.

Other members of For Love of a Paw in addition to Avinger and Singh are Renee Jackson, an accountant at Zeus Industries; Beverly Stroman, Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five coordinator of volunteers and the Bootstraps Mentoring Foundation; and Brandy Hudson, a nursing administrator at Longwood Plantations.

Jackson said Stroman was already operating her own TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program and the group expanded on it after they found that Calhoun County had no facilities for cats.

“Basically, if they can’t find someone to take a cat or kitten immediately, (the animals) are put to sleep. This has led to our foster kittens program," Jackson said. "Chasity has at least 11 in foster. I have 10 in foster. This was not part of the plan, but it just happened."

In Orangeburg and Calhoun counties in 2015 alone, more than 600 cats were euthanized, according to For the Love of a Paw.

Avinger said the group is in no way criticizing the Orangeburg County nor Calhoun County animal control programs. She said the people with those programs are "very compassionate" and "work very hard," noting that the problem is the lack of funds and space to take care of the feral cats.

The focus of For the Love of a Paw is on establishing Trap Neuter Release programs for feral cats; facilitating adoptions and rescues for cats; providing spay/neuter programs for cats and dogs; and providing an owner surrender program for the elderly and those in financial difficulty (with owner surrender, cats can be euthanized immediately; there is no holding period like there is for strays).

TNR is a process designed to prevent the reproduction of feral cat colonies. Most feral cats are born in the wild, some are street cats or lost or abandoned pets and many are just born and raised outdoors without any human socialization, the group notes. They say when people see a feral colony, they call animal control.

The members say they are asking the public to feed feral cats and then contact them or a similar organization. It's important to continue feeding the feral cat colonies until cats can be humanely trapped, taken for sterilization and then returned to the area, they note, adding this process allows people to have a yard cat without the worries of mass reproduction.

Avinger said cats that have gone through the Trap Neuter Release program can be identified via eartipping or notching, which is the removal of the distal one-quarter of a cat's left ear. If you see a cat with one ear tipped (either straight across or notched), that indicates it has been sterilized, she said. Animal control will not pick up cats with tipped ears, Avinger said. "TNR’d" cats can now be found on the old Lake Marion bridge, in Joe Miller Park in Elloree and at Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg, areas currently being tested for the program.

Singh reiterated that spaying and neutering the animals is the key. While this can be cost prohibitive, there are some programs that have reduced rates for sterilization procedures including the Humane Society and FIDO FIXERS, a mobile unit, she said. (Find information at www.Humanesc.org, or call 803-783-1267. The schedule for the mobile clinic can also be found on For the Love of a Paw’s Facebook page. Information is also available at Alleycatallies.com.)

For the Love of a Paw members say they hope the organization makes a positive difference quickly and that more volunteers will join in this mission. 

Stroman said volunteers are needed who will help with everything from transporting cats before and after sterilization procedures to trapping and feeding cat colonies. Volunteers with experience in grant writing are also being sought.

More information can be found at fortheloveofapaw@gmail.com.

Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 1377, Santee, SC, 29142; at Facebook via PayPal, Visa, MC, AE and Discover or at For the Love of a Paw’s TNR Fund at https://www.youcaring.com/for-the-love-of-a-paw-571842.

People can also aid this cause by ordering from a Wish List on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/ref=cm_wl_search_rvp_wl?ie=UTF8&cid=A1E9LQFY3D8BFV.

Items needed include canned cat food, flea medicine, cat litter, cat toys and humane traps. Individuals can sponsor a cat for $29 (which includes trapping, sterilization, rabies vaccines and eartipping).

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