From the outside, it didn’t look like much more than a standard trailer, but the inside of the mobile clinic on Sturmer Park Circle was abuzz with activity as vet students performed spay/neuter procedures on feral cats Saturday.
In an attempt to curb the county’s growing feral cat population, about 50 feral cats were fixed throughout the weekend in the two-day “Forsyth Feral Fix” event.
“In April, the kitten season just explodes, so by doing this in January, we’re trying to get a jumpstart,” said Leila Warren, president of nonprofit Humane Solution Spay-Neuter Program, which co-hosted the event. “Once those kittens come of breeding age, they start having kittens of their own and it’s just a cycle of more and more feral cats.”
The first-time event — also hosted by nonprofit Forgotten Felines of Forsyth — utilized 10 third-year veterinary students from N.C. State University, who performed the operations.
The feral cats also received rabies and distemper vaccines, flea and tick treatments and microchips during the event, outside the Forsyth County Animal Shelter.
“It’s a really cool opportunity for us to get this hands-on experience before our fourth year, which is our clinical year,” said vet student Kristen Henson, who graduated from Reagan High School. “We’re learning a lot.”
Community members trapped the feral cats and brought them to the mobile clinic Saturday and Sunday morning.
The nonprofits loaned traps to community members and provided trapping lessons, emphasizing that the cats are different than typical house cats.
Feral cats are unowned and live outdoors, sometimes in colonies, whereas stray cats have had human interaction but have left their domestic homes.
Feral cats typically share a common food source and can become very territorial as new kittens are born, so eliminating the birth of kittens can help stabilize the feral colonies, Warren said.
“They can’t be touched until they’ve been anesthetized,” said Kelli Ferris, clinical assistant professor at N.C. State, who supervised the students throughout the weekend. “It’s a good opportunity for our students to work with feral cats and learn how to do that safely so they’ll be comfortable handling feral cats in their practices.”
After the free surgeries, residents picked up the feral cats at the clinic and returned them to the traps, where they will recover for two days indoors before being re-released back to their habitat.
The clinic, which was originally scheduled to run through Monday, was cut short due to the expected below-freezing temperatures.
Warren said they didn’t want to risk the lives of the cats, should they be stuck in traps for hours at a time with such cold weather imminent.
The two-day clinic was by appointment only and filled up quickly, Warren said. Those still in need of assistance can utilize the services of the two hosting nonprofits.
Humane Solution offers vouchers for those in financial need to have their pet spayed or neutered at a reduced cost — $35 per cat and $50 per dog.
The weekend’s clinic was funded by Dr. Michael and Christine Morykwas, who donated enough money to cover both the two-day clinic and expenses to house the veterinary students.
“Not only does this give the veterinary students practical experience, which is good for them, it’s also good for the community by reducing the overpopulation of feral cats,” Warren said. “I’d seen programs like this have success in the Outer Banks, so we were excited to try this here. Hopefully it will have a positive impact.”