FREEPORT – Grant money from PetSmart will allow a Freeport veterinary clinic to spay or neuter 35 feral cats in April at no cost.

The Community Spay-Neuter Clinic, located at 475 U.S. Route 1, even provides humane traps at no charge to catch the cats.

“PetSmart is trying to see what kind of need there is and what kind of an impact they can have with their grants,” said Nancy Peavy, a spokeswoman for the clinic. “We’re helping folks who are caregiving these cats. The new thinking is that their colonies will reduce in size over time, so it’s a good idea to return them to their colonies. The shelters are poorly equipped for feral cats, and they usually get euthanized.”

“Most of these cats come from people who feed the cats, but know they can’t let them breed,” she said. “It can be expensive, and it becomes exponential. The average litter size is five kittens, and they can have three litters a year.”

Peavy said that the clinic has been getting steady calls for the free service, especially from rural areas, where cats tend to roam free.

Community Spay Neuter Clinic is funded by the nonprofit Center for Wildlife Health Research. Its mission is to study and reduce the impact of free-roaming cats on wildlife, especially birds.

Lisa Smith, community outreach manager for the Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick, said that the Community Spay-Neuter Clinic has been helpful in spaying or neutering some feral cats that arrive at the shelter.

“The clinic is doing a good job with its grant funding,” Smith said. “They are having an impact.”

Most feral cats return to their home colonies, which is recommended by the national group Friends of Animals. A “Barn Buddy” program, in which people who find barns or perhaps warehouses for wild cats who have no home, also helps, Smith said.

Smith said that feral cats are not likely to be adopted – a good reason not to bring them to shelters.

Efforts to spay and neuter wild cats have helped keep their numbers in check, but the need is constant, Smith said. In order to keep the population of feral cats from rising, she said, 70 percent of them must be spayed or neutered.

Tom Kay, Freeport’s animal-control officer, said that he has fielded few calls from people in town complaining of wild cats.

“The concern could be in the outskirts, in farm areas with barns,” Kay said.

Nicole Rivard, community outreach director for Friends of Animals, emphasizes that these cats should return to their colonies.

“We as an organization support the idea of trapping, spaying and neutering, and then returning them back to the community, instead of a shelter,” Rivard said from her Connecticut office. “Most people don’t want to adopt feral cats.”

According to Friends of Animals, more than 50 million homeless, or feral, cats “wander the streets, parks and alley ways of the United States, and that there are tens of millions more worldwide.”

A typical feral cat in Maine, as shown on the Community Spay-Neuter Clinic website. The Freeport clinic will spay or neuter 35 feral cats this month at no charge. 

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