Orange cat in garden

This cat is one of Ilea Mathis’ success stories. Initially, he’d been spraying in her area and staying out of reach, but since being neutered, he’s a member of her colony. After six years, she’s now able to approach him for a quick petting and apply topical flea and deworming treatments.

Admittedly, some folks are cat people and others just aren’t.

Regardless of your allegiance, the countless cats – estimated by the ASPCA to be in the tens of millions – born in the wild deserve some attention, and there’s no better time than October 16, National Feral Cat Day.

In an attempt to lessen that burgeoning population, many groups around the country, including Ohio, are engaged continually in TNR, Trap-Neuter-Return. This is a humane exercise in which trapped cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies and then returned back to their “colony.”

Ilea Mathis, who lives in northern Columbus, has been successful managing a feral colony for five years. She has befriended a number of cats who allow her to briefly pet them, but better yet, also apply flea treatments and deworming medicine.

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“We have fewer cats now and the ones I care for are healthy and even fairly socialized,” she wrote via email. “Unfortunately, resources in the local area are limited for adult feral cats because most shelters will not take feral cats. Even if they could, they don’t have the resources to help adult cats get used to living with people. By actively managing feral cat colonies, the cats can be humanely managed outdoors without increasing in (shelter) population.”

Plain City resident Emily Park raised funds selling TNR T-shirts and is working with Alley Cat Allies to distribute information and educate her neighborhood. Her goal is a more-educated community.

“Feral (and stray) cat overpopulation in Central Ohio (and across the country) has gotten out of control,” she wrote via email. “It is estimated that there are more than 1 million feral or stray cats in Franklin County alone. The best way to solve this problem is TNR – reduce the population naturally, make it more manageable for the colony care takers and rescue groups. Unfortunately, most of the population is unaware of what TNR is or that there are low cost spay and neuter services available in Central Ohio. So, for us to try to reach as many folks as possible to raise awareness and make this information widely available is pertinent.”

Click this Alley Cat Allies link to see a map of National Feral Cat Day events around the country, including the work of Mathis and Park. Even though this is a one-day event, the issue is ongoing requiring your help. Park summed it up well:

“Overpopulation is always paired with suffering – there’re never enough resources or caring people to care for them all.” –Tim Picard

Tim Picard and his wife live on a few acres in Morrow County. They were rescued by horses, chickens, a bunch of barn cats – all strays or feral – and rescue dogs.