If you see a large semitrailer on campus today, loading cat cages onboard, it’s Horry County Animal Outreach. They’re here as part of a collaborative effort between Coastal Carolina University, Horry County Animal Care Center and Save-R-Cats to care for CCU’s ever-growing feral cat population.
It’s time for TNR -- that’s “Trap-Neuter-Return,” a method of caring for feral cats that has proven effective on many college campuses and that “improves the cats’ relationship with the campus community,” according to Alley Cat Allies, an advocate organization for protecting cats.
Debbie Conner, vice president for student affairs, has been involved in planning the Conway Kitty Corral program for several months.
“We will set many traps and will have an air-conditioned semitrailer on campus to transport these cats to area veterinarians for spaying, neutering and for vaccinations. It is all part of a grant from Pet Smart that Horry County has received,” says Conner. “The next step is recruiting faculty, staff and students to adopt colonies of the cats when they are returned to campus.”
During the past several years, members of the campus community have been placing cat food around campus, says Conner. That well-meaning effort to take care of the cats has created problems such as attracting unwanted wildlife and rodents.
Feedings will be scheduled for each colony based on the number of cats in each colony, and leftover food will be removed each day. Shelters will be provided to give cats a safe home. Cats that have been captured and released will be recognizable by a notch that will be made on their ear.
The idea behind TNR is that once cats have been spayed or neutered and can no longer reproduce, the cat population will stabilize and eventually decline.
Conner says Stanford University is a national model for the TNR program. In 1989, when Stanford officials announced a plan to trap and kill cats living on campus, the Stanford Cat Network was formed to present an alternative solution that involved trapping, altering, releasing and managing the cats.
TNR has worked successfully on feral and stray cat populations at Texas A&M University and North Carolina State University. The University of Central Florida neutered its older cats and sent younger animals to be adopted. The campus ultimately reduced its on-campus cat population from more than 100 to approximately 10.
To sign up as a volunteer, contact the Office of Student Affairs at 843-349-2302.