LUYE’s Eartip Team is on official alert for lactating mothers whose litters are still too young for a required spay absence of up to three days.  Team volunteers attempt to identify lactating trapped females before removing them from the site. It’s not always easy and it’s tough not to worry that a nest of helpless kittens might be out there.

Feeders can first learn of a new litter’s existence when a cat has been trapped for spay and removed from the colony.  Her hungry litter eventually will shriek for attention, a surprise fraught with stress.  First hint might come from the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance (ASNA) team advising that the newly spayed cat is lactating.  In all cases, LUYE assists the feeder to reunite mama cat with litter as soon as possible.

Despite the nearly 8,000 Haywood County cats trapped, sterilized and eartipped since 2009, there is work yet to do.  Those big-headed males you see on camera have walked countless miles, crisscrossing their territory to hunt and mate and chase away competitors from his food sources.  Some of these guys are pretty beat up: ears torn, eyes slashed, and serious bites to neck, legs and back.

Mature unfixed females can have 5-7 kittens in a litter and can manage a third litter in some seasons.  These matriarchs have babies into their senior years unless spayed. Cats do not have menopause. MEOW!

Cats typically calm down after spay/neuter, showing more of their personality and less of how they handle stress of the reproductive cycle.  You might have stories of elusive ferals or repeat litters from trap-savvy cats?

There’s a common joy when cats are finally eartipped, proving they are sterilized and protected from rabies. Eartipped males stay closer to home; there will be fewer (if any) serious fights over territory and no interest in traveling to visit unfixed females.

A recent discussion of the new psychiatric diagnosis of “prolonged grief disorder” noted that those of us who struggle to maintain mental well-being in these trying times have days when we can’t get out of bed. Inviting community cats to stop at your food bowls connects you to daily routine.

Feeding community cats offers an emotional bond like those formed with live-in pets.  We worry about their free-roaming lifestyle when days pass without appearance.  They force us to pay attention to the rhythms in life, to seasonal cycles, and to the value of building trust.

Community cats offer benefits in line with Emotional Support Animals (ESAs).  Cats in general are ideal ESAs. They are calm, intelligent, affectionate animals that can provide a soothing, comforting presence. They are small, clean, quiet and non-intrusive.

Seeing eartipped cats waiting on deck for their morning greeting and bowl of cat chow is good therapy.  Scratching their heads or a quick stroke to their backs while they eat makes cat and feeder purr.  If that’s not an ESA experience, then educate me please!

This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf first appeared in the June 2022 issue of Positively Haywood by Vicinitus.