DACONO — Cat trapper Joelle Hedden walked onto the back patio of a small home and crouched.
“I think we got something,” she said, looking into a mailbox-sized trap baited with tuna and partly covered by a blanket. Inside was a healthy-looking, tiger-striped female cat.
Hedden volunteered in Dacono on Monday for Divine Feline, an organization the city asked to trap stray and feral cats to spay and neuter. She and other volunteers, along with a veterinarian and a vet technician, fixed 12 cats Monday and hope to do more today.
Trapping went slowly, probably due to the wet weather, Hedden said. Sometimes Divine Feline can find and fix as many as 40 cats in one day.
After checking three other traps on a vacant lot and finding all of them empty, the trapped cat on the patio was good news for those trying to control Dacono’s feral cat problem.
“That’s the momma,” said Sharon Bury, a cat lover who has been feeding the strays in her neighborhood to help congregate them in one spot and make it easier for Divine Feline to trap them.
She said this particular cat has been coming around her home for at least two years, and it has had several litters in that time.
“Yes, I’m very happy,” she said about the trapping. “I feel sorry for them, but this has just got to end.”
Hedden drove the cat to the Dacono Police Station, where veterinarian Erica Rambus was working in a 1984 Ford Diamond motor home converted into an operating room. It’s likely the only mobile vet clinic in the country serving communities with feral cats, Rambus said.
It’s owned by Divine Feline, a nonprofit that survives mostly on grant funding, though Dacono will pay $1,000 for its neutering service this week.
Hedden opened the door to deliver Rambus’ fifth customer of the day. Inside, strapped stomach-up to an operating table, lied a small female that had just been spayed. Rambus also had to amputate a part of the cat’s tail that was infected from an injury.
“This peanut is going to stay with me for a while,” Rambus said, adding that the recovery from the tail amputation may take more than a week.
Rambus will keep all the cats in the motor home for a day or two until they completely recover from the surgeries.
The cats also get vaccinations, a checkup and a shot of antibiotics during their stay.
Once fully recovered, Rambus will release the cats back into the community. She will return in six months or so for a follow-up clinic.
The mobile clinic also will be in Dacono on April 11 and 12 to offer spay and neutering for domestic cats, for a $20 to $30 donation, although nobody will be turned away.
It’s all part of the solution that Dacono officials have devised for the city’s stray and feral cat problem.
“It’s managing it,” said Dacono community resource officer Kelli Revoir. “You can’t eradicate it, you can only manage it.”
Dacono has been struggling with a cat problem for months. Revoir estimated that at least 100 homeless felines roam the streets. Some are semi-domestic strays abandoned. Others are feral, born without homes and fairly skittish.
Revoir said stray and feral cat problems don’t go away no matter what officials do. She believes the best thing to do is trap the animals, fix them and release them back into the community knowing that they won’t add to the problem by having more litters.
“They establish their territory, then if you don’t go in and spay and neuter them, the populations grow and grow,” she said.
Volunteers will continue to feed the cats in Dacono at six feeding stations. They’ll also keep an eye on the colonies and note if new cats show up. The new cats can be trapped and fixed when Divine Feline comes.
That’s not asking much of Bury, who had been keeping an eye on the cats on her own for a long time.
She’s seen litters of 14 come from the cat trapped at her house Monday.
“At least she isn’t going to have any more kittens,” she said.
Douglas Crowl can be reached at 303-684-5253, or by e-mail at email@example.com.