WEIRTON - As 40 to 50 stray and feral felines roam the city, the Hancock County Animal Shelter Foundation is planning a covert cat catching operation to provide them proper care.
"We anticipate bringing in 12 to 15 cats on Saturday, which will be our first colony trap day," said Ronald Shaw, foundation president.
Shaw said he could not reveal the location of the traps because he does not anyone to interfere with the efforts to catch the cats. Shaw said his organization has been working with city officials to catch the cats in traps that have already been set up throughout Weirton, but noted that Saturday will be the first major trapping day.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
The Hancock County Animal Shelter Foundation plans to trap stray cats like this one on Saturday in the city of Weirton.
Though Shaw said the cats have been spotted in numerous parts of Weirton, the felines have been seen everywhere from the hilltop Three Springs Drive area to downtown.
In March, City Council provided Shaw $2,000 to assist with the foundation's "trap, spay and release or relocate" program. Since then, the foundation's "Feral Cat Fund" has been bolstered with several donations from concerned residents and businesses.
Shaw knows there are several contributing factors to the city's cat proliferation problem, but he said the major reason is that many owners do not properly care for their pets.
"The main source of the problem is irresponsible owners who do not get their cats spayed or neutered. When they do not get the cats spayed or neutered, eventually there are going to be too many cats," he said.
Shaw also explained how residents could tell the difference between feral and stray felines, noting that "not all these cats are feral cats."
"We will not know how many of these cats are actually feral cats until we get them in here and try work with them," he said.
"A feral animal is one that has never been socialized to interact with humans, or has lost its bond with humans. A stray animal is one that has been socialized to interact with humans, but has been lost or abandoned by its owners," Shaw added.
Shaw said a feral cat is more likely to present a "clean looking" appearance because these animals are accustomed to caring for themselves, while a stray cat would likely appear "dirty or unkempt" because these felines are used to having humans care for them.
Noting the normal rate of euthanization for feral cats is "nearly 100 percent," Shaw said the animal shelter will do everything it can to save as many animals as possible.
"We have had some very willing veterinarians help us out by donating their time to examine and treat the cats," he said.
Though he knows the efforts to reduce the number of cats roaming through Weirton will be an ongoing venture, Shaw believes it is a worthy endeavor.
"We will do as much as we can to deal with the cat problem in as humane a manner as possible," he said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the "Feral Cat Fund" should call the animal shelter at 304-387-4102.