'Outsider' Kids Help Outside Cats

 |  Oct 29th 2010  |   2 Contributions


Justin Bashore, 16, Reuben Bradley, 13, and Ryan Rager, 11, from the 5 Star School in Sunbury, build a house for one of the feral cats that will be neutered and released by the school's administrative assistant, Tina Campbell. Photo by Liz Rohde/The Daily Item

The stray tabby cat "panhandling" near a school in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, never imagined that she would inspire a miniature revolution.

But on that lucky day a year ago, she found a group of kids who knew what it was like to be an outsider and decided they needed to help the homeless feline.

Students at 5 Star School, a therapeutic day program for children with special behavioral or socio-emotional needs, named the cat Star, after their school.

While the kids were taking care of Star, they learned about Sunbury's growing feral cat population and decided they wanted to help other street cats. They did some research and decided they wanted to start a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program.

We couldnt stop, said 5 Stars administrative assistant, Tina Campbell. And the TNR program seemed like the ideal humane way to deal with homeless cats.

Well-meaning people feed homeless cats, Campbell said, but if they dont go a step further and have them spayed or neutered, feeding them will just increase the population.

The kittens they catch can usually learn to adapt to living with humans, and the group finds homes for most of them.

The adult cats, however, remain wary of humans and are rarely able to be socialized into life with people. These cats are released back into their old neighborhoods. But they have their rabies shots and wont reproduce.

Dr. Beverly Shaw, a veterinarian at Sunbury Animal Hospital, said that the 5 Star School's program is a very positive step. Sunbury is "overrun" with feral cats, she said, and its been an issue for decades.

Homeless cats are a health risk to other cats and people, she said. If left unvaccinated, they can transmit rabies to other cats and humans.

The 5 Star School students raised money to have Star spayed and found her a home. They have also found some people willing to sponsor the cats medical care and others who help the kids with fund-raisers.

The children help to maintain the garage that has been donated as the cats' temporary shelter.

The students get a lot of joy from being able to work with the cats and kittens, Campbell said.

After the cats are trapped, Campbell takes them on an hour-long drive to the Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) veterinary clinic in Harrisburg where they are fixed at a cost of $50 for females and $30 for males.

Campbell said she couldnt find a program that offers spay-neuter services for that cost in the Sunbury area.

No one can do it for that little without being subsidized, Shaw said.

Meanwhile, fund-raising for the 5 Star School's program must continue. Campbell took 14 cats to Harrisburg last week, she said, and some of them needed extra care for upper respiratory infections and other ailments. These extra medical problems can be costly to treat.

Campbell said their program is also in need of cat and kitten food, of course, and blankets, small animal traps and large cages.

Despite the program's small size and grassroots nature, the 5 Star students and five other friends have been able to trap, spay and neuter, and vaccinate 200 feral cats in the last year alone.

[Source: The Daily Item]

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