by Jaye Sudar
WALSENBURG- They are everywhere in Walsenburg. We′ve all seen them running down the alleys, crossing the parking lot in Safeway or roaming the empty lots. Granted, not all cats you see outside are feral. However, in Walsenburg there are at least five colonies of feral cats.
We all know people who feed cats or take them in. However, in town, there is nowhere for them to go if they are abandoned. We have no shelters for cats. They are simply left to fend for themselves. This is a problem, because cats will reproduce fast enough for one or two cats to become a colony of ten before you know it.
Most feral cats have health problems: starvation, worms, respiratory infections, sticky eyes and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). If they come into contact with other animals, they can pass on the illnesses. Feral cats are targets for cruelty. People shoot them, stone them or put poison out. Poison is indiscriminate. It may kill that ragged looking tom cat, but it may also kill grandma′s Chihuahua or your child′s puppy.
One of the best ways to deal with feral cats is a program which involves trapping and then spaying or neutering the cats. This cuts down on the population explosion. It also aids in preventing disease as neutered cats don′t fight as much as non-neutered cats.
There is a new group in town. They are the Huerfano Cat Coalition, and they are working with the Sangre de Cristo Volunteers for Change. Their mission is to trap and spay or neuter as many feral cats as possible. Carla Dolce is the president of the group. Dr. Margaret Hecht, DVM, treasurer, is involved with the spaying/neutering and vaccination of the feral cats. There are other volunteers who feed the colonies of cats in town. They also work to get cats adopted or moved out to rural areas as barn cats. Over the next few weeks, the HCC is making a concerted effort to raise funds for food, vaccinations, spaying, and neutering. If you would like to donate food or money to the Huerfano Cat Coalition, please contact Dr. Hecht at 746-2023.