Operation Wildcats: Madison County New York
Wildcats purr-fect for cantankerous catsOneida Dispatch, New York - Sep 17, 2006
By LEEANNE ROOT, Dispatch Staff Writer
CANASTOTA - Everyone deserves the chance to have a loving home. The cats helped by Operation Wildcats are no exception.
The local volunteer organization is helping to control Madison County's feral and stray cat population.
Linda Shaffer started Operation Wildcats in 2002 out of a love for cats.
"I rescued a sick kitten and decided something had to be done," she said.
The organization operates on a trap, neuter, release policy. Volunteers receive calls from area residents who see strays or are feeding outside cats.
Operation Wildcats then goes to the area and captures the cats using "have a heart" traps.
"Sometimes they come right to you," Shaffer said. "But usually we use traps baited with tuna or sardines."
The cats are then taken to Chittenango Animal Hospital, where they are checked for feline leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, both deadly and contagious cat viruses.
The cats are then spayed or neutered, allowed to recover and returned to the area they came from.
"Feral cats can't usually be adopted; typically we bring them back to people who have been caring for them outside," Shaffer said. "They will usually continue to supply the cats with food and shelter."
The important thing, she said, is that now the cat is not reproducing anymore.
Female cats can give birth at least twice a year. Litters can have anywhere from five to eight kittens. A mother and her first litter can end up reproducing hundreds more cats in just a couple of years.
"That is why there is such a huge cat problem all over the world," Shaffer said.
Operation Wildcats targets the reproduction cycle.
But the cats can not always be returned to outside life.
Friendly strays are kept to be adopted. Pregnant females are taken care of by the organization until mother and kittens are adopted.
Tina Mikulka, a volunteer for Operation Wildcats, houses the cats that are to be adopted at her home in Canastota.
Currently she has about 22 kittens and eight adult cats in her care.
"I go through close to 200 pounds of kitty litter and food in a week," Mikulka said. "Wal-Mart donates ripped bags of litter and food."
Some cats are cared for in foster homes.
"Right now we only have one person that does fostering for us," Mikulka said.
She said that all kittens are de-wormed and given a rabies and distemper vaccination before they are adopted.
Mikulka explained that there is a between difference feral and stray cats.
"Feral cats have never had human contact," she said. "A stray is a domesticated cat without a home."
She also said that when trapped domesticated cats will usually meow when a human approaches them.
But a feral cat will growl and hiss.
Mikulka said that some feral cats can become friendly and be adopted.
She uses her basement to house the cats in separate large enclosures as they recover from surgery.
According to Shaffer, a male takes just a couple of days to recover from being neutered and a female can take up to 10 days to recover from being spayed.
"These animals are well taken care of. We have to be sure the incision site is healed and there is no infection," Shaffer said.
In the morning all the cats get out and play with some supervision. Those that want to can go outside where there is a fenced-in area.
"Some of the cats want nothing to do with being outside," Mikulka said.
But some of them don't want to come back in.
One adult cat, named Grandma's Kitty, loves to spend nice days outside napping and sunning herself.
But Scooter, another adult cat, does not like going out much at all.
"She comes running back in as soon as the door is opened," Mikulka said.
Each of the cats has a distinct personality and just needs to find the right family to fit it.
"Some people don't think there is a feral cat problem because they don't see them," Mikulka said. "They come out late at night and early in the morning."
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To view pets up for adoption go to:
For more information on how to adopt call 697-2188.
To volunteer time or donate products call 363-3750.