By JOHN QUINN
Union Leader Correspondent
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November 01. 2012 8:57PM

Cats 1st looks to trap, fix and release feral felines to wild

FARMINGTON - Thanks to a grant, a feline rescue organization started capturing stray and feral cats Thursday as part of a program to manage the population and protect the community.

After speaking to police, members of Cats 1st, which is based in Newfields, identified two sites - downtown and near a farm - to trap up to 150 cats that will be vaccinated and spayed or neutered. After a few days, the animals will be returned to their homes around town, according to Betsy Coes of Cats 1st.

"We will only release cats that can survive," Coes said, adding cats can usually survive pretty well on their own - even in the winter.

Concerns about the stray cat population, especially in the downtown, arose after a rabid cat bit a woman along Acorn Court Aug. 21. While it was the only animal that tested positive for rabies, seven other cats were euthanized and one stray cat was trapped and sent to the Cocheco Valley Humane Society in Dover.

Despite the dangers of rabies, Coes said feral cats do not pose a threat to the community as they tend to be skittish and avoid people.

"These cats are all suffering from neglect or abandonment," Coes said. Cats usually become feral if they don't interact with people in the first six months of their lives she said.

Coes said the organization will focus on areas with high concentrations of stray or feral cats, which are about 30 animals or more. If the organization successfully traps 150 cats this year, it will not resolve the issue. "It's not going to be solved this year," Coes said. "But it will be managed by next spring."

Coes said the issue was created by people who couldn't or wouldn't care for their cats, who were left to fend for themselves around the community. She added there aren't enough resources to care for all the animals, especially since there is limited space in the shelters operated by CVHS or the local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Stratham.

As the grant only covers the cost to spay or neuter the cats, Coes said the organization continues to apply for grants or other sources of funding. She added donations help pay to vaccinate the cats and offset the cost of gas to transport them between sites.

For more information about Cats 1st, or to make a donation, visit their website at http://hstrial-bcoes.homestead.com.

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John Quinn may be reached at jquinn@newstote.com.


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