ST. CLOUD, Fla. - Many counties in central Florida are dealing with a growing feral cat population. In Osceola County, leaders hope a new six-figure solution will help get things under control.
"[We had] hundreds and hundreds of hundreds of kittens pouring into the shelter," said animal control director Kim Staton.
In her 30 years of doing this, Staton believes the feral cat population problem in the county has never been worse as each kitten season gets longer.
"We estimate we have a population of feral and free-roaming cats in Osceola County of about 50,000 to 60,000," she explained.
But a new grant could make things easier and more manageable.
The $300,000 - $500,000 grant, awarded recently by Best Friends Animal Society, will enable the shelter to better handle and control the influx of the feral cat population.
Over the next three years, the shelter will have two additional employees, whose job it is to spay and neuter feral cats, then release them back into the community. The grant allows for the spay and neutering of 2,500 cats each year.
"So that they're not having three or four litters of kittens every year which is the situation we're dealing with now," Staton added.
Staton also wants those in the community to realize that this problem is a community-wide effort.
"Obviously no one wants to see an animal starve and they're trying to help," she explained.
"In reality, they're just feeding the cat, more cats join and pretty soon you're feeding a colony of cats and it's out of control.
That's kind of how we got into this situation we're in now:
uncontrolled breeding and this uncontrolled check and feeding of cats."
As for what you can do on your own, Staton says if you feed a feral cat, you can get it spayed or neutered too.
"The best thing is to get that animal spayed and neutered," she said.
"If you have the ability to care for the animal, we can help with the spay and neuter. We have a low-cost clinic in the county."
The program is scheduled to get underway in the spring.
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