OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Kat Kennedy is doing something about the out-of-control feral cat population in Osceola County.
Since April, she has gone into several Osceola County subdivisions and helped trap more than 100 feral cats.
She is one of two workers hired with funds from a grant from the Best Friends Animal Society. The grant money provides Osceola County Animal Control with an influx of $330,000 to $500,000 over the next three years and pays for a van, workers and supplies without costing the county residents a dime.
"It's wonderful that you are out here helping us," a Buenaventura Pond neighborhood resident told Kennedy.
Homeowners said the cats can be a real nuisance, rummaging through garbage cans looking for food, fighting each other outside homeowners windows and using their backyards as litter boxes.
Kennedy's goal is to humanely capture and transport as many cats as she can each night, and bring them back to the Community Cat Program office in St. Cloud. The next day, the adult cats are vaccinated, spayed and neutered and marked with an ear tip. The cats are then returned to the communities they came from, to live out their days.
News 6 followed Kennedy as she set up traps in people's yards, along the sidewalks and beside trash cans --anywhere feral cats have been spotted. She lines wire kennel traps with newspaper and places a little bit of cat food inside. She then adds her secret weapon -- mackerel juice -- to attract the cats to the kennel.
One night, she captured 10 cats, many of them kittens, which was not a surprise considering a single female cat can produce up to 40 kittens in a year.
"The good news is we are making an immediate impact," Kennedy said. "We've already saved over 200 cats just in the first month and a half of the program."
Multiply that by the number of litters those cats could produce and that's around 8,000 cats that will not be added to the feral cat colonies in Osceola County.
The team knows that, with every litter it prevents, it is putting a real dent in the feral cat population. The goal is to spay and neuter 2,500 cats a year.
"We just know that the cats are out there and they're repopulating month after month, year after year. So we've got to stop that reproduction cycle," Kennedy said.
The public can also help curb the stray cat population by putting some wire traps in their own yards. Interested residents can call the Osceola County Community Cat Program at 407-608-2764 or email them OsceolaCats@bestfriends.org.
Individuals are also needed to volunteer to feed and care for the outdoor cats as they live out their lives.
Besides cutting down on the number of stray cats on the streets, the program is also helping cut the number of cats that get euthanized or sent to already overcrowded shelters and foster programs.
There are other trap-neuter-return programs in counties all over Central Florida.