Posted: December 6, 2016 at 5:15 pm

By Sarah Marino, Michala McCullough and Sara O’Brien

According to Michael Cary, co-founder of Morgantown Strays and Feral Cats, there was one instance in history where the feral cat population was completely eradicated from an area. This was a small island in the Galapagos that had a very small human population, along with being a very small island. Here, these cats were considered an invasive species. However, the problem is not limited to anywhere in the world. In fact, feral and stray cats are an issue no matter where you are. This is because cats can breed as young as four months, and can breed quickly, not to mention they are very good at fending for themselves.

Cary houses many cats. Upon entering his home there is, what he calls a “cat jungle gym” built out of pallets and wood they found lying around town. Mouse, an all-black cat who Cary says is one of “the original” dumpsters cats he and his fiancé found behind Papa Johns in Morgantown, is the reason they decided to start their organization. 

There’s also Morris, and Simba, who was a feral cat found in Mississippi. It’s easy to fall in love with these kitties, which is why Cary permanently is housing seven cats of his own, not to mention the other cats that are currently being fostered.

So how many cats live in the two-story house? Cary does the math very quickly and says, “About 16.”

In the last year, Cary and his fiancé Christine has brought in and helped over 200 cats. They are firm believers in TNR (trap neuter release or return), and upon vetting, cats will receive an “ear tipping” where a quarter inch of their ear will be removed to let people know they are spayed, neutered, and taken care of.

Not every cat can be rehabilitated. Though Cary believes it really depends on the cats. However, one of his permanent residence was “one of the most feral cats he had ever seen” and was “intimidating” looking because of his tipped ear and one large cataract on his eye. Now, this cat sleeps between Cary’s legs every night, and has become one of the sweetest cats he knows. If cats cannot assimilate they can live their lives in a colony, or live in a barn where they can catch mice and be taken care of.

Cary and his organization have applied and are waiting on a non-profit status so they can apply for grants in their effort to help these cats. Since their formation, they have had an overwhelming response- not simply from friends, but from people he didn’t even know. Their organization also now has a board of directors who hold meetings for the public.

Sadly, Monongalia County does not have the resources to house a large number of cats. Though, Cary’s organization works closely with members of the Humane Society to get vouchers for TNR.

A colony built behind a local restaurant aimed at housing stray and feral cats.

A colony built behind a local restaurant aimed at housing stray and feral cats.

 “They do a good job of getting vouchers out to people for low income and TNR, it’s just what you expect from them,” he said. However, Cary says his organization has a good working relationship with the local shelter because they realized they do a good job at what they’re doing.

Heather Servert, West Virginia Director of State Affairs for the Humane Society sent resources on their stance about feral cats. You can see them here and here.

Cary says with a helping hand these feral cats can enjoy the life expectancy of someone’s own house cat.

The same applies for elsewhere, as Donna Phillips, the one man band of TNR Point Marion explains that the Humane Society is in a hard position — they do not have the resources where they are to operate TNR.

Phillips, who has every cat she has had fixed written down in a folder, noticed the cat problem in her area as soon as she moved there, and devoted time to doing something about it. Volunteering for PURR WV, (People United for the Rehabilitation and of Rehoming Cats) she admits, though she tries to raise the funds to fix and vet her community cats, sometimes she just has to pay out of her own pocket.

She understands though people might have good intentions many stray and feral cats can be in poor health, and not fixed. With her efforts, she has brought down the community cat problem in her area considerably.