A group of Grimes women have banded together to help with an ongoing issue in the City of Grimes: an increase in the number of feral cats.
The women, who consist of Deb Gallagher, Treasurer of the City of Grimes, and Burgundie Winter have been volunteering their time to spay and neuter feral cats, which are cats that are unsocialized and have returned to the wild.
"There’s a real issue here and we need to get to the bottom of it," Gallagher said. "We hear about these things happening in Des Moines, but we can’t let this happen here in Grimes."
Gallagher, who jokingly refers to herself as a "crazy cat lady," recalls hearing a story, which is on the Animal Rescue League of Iowa’s website, about a man in Grimes who found two kittens in the bottom of one of his trash cans when he was taking them out for collections.
According to the story on the ARL’s website, the two kittens, Kevin and Tina, were vaccinated and given a clean bill of health before being spayed and neutered and put up for adoption. They are now healthy, and happy cats with new families.
Winter said some people treat them like rodents or pests. She has even found cats that have BBs in their backs.
"Everyone sees them as a nuisance, but they can be controlled," Winter said. "That’s what I want people to know. They’re not rodents, they’re not pests. That’s not what they’re supposed to be."
Grimes City Administrator Kelley Brown said that older cats should be spayed or neutered and then released as opposed to being taken out of the wild.
"Cats are very territorial and there are dominant cats (so) when you take out one of the dominant cats one will move in…you’re just perpetuating the cycle," said Brown. "If you put it back it will still be dominant but won’t keep adding to the population."
Gallagher said that she volunteers at Panora P.E.T.S., a shelter that houses abused or abandoned animals, that has a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program called "Opurration Fix-it."
Panora P.E.T.S. also traps, neuters and returns feral cats.
They primarily focus on Panora, but have helped in Grimes as well with Gallagher volunteering there.
Kristine Jorgensen is the TNR coordinator at Panora P.E.T.S. and says that they take in cats that they find that are friendly and try to get them adopted, but trap, neuter and return the ones that are feral. The way that theycan distinguish between friendly cats and feral cats is that the feral cats won’t respond or interact with humans.
"You know how we’re in here talking to the kitties and they kind of meow, they do that because they know they get a positive response," Jorgensen said. "But a feral cat that has not had that interaction with people isn’t going to make a sound."
Jorgensen said if they find young feral cats (six months old or younger) they can house them and try to tame them down, but the older ones will be trapped, neutered and returned.
Although the city of Grimes doesn’t have a program in place in regards to feral cats, Brown is helping with the cause. Brown said that there is an at-large ordinance in place where anyone can call any time they see a cat (or a dog) and animal control will go and pick them up. If they do have to pick up an animal, the owner will have to pay to go pick it up.
Brown is allowing people like Gallagher and Winter to post on the City of Grimes’s Facebook page to help get the word out. A post on June 18 informs the page’s followers about the issue and how they can help out, but also doubts any city-funded program in the near future due to the "long list of needs and the tax cuts."
Brown says, however, that the city has not been approached about this in about 10 years.
"To ask what the city’s position on this is would be premature because the city council has not been asked to partner or provide funding for a program like this," said Brown. "All I can do from my position as city administrator is help get the word out."
Winter says there is more that people can do in order to help the issue and keep the feral cat population down.
"Don’t let your animals out, that’s the easiest one," said Winter. "Especially if they aren’t fixed and not vaccinated against FIV (feline leukemia)."