KAPAA — With the Animal Balance sterilization project in full swing, teams of trappers are canvassing the Lihue and Kapaa areas for community cats.
“Before we got here, we did outreach to people who are feeding large colonies and coordinated a local team of trappers to get the cats to us,” said Elsa Kohlbus, Animal Balance communications coordinator. “There are also people with a few cats around that have brought them by.”
It wasn’t just the trapping team that was coordinated ahead of time. Animal Balance was prepared with 150 cat traps that were already waiting on island, shipped over with another campaign.
It’s part of an ongoing, community-based effort to manage the feral cat, or community cat population — those cats that don’t have owners, and Animal Balance is working with Kauai Community Cat Project to get the job done.
“It really is a community effort,” Kohlbus said. “We’re here to offer humane solutions and we’re open to having dialogues with those in the community. We want to be on the same page and offer real, effective and humane solutions.”
In 2017, Animal Balance and local volunteers sterilized more than 600 animals in a six-day Mobile Animal Sterilization Hospital (MASH) Campaign that was open to both cats and dogs.
September’s campaign marks the third Animal Balance high-volume spay and neuter campaign on Kauai
The first leg of the September cat sterilization campaign started Monday and runs through Friday at All Saints Church in Kapaa. Then the team picks up and moves to a private residence in Kilauea through Sept. 14.
Tuesday concluded day two of the campaign with the completion of 195 cat sterilization surgeries, and most of them were community cats. By mid-afternoon, most of the surgeries were finished and dozens of cats recovered under the shade trees in All Saints’ yard area, each secluded in a sheet-covered carrier.
The September campaign is focused at community cats, but about 25 spots per day have been reserved for owned cats. They can be sterilized with a $25 donation and a call ahead to coordinate the surgery.
Kohlbus estimates about 20 percent of the surgeries done Monday and Tuesday were on owned cats.
“We got done early today,” said Megan Gram, volunteer from Bend, Oregon. “Yesterday we were here until 7:30.”
Monday was a 12-hour day for the worldwide patchwork of volunteers at the sterilization clinic, with about eight or nine local volunteers helping check cats into the clinic and watch over them as they recover from the procedures.
“We have a team of volunteers from the mainland, volunteers from here on Kauai and a tech from Australia,” Kohl’s said. “It really is a global effort.”
Linda O’Neill, a Kapaa woman who has volunteered at multiple Animal Balance clinics, said she’s been impressed by the volunteers.
“They’re very professional and calm,” O’Neill said. “What they’re doing is organized and it’s good to see.”
Kohlbus said plans are already in the works for what Animal Balance is calling a spay pod — a semi-mobile clinic trailer on Kauai that would be open two or three days a week and have the capacity to sterilize 30-35 cats in a day.
All cats will be sterilized, microchipped and vaccinated and community cats will be ear tipped.
The pod has been purchased and Kohlbus said they’re in the fundraising phase to acquire equipment and staff.
“In order to address the need here we need to do something more regular, so this will be alongside the MASH campaigns and supplement that,” she said.
The goal is to sterilize 70 percent of cats in each of the community colonies, which would trigger an evening out and then eventual shrinking of the population.
“It’s attainable if we get the support from the community,” Kohlbus said. “We feel we can reach that goal by 2019.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org