LIHUE — Animal Balance’s Spay Pod has done more than 1,000 cat sterilization surgeries in less than a year.
And the nonprofit is just getting started.
In addition to the Spay Pod, which has been roving around Kauai since January, Animal Balance is gearing up to come back to the island in September with a goal to sterilize 2,000 cats in one week.
Both are part of a multi-pronged effort to tackle cat overpopulation on Kauai, a situation that poses problems for native and endangered birds as well as the potential for toxoplasmosis — a parasite that can impact Hawaiian monk seals and humans.
That’s what Animal Balance does in island communities around the world; works with partners to bring balance to feral cat and dog populations.
“We’re working toward the goal to reduce the cat population on Kauai in as humane a way as possible,” said Elsa Kohlbus, program director for Animal Balance. “Any impact we make means a positive impact on the environment and the species that share the environment with the cats.”
Animal Balance first came to Kauai with their international team of veterinarian volunteers in 2017.
They partnered with Kauai Humane Society, Kauai Community Cat Project and community volunteers to make a Mobile Animal Sterilization Hospital clinic (MASH) happen on the KHS lawn and sterilized about 600 animals in six days.
MASH clinics have continued to periodically visit the island, sterilizing about 600 cats at a time while they’re on island. They’ve sterilized dogs as well.
September brought a MASH clinic to All Saints Church in Kapaa, where about 800 cats were sterilized in a week.
The Spay Pod came a year after Animal Balance started doing MASH clinics on Kauai, funded by donations. They’ve got two staff members on hand — including full-time veterinarian Katie Spaulding — and have a solid group of volunteers.
It’s a separate arm of the effort to reduce the feral cat population on Kauai.
“Something we couldn’t do without community support,” Kohlbus said. “We have incredible volunteers that have been trained and are dedicated.”
The Spay Pod surpassed 1,000 surgeries in June and as the Spay Pod crew works their way to 2,000 surgeries, Animal Balance is amassing more volunteers to check another 2,000 surgeries off the list.
Organizers know that a MASH clinic taking on 2,000 cat sterilization surgeries in one week is a big challenge so they’ve renamed the event.
“It’s a Mega-MASH Clinic and we’re having two separate locations going on simultaneously,” Kohlbus said. “One at All Saints (in Kapaa) and one in the Poipu area, where we haven’t been before.”
That is expected to help increase accessibility for people dropping cats off for surgeries.
At the Mega-MASH Clinic, set for Sept. 8-12, surgeries will be free. Volunteers will be needed to help check in and monitor animals alongside the 50 international volunteers.
Organizers are still solidifying locations for the clinic.
“We will need a lot of support for this,” Kohlbus said. “And we’re excited to be coming back.”