By Cindy Hoffman
(March 9, 2023) Free roaming, feral and abandoned cats that live in Worcester County and surrounding areas have been lucky to have Town Cats around for the last 25 years.
Many summer visitors regularly feed the cats they find outside, but when they leave in the fall, most of these cats are left behind to face the winter struggling to find food and shelter.
Those that survive inevitably breed in the spring, producing litters of feral kittens that will eventually produce even more unwanted kittens.
Keeping a handle on the cat population is an ongoing effort. Kitten season occurs between April and October, although cats can give birth any time of the year.
According to Animalleague.org an unspayed female and her un-neutered mate and all of their offspring can produce 67 cats in seven years.
In 1998, Jean Donovan decided that something had to be done to stop the cycle and established Town Cats. And while Donovan has passed away, the dedication of Town Cats volunteers continues to live on as her legacy.
Town Cats provides medical care through Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR), and affordable adoption services.
“We live on donations,” said President Susan Mohler. “We try to help as many cats as we can.” But it takes money. No one associated with Town Cats takes a salary, so all of the money raised goes to caring for the cats. “Last summer, we had a lot of sick cats. We paid $30,000 in vet bills in three months.”
Town Cats has a significant infrastructure considering it is an all-volunteer organization.
It has three sanctuaries, the newest of which is named Blue Frog in Parsonsburg. Tori Martin, a Town Cats volunteer, purchased a house with a large garage in May 2022 to create a new sanctuary for needy cats.
“I was ready to retire, with no mortgage when I decided to go into debt to provide a home for cats,” said Martin. “After my husband died, I felt dead inside. Town Cats gave me a litter of five cats and my heart melted. That was three years ago. I am now so happy. I found my mothership.”
With the help of volunteers and generous donations, she has insulated the garage, now the cat cottage, which is currently home to 25 cats.
There is also an attached “catio” where the cats can lounge in the sunshine and play safely outside. Boxes to sleep and hide are set up both inside and out, as well as cat towers to climb up and platforms for resting and observing the outside world.
“Half of these cats are adoptable. Six to seven are feral. Most are older and may have some kind of disability,” Martin said.
Mohler hopes to raise $5,000 for another cat cottage on the property. And volunteers will be expanding the “catio” this spring.
For those looking for their next cuddly kitten or cat, National Adoption Week is March 6-12.
“We will be hosting an adoption event on March 11 at Petsmart,” Mohler said.
Cats of all ages and sizes will be available.
“People can also come to the Blue Frog Sanctuary to see the cats ready for adoption,” Martin said. She welcomes visitors.
Any cat adopted from Town Cats will be spayed or neutered, treated for fleas, rabies and distemper and any other medical issues. The organization charges an adoption fee of $91, a bargain for anyone who has ever taken a pet to the vet. Town Cats works with VCA and Precious Paws and other local vets for medical care. Last year, Town Cats adopted out 200 cats.
“We always have cats that are ready for adoption at Petsmart,” Mohler said.
Petsmart Charities provides an adoption center free of charge to Town Cats.
Cat lovers can help Town Cats through numerous volunteer activities too. Mohler said the organization always needs more people to foster cats.
There is also a great need for volunteers to care for feral cat colonies, animal transport, and to care for the cats at Petsmart, she said.
For those who don’t want to be hands-on with the kitties, Town Cats can use support planning and promoting events, fundraising, and administration support. High school students can fulfill their service hours at Town Cats.
Beyond saving so many lives, Town Cats also tries to educate people about cats.
“We want people to understand the need to keep cats indoors to help reduce the population. Cats should not live outdoors,” advises Mohler.
She also encourages cat and pet owners to have a plan for their pets if something should happen to them.
All pet owners should arrange for a friend to take the pet or identify a rescue that can help place the pet with another loving family.
“A lot of people will just throw the cat outside,” said Mohler. Doing so contributes to the problem of outdoor cats.
Town Cats take care of a few feral colonies. They spay and neuter the cats in these colonies to keep the population from growing. They also see to the adoption of feral cats as barn cats for farmers to help control rodent populations.
Town Cats is recognizing its 25th anniversary with some new T-shirts and encouraging people to give $25 for 25 years in operation.
The organization hosts monthly meetings at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at the Ocean Pines library or the community center. Check the website for the location.
To visit cats at the Blue Frog Sanctuary, contact Martin at 410-279-3131. Visit their website at https://towncats.net to volunteer or learn more about adoption opportunities.