Volunteers eager to lower euthanasia rate for feral cats

By Erin Middlewood, Columbian special projects reporter

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Must Love Dogs NW can be reached at mustlovedogsnw.com, incoming@mustlovedogsnw.com or 1-866-990-DOGS.

Those who live off 78th Street near St. Johns and Andresen roads north of Vancouver may notice less hissing and yowling in their neighborhood.

Must Love Dogs NW recently rounded up 37 feral cats there.

The nonprofit animal welfare group took the cats to Mountain View Veterinary Hospital, where five vets volunteered to perform spay and neuter surgeries. The cats also received rabies vaccines and testing for feline leukemia. Then volunteers released the cats back into the neighborhood to live out their days — without propagating.

"Feral cats are very territorial when they're still intact," said Dana Malone, a Battle Ground certified dog trainer who helped found Must Love Dogs in 2008. "They cause fights. They can be hazardous to people's pets and spread diseases."

George White said he frequently hears complaints about feral cats in his role as president of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.

"They come along and they pee on your front door," he said. "The cats are always trying to mark their area."

It's hard to pin down how many feral cats roam Clark County, but Must Love Dogs NW estimated that 50 live in the area off 78th Street. Malone said her group is planning another foray into the neighborhood in hopes of fixing the rest. The cats that have already been fixed have notches clipped from their ears to identify them.

Must Love Dogs' hotline receives several calls a day from people with concerns about stray dogs and cats. Someone from the neighborhood noticed a growing feral cat problem and called for help, Malone said.

"While we are an adoption group only for dogs, we will spay and neuter anything," she said. "We want to lower the euthanasia rate."

Volunteers worked with neighborhood residents to place crates in spots frequented by feral cats. They stocked the crates with food to get the cats comfortable going in and out of them. Then neighbors swung the doors closed just in time for the Nov. 17 catch-alter-release event.

"We wanted it as stress-free as possible," Malone said.

Even though the veterinarians volunteers their time, the effort still costs money. The medical supplies for November's event cost $1,980, Malone said.

The November event was the third by Must Love Dogs NW. Volunteers previously altered strays in the Fruit Valley neighborhood.