FELINE FUNDAMENTALS: Humane Society spay, neuter clinic curtails feral population

May 10—A number of volunteers and professionals were hard at work Friday morning, promoting responsible pet ownership during a spay/neuter clinic sponsored by the Humane Society of Cherokee County.

Roxanna Ritchie, HSCC member, said the May 10 reduced-price clinic at the Pets for Life building was strictly for cats, and participants were hoping to spay and neuter close to 100 cats.

The clinics, operated by veterinarian Dr. Tim Synar, are usually for both dogs and cats. Ritchie said the past 10 clinics have seen around 200 to 300 animals "fixed." Green said the clinic addresses a serious need in Cherokee County.

"You probably know dogs can have two litters a year, and cats can have up to four," Ritchie said. "A female dog and her offspring could produce 67,000 puppies in six years, and a female cat and her offspring could produce 370,000 kittens in seven years."

Synar said every community, especially Tahlequah, needs spay and neuter clinic such as this one.

"I enjoy doing rescue work, and working with Vicky [Green] and Rhonda [Norris]. Vicky is outstanding," Synar said.

Green is Tahlequah's animal control code enforcement officer. Norris is a registered veterinary technician.

"The city of Tahlequah is lucky to have somebody who cares that much and works that hard. Every community has these needs and Tahlequah seems to do a good job of trying to meet those needs and alleviate a lot of these problems," Synar said.

Synar said that without clinics for cats, a perpetual cycle of large feral cat populations is set in motion, which increases public health concerns. Synar has worked with rescues off and on for more than 45 years, and over this time, he said, the need for the clinics has grown.

"There's a bigger need now post-COVID. There are a lot more ferals. Everything has gotten more expensive," Synar said. "I don't think there are as many adoptions, and everything has just gotten more expensive, which translates to [fewer] people spaying them and possibly not nearly as many adoptions. That translates into more feral cats, which translates into more babies and bigger problems."

Misty Spray, a vet technician, said so many cat and dog offspring makes it difficult to round up enough foster families. Spray said that at most clinics, vets will only be able to do two or three spay or neuters each day, while Synar can complete 15 to 20 in an hour.

Norris said the clinic helps with overpopulation through spays and neuters for a lower cost. The surgeries at the bimonthly clinics often cost a regular copay of $20, while the most recent was done at a reduced price for $10.

"This is the best way we've found to address this horrendous overpopulation of dogs and cats in Cherokee County," Ritchie said. "We don't have a county animal shelter. The city has a very effective Tahlequah animal control program with the pound, but it has limited space. Our no-kill shelter is state-licensed for a specific number of dogs and cats, and we're always at capacity with a wait list."

At the clinics, licensed vet technicians also administer the animals' FVRCP and rabies vaccines. Green said flea and tick prevention is also available for purchase at the clinic.

"It's a community minded project. It benefits the community in many ways — directly and indirectly — and it benefits the animals," Synar said.

What's next

Another clinic for cats only will be held May 24, with a dog and cat clinic taking place June 7 and 28. Those interested in taking part in future spay and neuter clinics can fill out applications at www.humanecherokeecounty.org.