DECATUR — The Humane Society of Decatur and Macon County estimates that there are between 40,000 and 50,000 feral cats in Macon County. That is, cats who are too wild to be adopted and live in the wild, either in the city or on rural farms.
Michelle Huttes and the Macon County Animal Control and Care Center are hoping to try to control this wild cat population. They have raised funds to trap feral cats, have them spayed or neutered and then release them back into their natural habitat.
“There is a serious cat overpopulation problem in Macon County,” Huttes said. “All the shelters are full. We’re just trying to reduce the number of feral cats.”
Huttes said she has been operating the program since January and has trapped and released more than 100 cats.
Huttes said if feral cats make it into the shelter, they have no chance. While tame, domesticated cats who come to the shelter have hope of adoption, due to safety reasons, feral cats are not allowed to be adopted as pets.
Huttes said feral cats are especially prevalent because they breed two to three times per year, and each litter has approximately four kittens. Once those kittens are 6 months old, they begin breeding and the cycle continues.
“It’s a huge problem, but you just don’t see it unless you’re looking for it,” she said.
Huttes said oftentimes farmers will call the shelter to have them come trap and release barn cats. She said many people may know they have feral cats, but they usually underestimate the numbers.
“I once trapped and released cats for a lady who thought she had six or seven,” she said. “She ended up having 18!”
Brenda Bainter lives in the country and has between 30 and 35 barn cats who have almost all been spayed or neutered through Huttes’ program.
“It’s amazing what they’re doing,” she said. “I’m so thrilled they’re willing to do it for free — they’re always right on top of it.”
Huttes said she was trained in the trap and release program by Irene Peterson, president of the Humane Society of Decatur and Macon County. The humane society has been operating the same type of program for more than four years.
“It’s a necessity for this community,” she said. “We have to stop the killing of unwanted animals — people have to get educated. If the majority of people could see what we see, they’d be willing to help.”
Peterson said a group in Springfield has been operating the same type of program for 10 years, and it’s been extremely successful.
Peterson said anyone who has or sees feral cats that need to be spayed or neutered can call the humane society.
Huttes said they are also looking for people who want cats to control mice or other pests on farms. Even if cats are spayed and neutered, they still cannot be adopted as pets, but on farms, they can be useful.
For more information, call the Macon County Animal Control and Care Center at 425-4508.