About 10 years ago, Barbara Seaman and Cindy Hudson noticed several colonies of stray cats in the Wiregrass area.
Being cat lovers, the two started feeding the cats when they were able to.
“We knew that feeding them wouldn’t solve the problem, they needed to be fixed,” Seaman said. “So we approached a lot of veterinarians in the Dothan area and asked them if they could give us a discount on the price of spay and neutering procedures. Only one said yes.”
This was the beginning of Felines Under Rescue (FUR), an organization dedicated to fighting the overpopulation of stray cats by helping provide spaying and neutering services.
FUR is a trap, neuter and return (TNR) organization that uses humane cage traps to capture feral cats, spays or neuters them and then releases them back to the same location where they were collected.
“We receive calls from people who are feeding several stray cats behind their businesses or homes,” Seaman said. “A lot of people don’t mind putting food out for a colony of cats as long as they don’t keep having kittens.”
Seaman said TNR is an effective and humane way to lower the feral cat population.
Suzi McCall has been feeding five colonies of feral cats in Enterprise for years.
Since she began working with FUR, she has seen a drastic reduction in the number of feral cats in those colonies.
“When I first started feeding, I would see colonies with four to five cats multiply to up to 32 cats living together,” McCall said. “Then a fellow rescuer told me about FUR, and I began trapping the cats to get them spayed and neutered.”
McCall said some of the colonies that used to have 30 or more cats are now down to as few as seven.
McCall traps and feeds cats in Enterprise, Daleville and Fort Rucker, and each cat that has been fixed is marked to let animal control officers know the animal is being cared for.
“I feed the cats every day, and it takes me about two hours after work,” she said. “A lot of people assume that cats can live just fine on their own, but the average lifespan of a feral cat is only a year and half.”
McCall said the cats she’s taking care of are healthy and well-fed, and she added some of them have lived up to eight years under her care.
In addition to feeding and fixing, McCall works to humanize the cats she can in hopes of finding them homes.
“If a feral cat hasn’t been fixed and has babies, I will take them home, bottle feed them and work on finding them homes,” she said.
In 2007, FUR took their operation a step further and also began assisting low-income pet owners with the fees associated with spaying and neutering their own pets.
“A lot of people let their pet cats have litters and then throw them away or dump them out somewhere,” Seaman said. “We decided (FUR) could try to pay a portion of the vet bill if the pet owners could pay the rest.”
For the last few years FUR has used a non-profit spay and neuter clinic in Dothan.
However, that facility and three others like it in the state have recently been in danger of being closed by the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
“They’re trying to close down the non-profit spay and neuter clinics for no other reason than to save some of their business,” Seaman said.
Joy Baird, of the North Alabama Spay Neuter clinic in Huntsville, said the state’s four nonprofit clinics have performed more than 100,000 surgeries since they first opened.
The Humane Society of the United States says the average taxpayers’ cost is $200 per animal that is housed and humanely euthanized at an animal shelter.
The average cost per spay/neuter for residents using FUR is between $40-$55.
Using the clinic in Dothan, FUR was able to pay for or assist in paying for 1,240 spay/ neuter operations for cats and dogs in the Wiregrass.
“Alabama is awful with over population of unwanted cats and dogs,” Seaman said. “We raise about $30,000 a year and spend probably $33,000 a year that goes directly to the vets.”
Seaman said the cost of traps, food and supplies come from the pockets of FUR volunteers.
“This is a nationwide concept, and there are a lot of communities that embrace this idea,” she said. “A lot of people see a stray and they think it’s a wild cat, but they will not hurt you. They’ll actually run from you. All they want is food.”
Seaman said FUR doesn’t have a shelter and does not take in strays or unwanted pets.
Donations to FUR can be mailed to P.O. Box 1788, Dothan, AL 36302.
For more information, look for the Felines Under Rescue page on Facebook.