NCSU Vet students help reduce county’s feral cat population

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Students from North Carolina State University’s Veterinary program are in Washington this week to assist the Humane Society of Beaufort County to spay or neuter about 75 feral or stray cats. A partnership between the veterinary program and humane society was created so that students not only gain valuable experience, but they also help reduce the feral cat population in Beaufort County. 

In previous years, the partnership would spay or neuter about 100 cats twice a year. Noticing a great need, the Humane Society of Beaufort County began offering the community a $25 voucher to have a cat either spayed or neutered.  Dr. Marty Poffenberger of Pamlico Animal Hospital said the community has been more involved in helping feral or stray cats be spayed or neutered since vouchers have been offered. Poffenberger is also the president of the Humane Society of Beaufort County. 

She estimates about 2,000 feral cats have either been spayed or neutered.  “Honestly, it’s only the tip of the iceberg,” said, adding that there are thousands of feral cats in Beaufort County. “We’ll find another area where there’s 40 cats and 30 cats there.” 

The cats are brought into a mobile clinic where 14 students completed the operations under supervision of their professors. Students also gave the cats vaccinations and ear-tipped them. When a cat is ear-tipped, a small portion of their ear is surgically removed while they are under anesthesia. This signifies the cat has either been spayed or neutered. 

Poffenberger said the partnership works because it gives “excellent experience for the students. It’s a good reflection on our area, on Washington.” 

The partnership continues to exist with help from local cat rescue groups that help trap feral cats, one of them being Paws and Love operated by Audra Grisham. She started the rescue organization in 2015. 

The partnership helps to fulfill Paws and Love’s mission to “prevent unwanted litters from being born which then fills up the animal shelter,” Grisham shared.  

“We want to try to get to the root of the problem and help out the shelter as well,” she said. 

Grisham estimates she has rescued 1,500 cats in the last seven years. When the cats are spayed or neutered they are either returned to a feral community, or if they are sociable enough, they are transported to animal rescues in New Hampshire. Paws and Love does not handle adoptions because they focus on prevention. 

“The wonderful thing about the transport is, up north there’s lots of snow in the winter. They don’t have as many feral colonies because the cats can’t survive it so down here we have lots of feral colonies and cats who need forever families. Up there, they need cats so it’s a good connection,” Mary Ruth Coleman said. Coleman is the secretary for Paws and Love’s board.

The Humane Society relies on donations from the community to fund the partnership.