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Cat Care TNR of Southwest Colorado

A non-profit Colorado Corporation

Fixing the cat problem - Durango woman helps stem growth of stray feline population

Durango Herald, The (CO) - Sunday, December 23, 2007

Author:Austin Richardson, Herald Staff Writer

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Trapping pictures

Padgie Kimmick released a caged, jittery cat into the bushes behind a restaurant in Bayfield. The tip of its left ear were newly snipped - identifying that it has undergone another, less visible, change.

A cat trapped by Padgie Kimmick shoots out of its cage behind Steamworks Brewing Co. on Tuesday in Bayfield. Below: A cat Kimmick trapped at Steamworks sits in its cage waiting to be released Tuesday behind the brewery.

For the last four years, Kimmick , with the cooperation and assistance of local non-governmental organizations and veterinarians, has performed something she calls TNR: "Trap-Neuter-Return."

Once caught, the cats are taken to one of several local veterinarians  where the veterinarians give the cats a rabies vaccination, test them for feline leukemia, neuter them and tip their ears.

Everyone from Dancing Willow Herbs to La Plata Electric Association and the Animas-La Plata Project has called on Kimmick to trap wild cats on their property. Between a Sunday night and a Tuesday morning, Kimmick had captured seven.

"I've never had one escape out of a trap," Kimmick said. A few have bitten her, though, so she wears gloves and has her rabies vaccination up-to-date. Kimmick uses traps specifically made for cats, with doors that close quietly and do not spook the animals, and a variety of bait. Kimmick lays down large mats of newspaper beneath the cages and drapes them in blankets to keep the trapped cats warm.

One cat in the alley behind Dancing Willow Herbs eluded her for three years, until she used an ingenious bait. "I had tried sardines, and I had tried really expensive cat food, and it kind of occurred to me that they might like Chicken McNuggets, so I went and bought a Happy Meal,"Kimmick said. With it, she caught the cat and its mother. Heidi Craw, manager at Dancing Willow Herbs, said Kimmick has a "wonderful humane way" of catching the wild felines.

"We still see them, and they seem as healthy as they were before," said Craw. "It's just a comfort to know that there is not going to be a bunch of stray cats taking over the city."

Kimmick estimates she trapped, neutered and returned 250 cats this year, and 450 over the last four. All of the felines Kimmick catches and has fixed are later adopted, often as barn cats and mousers for farmers, which are particularly useful here with the presence of hantavirus, which is carried by mice.

Female cats that are more than 4 months old can reproduce two to three times a year, and their offspring multiply exponentially. Her efforts, Kimmick said, stabilize and eventually lower population numbers, because no new cats move into the colonies. The procedure is advocated by the Humane Society.

When asked if she owned any cats as pets, Kimmick said, "If you ask me, I have four. If you ask my husband, I have seven." She is domesticating and finding homes for the three cats her husband counts. While feral cats cannot become pets, kittens that are 4 to 6 weeks old or younger can be rehabilitated, Kimmick said.