WASECA — Downtown Waseca had a feral cat problem.
“They’re leaving feces, urinating on property and in the dumpsters,” Police Chief Penny Vought said last week.
Now, they may have a solution.
The Waseca County Animal Humane Society has started working with Camp Companion, a Rochester animal rescue group, to cage the cats, as well as another nonprofit to spay or neuter them.
They first trapping effort was Wednesday night. They caught 10 cats, not as many as they hoped, said Nicki Blowers, president of the Waseca County Animal Humane Society.
One problem may have been that food left out around cages was a bit too filling.
“A giant bowl of roast beef is a lot better than processed can cat food,” she said. The cats were held overnight in the city garage, and had a big day ahead of them Thursday: sterilization and a new home.
The nonprofit that did the sterilizing, the Minnesota Spay Neuter Assistance Program, or MNSNAP, worked on about 40 animals, mostly cats, during its Thursday visit to Waseca.
While the trap-neuter-release strategy is a common method to control wild cats, the Waseca volunteers are doing it one better by finding farm homes for the formerly feral cats.
“You’re not really doing that cat a whole lot of favors” by sterilizing and releasing it, Blowers said.
She said the group had lined up farm homes for 30 to 40 cats.
One of the requirements to get a cat is that it be kept indoors for one or two weeks so it becomes at least partly domesticated again.
Blowers said a domesticated cat will slip into “wild mode” within a few days of living without people — “some will slip almost immediately” — but many can be brought back.
She once adopted a once-snarling cat named Milo (pictured) but she was able to bring him back to normal. He’s now living as an indoor-outdoor cat in rural Waseca.
A nearby shelter, the Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society, has been using MNSNAP for a little more than a year, said Susan Kroon, president of the nonprofit’s board.
She says there are wild cats around because people abandon them when they move. Kroon also calls these left-behind cats “outdoor” or “community” cats.
All this supply has created all the demand they need to keep the MNSNAP van filled during its monthly visits to Mankato.
“It is popular, we’ve had people with farm sites bring in a dozen or more cats in one stop, knocking out all the reproduction on their farm,” she said. “We just love that.”
Those who want to apply for sterilizing will need to do so with MNSNAP, not their local shelter or rescue group. The cost is $25 for the shelters, but more for domesticated cats.
Blowers said Waseca volunteers are going to keep putting out traps, and keep inviting MNSNAP down when there’s enough demand.
They could use donations of money, supplies and homes for formerly wild cats. The Waseca humane society’s phone number is 507-201-7287.
Blowers said the feral cat project isn’t exactly the most glamorous volunteering.
“No, this is more of a community service project on our part ... We don’t want people to hate cats because cats are destroying the property at their business.”