By David Knox
Downtown Lynchburg has had a litter problem for years.
Not a trash problem. A cat litter, as in the birth of kittens, problem. These cats aren’t domesticated cats that have gotten loose. They are feral, or wild, cats. You can’t make pets out of them. So they wander the square, become pregnant and give birth to more feral cats.
“For years, Downtown Lynchburg has had a feral cat problem,” local businesswoman Kellie Sandefur said. “Through no fault of their own, these cats have multiplied to the point of overpopulation. With the help from Dogs in Harmony and a few dedicated business people, Operation Ear Tip was born.”
Ear-tipping involves surgically removing a small portion of one of a cat’s ears while the cat is under anesthesia for spay or neuter surgery. The ear-tipping allows someone to see that the cat has been spayed/ neutered and is free of disease. So you don’t have to try to trap the cat again; you can’t approach a feral cat safely.
“It is the universally accepted way to signify that a feral or community cat has been spayed or neutered, which means no new kittens will be born, and that’s a good thing,” Sandefur said.
Dogs in Harmony is a 501(c)(3) shelter and adoption nonprofit organization in Winchester funded and run by Lila Jean Trivisonno. It provides private adoption for homeless and abandoned dogs and puppies, but Trivisonno stepped up to help with the feral cat problem on the square at the request of Sandefur and another local businesswoman, Michelle Stubblefield. The three of them have spearheaded the project.
Tuesday morning, two big tomcats were trapped and were sent to be spayed and neutered. So far, five cats have been caught.
“I don’t just spay and neuter and release,” Trivisonno said. “I do a full health check. We test for all diseases that cats get. We vaccinate, de-worm – we do everything.
“The average cost for a cat is about $95. We do have some donation money in already. This money is not coming to my rescue, and I want to make that clear. This is strictly to solve the problem of the cats on the square. We want to stop the birth of more, we want the ones that are out there to be healthy. That’s our goal.”
The two toms caught Tuesday had never been seen, which means there are many more cats out there than even previously thought.
To help defray the cost of the program, a donation page has been set up on Facebook. Donations are made through PayPal. Donors should be sure to mark the donation on PayPal as Operation Ear Tip.
At the most recent Lynchburg Moore County Chamber of Commerce meeting, she handed out some eartip “tip” jars to help collect money. The donation spots include Jackie’s Gift Gallery, Lynchburg Gifts & More, Velma’s Candy Shop, The Shops of Lynchburg, Sweet Southern Spirits, Barrelhouse BBQ, Lynchburg Harley Davidson, Lynchburg Winery, Diamond Gussett and Prince’s Parlor.
The cats also have their own Facebook page, “Lynchburg Square Cats.” There you’ll find more information and how to assist.
To report a feral cat, call Trivisonna at 401-6414458.
“We are all determined to get all of these babies trapped, spayed/neutered and ear tipped,” Trivisonno said.