When Serena Fried noticed feral cats wandering in Wheeling while working as a health inspector several years ago, she took action. She mobilized a group of volunteers and started the Feral Feline Project, a non-profit that traps and spays or neuters the cats before returning them to their colony. Since it’s inception in 2007, the organization has trapped and returned over 550 cats.
The Feral Feline Project has found homes for 50 stray cats and kittens so far this year and they expect to trap and return150-200 feral cats by the end of the year. There is a definite distinction between stray and feral cats. Fried explains the strays are friendly because they were once someone’s pet while feral cats have had little human contact and can’t be domesticated.
“When I first started to tackle the issue check out the options, I found that there were no resources in Northern Cook County in 2007,” said Fried. “I had worked with Lake County’s Stay and Spay in my own neighborhood and liked how the operated used that as my model.”
Her non-profit’s way to battle the population is to trap, spay or neuter, and return the cats to their colony. If cats are not spayed or neutered, the population would explode and if they are euthanized, other cats will take over the colony.
People contact the Feral Feline Project by phone or email and a volunteer will connect to assess the situation before setting the traps, according to Fried. Once the cat or cats are captured, they keep them in a safe climate in the cage for the night before transporting them to Wheeling Animal Hospital to be spayed. The cat or cats are then returned to their colony.
“Our involvement is just beginning after we return the cat or cats,” adds the woman known as Wheeling’s cat lady. “We help them set up a shelter, show them how and when to provide food and water and volunteers will take sick or injured cats to the vet when needed. More information is also on our website of what to do.”
Captured strays are checked out by a vet and treated for fleas and other parasites and receive other needed medical treatment before they are spayed or neutered and put up for adoption. Kittens younger than 10 weeks old are also spayed or neutered and adopted out. Available cats are listed on the Web site and some cats are available daily at Vernon Hill’s PetSmart. Adoption events are also held at several locations in Arlington Heights. Northbrook’s Heartland Animal Shelter occasionally takes in Feral Feline’s cats as well.
Fried adds that the organization is always looking for volunteers to help with the trapping, veterinary trips, monitoring the population, fostering cats and working adoption events. The organization isn’t funded through outside organizations and is always looking for donations and people to hold fundraisers as well. You may donate online, or mail donations to PO Box 1, Wheeling, IL 60090 or call the organization at 847-800-0095.
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