Christina McCullen and her husband, David, got more than they bargained for when they went out for dinner at a fast-food joint in October of 2006. The couple stumbled across a colony of stray and feral cats. These cats, who are either abandoned by owners or strayed from home, now live in the “comfy” setting of a wooded area in the midst of bustling Columbia.
The term “feral” is used for cats that are born into a cat colony and are free from human contact. Stray cats who are free from human contact for three months often stop purring and meowing, whereas feral cats will remain silent for the majority of the time.
“I saw these cats and immediately started throwing chicken nuggets and fries their way,” said Christina McCullen. McCullen volunteers at Columbia Second Chance Animal Shelter and also volunteers with its partner program, Spay Neuter and Protect or SNAP.
It’s mission is to reduce feral cat population through a humane spay and neuter program. Typically the cats are released back into their colony environment, unless they are suitable for adoption.
“If the kittens are caught early enough, they can be raised in foster homes until they are adopted,” McCullen said. The ideal time to catch kittens is between 6 and 8 weeks old. Sometimes taming the kittens at this age only takes a few days.
McCullen, who has names for all the cats, said she loves the cats. Twice a day she brings food and water to the cat colony. Over time, the cats have warmed up to her presence. As soon as she stepped out of the car on Feb. 26, four cats emerged from their wooded refuge and approached her car in the parking lot. One by one the cats sat around McCullen as she cupped out the dry food and emptied tuna packets on the ground.
“If I could take them all home, I would,” McCullen said.
SNAP, which relies heavily on donations, will be hosting a “St. Catty’s Day” fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at at Main Squeeze, 28 S. Ninth St.
For questions or concerns about feral cats in your area, e-mail SNAP at email@example.com. For donations or volunteer information, e-mail Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by Columbia Second Chance at 205 E. Ash St.