Something that can only be described as fate happened shortly after we picked up and moved our lives from Seattle, WA to Playas del Coco in Costa Rica. After a short period of homesickness, we had the opportunity to work with a new friend to directly impact the high feral cat population in this town. Many people don’t know how to help control the cat population in areas with overpopulation, but it’s actually fairly simple. It mostly comes down to spaying and neutering as many cats as you can. We did that and more, and the work was incredibly fulfilling.
See, in our neighborhood all animals are ubiquitous. Almost all people here have multiple dogs and multiple cats. We brought our own dog from the United States which inspired my post about dog mom responsibilities. The feral cat population is very high, because some people leave out food for them without actually taking care of them otherwise. Our neighbor is one of those people, but she’s not the only one. We have a large yard, so there are always many cats walking through it throughout the day. But any time we would go near one of them, they would always dash away.
Meeting our first kitten.
One day, we came home to find a small kitten hanging out on our porch. This kitten was very friendly. WAY more friendly than any other cat we had seen around here. It came right up to us, rubbed against our legs. We gave it lots of pets. Eventually we went inside and left the cat outside. But we wondered about where the little white kitten was from and why it had been wandering around on our porch.
The next day, as I was walking out to the gate with our dog Lilly to take her for a walk, a woman with 5 dogs was walking by. Lilly was WAY too excited, so I decided to pause at the gate before opening it and walking out. The person stopped, introduced herself and asked quite bluntly, “Do you want a cat?” My mind immediately flashed to the little white kitten, so I asked her what she was talking about.
Turns out another neighbor of ours had moved out a few days before, and left TWO kittens behind. No one to feed them, give them water, or care for them for days. That’s why the white one eventually ventured out to find someone to love him. These WEREN’T wild cats. They were kittens that had a home until their owners abandoned them. We immediately agreed to care for at least one kitten. But it wasn’t long before we really knew it would be both of them.
We had never really thought about rescuing cats or contemplated much about how to help control the cat population before that moment. But it sparked a fire in us to help out as much as we could.
Our new friend even got the kittens fixed for us! They were at our home just a few days later. It all happened so fast, and we had never raised kittens before! But within no time we had the swing of things, and the kittens knew the ropes. We had saved two little kitties from pet abandonment, but that was just when the real story began.
Learning how to help control the cat population.
Our new friend was able to provide live animal traps and food, so that we could catch some of the feral cats that roamed through our yard and get them fixed. This is when we learned how to help control the cat population. We were going to help the feral cat problem from growing into even more of an issue. Our friend was able to secure payment for their surgeries, so all we had to do was set the traps around our yard and notify her whenever we caught one.
For two weeks, it seemed like we caught a new cat every day! Our friend would pick them up, bring them back, and then we would release them. It went on practically constantly for a couple of weeks. Our new kittens hated being stuck in doors while the traps were out. But we were making a big difference. In total, we spayed and neutered 10 cats, and 3 of them were already pregnant.
Eventually most of the cats we were catching were cats we’d already fixed, and the ones we hadn’t fixed knew to stay away from our house and the traps. So the traps have now been moved to another location here in town, where a whole other community of cats can be helped. Consistent fund raising, trap setting, spaying and neutering, and release is the essential formula for how to help control the cat population in any town in any country.
It’s so incredibly rewarding to be able to make such an impact. In the process we made a new friend and helped control the population of feral cats in our neighborhood. We love our new kitties, and the whole experience is something I am so incredibly proud of.