By Teri L. Hansen
Recently the McPherson County Humane Society, 201 S. Elm St. in McPherson, has been facing the challenges associated with a high number of cats being turned in.
“Our intakes have been much higher this year than last year,” volunteer Dinah Strange said. “Many of these intakes have been sickly kittens that require extra resources, or surrendered adults who don’t get along with others, which leads to stress issues within our shelter.”
For years the nonprofit has served the McPherson community; supported entirely by donations and volunteers. This no-kill organization, provides food, shelter and medical care to the city’s lost and left behind felines.
“Our mission is to provide shelter and care for the homeless cats of McPherson County,” Strange said. “Our larger goal is to put ourselves out of business because of collective community efforts to spay and neuter and eliminate overpopulation.”
One thing that has changed over the years is that the shelter is just for cats.
“The McPherson County Humane Society is a cat shelter only. In the past we have had a foster network for dogs, but the need for this has decreased and we are able to focus exclusively on cats,” Strange explained.
The building is actually a former church that was converted into a shelter years ago and is home to anywhere between 50 to 80 cats, though as previously discussed, it is getting a little over crowded at the moment.
“I personally feel that the challenges we face are directly related to a prevailing disregard for the value of a cat’s life. In general, pets are treated as a disposable commodity and not always thought of as family members,” Strange said. “So when they become inconvenient due to behavioral or health issues, they are tossed out.”
This isn’t the only challenge the shelter faces. The human society does not receive any type of government funding. It operates solely on the generosity of donors. Some donors give monetary gifts and supplies, while others donate their time and hard work.
“Also, we face the financial challenge of providing a community service that is not subsidized by city or county tax revenue. Most shelters operate out of a municipal budget but we rely on the generosity of donors to keep the doors open,” Strange said. “Lots of people have their own financial troubles and veterinary care is prohibitively expensive for them, so they come to us for help when they find a sick stray cat. Often they are unable to contribute any money toward its care. This situation is all the more frustrating knowing that it likely was preventable, had the appropriate spay/neuter measures been taken in this neighborhood.”
Luckily for the residents of McPherson, the city grants $12,000 each year to be used in the Fix-a-Cat Program. This allows the humane society to issue vouchers in the amount of $47 to residents. The voucher can be used at any local vet clinic to go towards the cost of spaying or neutering of their own cats or even those in the city that don’t have a stable home. Though one thing to look out for is tipped or notched ears. This indicates that the cat has already been fixed.
“Be proactive and help with trap-neuter-return efforts of feral and stray cats in one’s neighborhood. We will loan out traps and pay for the spay/neuter surgeries if people are willing to set traps and transport the cats to and from the vet,” Strange said. “Don’t adopt an animal unless you are prepared to make a lifetime commitment. Don’t adopt an animal that you do not have the time or resources to properly care for. Don’t adopt an animal for the wrong reasons, such as a toddler’s birthday.”
The cost to care for these cats is no small sum. Besides food, shelter and all the other general necessities, there is rarely a way to know for sure if a feline has had the proper vaccinations when it is surrendered. The shelter spends approximately $150 on each cat that receives care. This includes:
Flea treatment $12-15
Feline leukemia testing $27
Feline distemper $9 (2 boosters)
Feline leukemia $24 (2 boosters)
Spay: $80 / Neuter: $30
“Those are our base costs. If a cat has internal parasites, an upper respiratory infection or ringworm, we are looking at fecal and/or blood testing, and additional medications. Some older kitties need dental procedures done as well, which can be upwards of $250,” Strange explained.
This being said, there is a $50 fee associated with surrendering a cat to the shelter. Often times, if it is not a time-sensitive situation, the humane society asks that people attempt to locate a home for the animal themselves, through social media or other online resources dedicated to rehoming animals. They will also assist in that effort free of charge.
“If you have the time and space in your home, consider fostering cats or kittens who are in need. It is temporary. A home is a much healthier place for kittens than a crowded shelter, and the benefit of extra socialization with kids and other pets is immeasurable,” Strange said. “I cannot guarantee you won’t fall in love and want to keep them, but the more you foster, the easier it is to accept that they will eventually go to another loving home that is just as good as yours. If anyone is interested in fostering I encourage them to email us or message us on facebook. We do not have a formal foster application at this time.”
Another thing residents can do to help is of course, adopt a cat. While not all cats are free, the small $75 fee is a good deal considering the cost to the shelter for the medical needs of the animal. However, there are some programs that offer the felines free-of-charge.
“We have a Golden Hearts program. Some of our cats who have been with us for several years are more shy and reserved and will require a quiet home with a patient family. We do not charge an adoption fee for the GH cats because we know they will need some extra love in order to facilitate a successful adoption,” Strange said. “We have a working cat program. If a person is in need of cats for their farm or warehouse, we will help source some cats who are too wild to be adopted, get them fixed and bring them to the place where they are needed. We require that they have safe shelter and food in their new home, and are kept confined long enough to become used to the area and not run off. We do not charge for working cats, but donations are always appreciated.”
The McPherson County Humane Society is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. and Sunday 4 to 7 p.m. It is requested that anyone under the age of 16, have a parent or guardian present during their visit.
“There are a handful of dedicated volunteers who dedicate much of their time to the humane society,” Strange said. “We employ a shelter director and four part-time employees who are vital to keep our facility clean and ensure the health of our residents, transport cats to and from the vet and process adoption applications. They do not get paid enough for the value they are providing.”
While their hard work does not go unnoticed, the shelter needs volunteers and donations to keep up with the high demand. To volunteer or donate visit http://www.mcphersonhumanesociety.com.
The humane society has seen its fair share of challenges over the years and persevered. It is due to the help of the residents of McPherson.
“I know that there are many responsible pet owners out there who are facing cat issues and finding solutions without ever contacting us,” Strange said. “There are also many community members who donate to help us out. We are incredibly grateful for both.”