Free-roaming cats in Goshen and surrounding areas are being championed one at a time by Catsnip Etc., a nonprofit organization in Goshen dedicated to reducing the feral cat population through trapping, neutering and returning the cats to the outdoors. The process is known as TNR.

“Our mission is to humanely reduce and stabilize the free-roaming cat population,” said Bonnie Lange of Goshen, the founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit formed in August 2015. “We have a commitment to not turn any cats away. We rely totally on volunteers and donations. There are no paid employees and 100 percent goes toward the care of the cats.”

Lange said the volunteers work with cat colony caretakers to humanely trap the cats to be neutered or spayed and returned to their colony. During their TNR process, the cats are evaluated, vaccinated, ear-tipped and sterilized by a licensed veterinarian. Besides Elkhart County, the nonprofit works with cat colony caretakers in the surrounding counties of Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble and St. Joseph along with the Michigan counties of Cass and St. Joseph.

As part of the TNR management plan, Lange said the left ear of each cat trapped is tipped straight across and that means the cat has a caregiver and also helps protect the cats that have been through the TNR process.

“We provide free trapping and transportation to and from the veterinarian. We have an arrangement with ABC Clinic in South Bend and bring in 15 cats every Monday for TNR. The caregivers or caretakers pay $42 to $45 per cat,” Lange said. “Our biggest need right now is reliable transportation to get our cats back and forth for TNR. We are in desperate need of a vehicle.”

A goal of the nonprofit has been to educate and mentor the public and colony caretakers in the TNR process and provide a network of resources, including veterinarians who provide low cost spay/neuter programs to help reduce and stabilize the feral cat population.

“We call them community cats because most cats have been domesticated that are in a colony now. Cats have been abandoned if someone moves or if a female is pregnant and has kittens, the kittens are cute until they get bigger and become a nuisance, then the whole litter is put out,” Lange said. “If a female cat is in heat or a male cat sprays and marks his territory, people will put them out thinking they can fend for themselves. Cats are considered disposable and if they are put out, people think they can survive on their own. That’s just not true. Cats that are fed from a can inside the comfort of a home don’t know how to hunt. They haven’t been taught. It’s cruel to dispose of a cat because it’s an inconvenience. If you have a cat, you must be responsible enough to take care of your pet.”

Since starting Catsnip Etc., Lange said people ask her what the etcetera stands for and she chuckles.

“To us it’s for all the extras we do — giving food to caretakers who need it, nursing sick cats, including visits to a vet if needed, and I use homeopathy meds on some of them,” Lange said. “Leaving none behind is why we have several cats who need ‘fur ever’ homes and we’ll get inside cats spayed and neutered also. We have our rodent responder program to find the perfect fit for community cats needing a home in a barn or business as well as giving out free shelters with straw. We never turn anyone away. If we can’t help, we’ll find the resources to help. It’s a seven-day week love for me — doing Catsnip Etc.”

For more information on the nonprofit, visit the website at www.catsnipetc.org or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Catsnip-Etc-1468331860123519 or call 574-202-1996.

Follow Sherry on Twitter @svanarsdall_TGN

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