Saturday, February 01, 2020

Community Cats of Leesburg Florida

I moved into a senior park in Leesburg Florida, Lakes at Leesburg, in December 2015. Soon I began to notice a gray and white cat and then a black cat. I believe the gray and white cat was a male and the daddy cat to several kittens. I would see him over at the central part of the senior park and see him coming through my carport and across our street. The black cat was a female from what I could tell and I believe she had more than one litter. She seemed to follow the path of the gray and white male cat. On May 24, 2016 I snapped her photo as she came through the side of my back yard.

gray and white male community cat

black female community cat may 24 2016

I moved to the senior park from Jacksonville, Florida to seek a quieter life and figure out my retirement. I thought a senior park would be the answer. I quickly learned it was NOT the answer for me ... it was obvious to me I should look elsewhere. However, by the time I came to the realization I needed to move, the community cats had become an issue. I could NOT leave this park and not try to help all the community cats.

In March 2019, I quietly began to trap-neuter-return the community cats which came through my carport. I didn't need to go elsewhere in the senior park, THEY WERE COMING TO ME. I believe they knew that I was a trusted caregiver. Back up in Jacksonville, when I was living in Deercreek Country Club, my husband and I worked to TNR a few dozen cats. In Jacksonville, we were blessed to have First Coast No More Homeless Pets FCNMHP, founded by Rick DuCharme. We had one litter of 5 kittens that we fostered and socialized and had adopted out. When we divorced, I ultimately ended up in my own house in Mandarin, Florida.

By myself, I continued the TNR in my new home. There were two older adult tom cats, a black one and a orange tabby, that were neutered and returned. And, then there was a white calico pregnant cat who had 6 kittens. I found those kittens in the neighbor's bushes and rescued them. I watched throughout the morning and into the afternoon for the mommy cat. Soon she came into my backyard and I coaxed her into my Florida Room. And, so began the fostering and socialization of 6 kittens with the mommy cat. That is another story for another time.

white mommy cat with her six kittens

So, it is March 2019 here in my senior park and looking out my kitchen window I see the black and white cat -- what a cutie!!! -- and she has a full belly. It wasn't obvious whether she was indeed pregnant or if she had worms. I began my research for Lake County, Florida to see what TNR resources were available to TNR community cats. I first reached out to the Humane Society in Umatilla ... crickets! Nobody got back to me. It was searching around Facebook that I learned about LEASH and how they work with the Lake County Animal Shelter with their Caturday program. That's the route I took.

I picked up a LEASH trap from Karen, a director of LEASH. I put the purple trap in my carport and waited to see how long before the black and white cat would be trapped. Watching her, she was very cautious around the trap. I finally had to put bumble bee tuna in a path into the trap so that she would go completely in ... which she did. Karen penned the name of Mystic Elsie for her since I was calling her "little cutie." Little cutie = L.C. = Elsie! Mys. Elsie.

Mystic Elsie the welcoming Community Cat of Lakes at Leesburg
Mystic Elsie the welcoming Community Cat of Lakes at Leesburg
Throughout 2019, I worked at the trap-neuter-return of eight different cats. All of these cats were trapped as they came through my carport. Working to do the TNR, with the help of LEASH and the Lake County Animal Shelter, I kept thinking I need help in this senior park. In late January 2020, I trapped a black male cat. He was a very big boy and very pungent with his urine smell. That made NINE COMMUNITY CATS TNR'D by me.

Hold the phone!! TEN COMMUNITY CATS TNR'D by me with a 12 pound male tabby on February 11, 2020!

UPDATE!!! A dozen -- that's TWELVE COMMUNITY CATS TNR'D by me with a pair of 8 month old brothers on June 3, 2020. I first saw the pair, which I named Inky and Dinky, in late 2019 as they emerged from under the house behind me. Inky is a tuxedo, black with white bib, belly and paws. Dinky is a gray/brown tabby also with white markings of bib, belly and paws. Dinky was the exception with the ear tipping in that his right ear, rather than left, was tipped! Inky and Dinky were slated to be neutered months before June, but the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic put everything on hold.



#1 - A030402 - Mystic Elsie - white and black female 2 years; #2 - A033139 - Donald Trump aka Big Orange - orange tabby male 12 years; #3 - A034628 - Rudy Giuliani - black male 6 mos.; #4 - A034810 - Tabitha - gray tabby female 2 years; #5 - A034811 - black female 2 years; #6 - A034809 - black female 2 years; #7 - A035139 - black female 2 years; #8 - A035500 - Baby Yoda - dark gray male tabby with white paws/markings - 4 mos.; #9 - A036168 - Louie - black male - 1 year. #10 - A036346 - Monsignor Fancy Pants - brown with gray male tabby - 12 pounds, 2 years. #11 - A037531 - Inky - black with white tuxedo male - 8 mos; #12 - A037532 - Dinky - gray with white markings tabby male - 8 mos.

Each of these twelve community cats were trapped with a LEASH trap and attended to by a veterinarian at the Lake County Animal Shelter through the Caturday program. Three of the cats were a part of the last Saturday in October 2019 Caturday. The other nine were individually taken on either a Tuesday afternoon or early Wednesday morning to the Animal Shelter for TNR. In total, there were 7 males and 5 females; of those twelve community cats, six were black cats of which 3 were males and 3 were females.

Mystic Elsie Community Cat - Lake County Animal Shelter Caturday
Mystic Elsie Community Cat - Lake County Animal Shelter Caturday
Each of the twelve community cats that went through the Caturday TNR, received FVRCP and Rabies vaccines and paperwork like the example for Mystic Elsie, the first TNR community cat. Each of the twelve receive a rabies vaccination certificate like the one for the November 13, 2019 TNR cat.

rabies vaccination certificate for community cat

In January 2020, I learned that I was not the only Lakes at Leesburg resident quietly doing TNR with our community cats! Thank God, I say!!! A number of other community cats have benefited from  caring senior residents stepping up to do trap-neuter-return.

Lake County Spay/Neuter Rebate Program Form
Lake County Spay/Neuter Rebate Program Form
The Lake County Animal Shelter, a no kill facility, performs TNR through the Operation Community Caturday program, working with LEASH. Misfits in Mt. Dora is another resource for TNR where you can take your community cat and use the spay/neuter rebate program form.

Do YOU live in Lakes at Leesburg? You too can be a part of the humane solution to the number of community cats. Complaining, poisoning, killing, relocating is NOT the answer. TNR is the answer.

TNR Resources in Lake County

LEASH - "an independent non-profit organization, to work in conjunction with the Lake County Animal Shelter, other local shelters."

Misfit Clinic - "a non-profit, low cost spay/neuter clinic."

Lake County Florida Office of Animal Services - "The Lake County Office of Animal Services provides for public safety and animal welfare."

Lake County Animal Shelter Operation Caturday - "Operation Community Caturday, a partnership between the shelter and LEASH, Inc., will seek to sterilize up to 600 free-roaming cats per year."

Lake County Florida Animal Shelter Facebook Page - "The Lake County Animal Shelter was designated as a no-kill shelter in 2017."

Lake County Spay/Neuter Rebate Program - "The program allows full-time residents to bring their pet to their licensed veterinary practitioner to receive the procedure, then complete an application that provides up to a $50 rebate to the pet owner."

An Overview of Caring for Free-Roaming Cats - The Humane Society of the United States has put together this very helpful guide. It is a wonderful resource for educating the public on the many aspects of dealing with free-roaming cats and TNR. Please take time to read this!

Advancing the TNR Movement - You can find more helpful resources to assist you once you've embraced TNR and want to be an advocate getting out the humane word about it all.

I hear people remarking that these outside cats should be on leashes like dogs. That is a myth! Alley Cat Allies has penned a very informational page to answer the question why cats should not be kept on leashes.

Mahatma Gandhi really penned what this is all about. "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."