Cats are perfect baby makers. Each female cat can have four litters a year, and produce between three and five kittens each cycle. That’s a lot of stray cats. It’s hard calculating the exact number of strays in the United States.
Stray dogs are much more noticeable than stray cats because cats are better able to hide from sight. Still, many are visible. So visible that it deeply bothered Karn Myers and Mark Dodge, the husband and wife team behind FixNation, a nonprofit with the ambitious goal of ending the stray cat population in Los Angeles.
“FixNation’s primary mission is to reduce the population of homeless cats by sterilizing as many as possible,” says Mark. “In addition, by consistently demonstrating the effectiveness of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), we seek to bring about changes in public policy so that TNR becomes the officially sanctioned and government-funded approach to homeless cat management. Lastly, we support and promote all humane initiatives and education to bring about the day of no more homeless cats in Los Angeles.”
Catnippers and Best Friends
Before starting FixNation, Mark and Karn started Best Friends Catnippers in 1999, a non-profit organization operating under the wing of Best Friends Animal Society. Catnippers conducts bi-monthly high volume spay/neuter clinics offering free sterilization services for homeless, feral, and stray cats. They host these clinics one Sunday every other month. Staffed purely by volunteers including volunteer vets and vet techs, Catnippers has been responsible for fixing nearly 700 homeless cats last year.
With the success of Catnippers, Mark and Karn felt that with a permanent, full-time facility, many more cats throughout Los Angeles could be helped. So in 2006, they secured additional funding from PetSmart Charities, Found Animals Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, the Angela Collier Foundation, and several private donors in order to launch FixNation.
FixNation’s TNR program became official in mid 2007. FixNation operates Monday through Friday. Mark and Karn estimate that there are more than one million stray cats in Los Angeles County.
From the Start
Mark and Karn have been together for more than 30 years.”I’ve had cats since we’ve been together,” says Karn. “I used to work building movie sets. While I was working on the film Titanic, I would see ladies outside the set feeding these stray cats. When I got home, I told Mark about them. Having cats, our natural inclination was to scoop them up and take them home, but there were about 15 of them ranging in age from kittens to older adults. Plus, they weren’t socialized.”
“The best way to approach the feral cat population is to spay and neuter them,” says Mark. “That’s why we launched TNR, and we use the word Return, not release because Return implies someone has taken it upon themselves to have ongoing responsibility. Release is abandonment.”
FixNation hosts workshops that teach volunteers TNR and how to maintain a feral cat colony. Thanks to their work, FixNation and Catnippers, together have fixed more than 40,000 cats. The work at FixNation is done by paid staff and veterinarians thanks to grants and fundraising efforts. FixNation’s spay and neutering services are quite affordable; they charge $40 to fix a male cat and $55 for a female cat.
Running a spay and neutering clinic, hosting workshops on TNR and maintaining feral cat colonies, and educating the public about the stray cat population, costs money. So Mark, who works as a lawyer, and Karn, who runs the clinic at FixNation and Catnippers, are always looking for funding sources.
A Generous Offer
If you want to set up a similar program, you can contact FixNation. Mark and Karn are willing to share tips and information on how to start your own TNR feral cat program.
Other TNR Programs
Best Friends Animal Society’s Focus on Felines
If you know about a reliable TNR program in your area, please post it in the comments section of this post.