Reducing population of unwanted cats is goal of feral feline friends

See why this East Portland neighbor works to reduce the number of wild cats roaming Inner SE Portland‚ and learn about the May 12 “Fur Ball” right here‚

Christy Lee, a certified veterinary assistant, puts a feral kitty cat under anesthesia before it is spayed, at the free Feral Cat Coalition clinic.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
On this Saturday morning, it’s raining (pardon the expression) cats and dogs, as we seek out the confidential location of the spay/neuter clinic operated by the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon.

We’ve written about this unique organization in the past. People who feed stray cats voluntarily participate in this trap-neuter-return program.

Secret clinic locations
We locate the one-day clinic hidden away in an industrial district of Portland, and meet a volunteer coordinator for the program, Carma Crimins, a Woodstock neighborhood resident.

“The goal of the program,” Crimins begins, “is to reduce suffering for existing feral cats, and prevent births and suffering of future generations.”

She leads us in to where the organization’s 24-foot mobile hospital is parked. We learn it is designed specifically for spaying/neutering feral cats, has three separate rooms: A surgery suite with room for three veterinarians to operate simultaneously; a prep area, complete with sink and autoclave; and also an anesthesia room.

One Sunday a month, the mobile hospital operates in Portland. Other weekends, it travels to other communities that sponsor their program.

“The reason we keep the location secret,” explains Crimins, is that we don’t operate a ‘drop-in’ program. We only want to deal with individuals who demonstrate a commitment to do what we request.”

What they don’t want, Crimins added, is for people dropping off cats at the clinic, thinking that, somehow, someone will find the stray cat a good home. “This isn’t an adoption service.”

To trap a cat
The program’s services are specifically for feral cats being fed by caregivers. The caregivers trap the cats, bring them to a clinic, and return the cats to where they are being fed with a commitment to keep feeding the cat on a permanent basis.

“Typically, the cats we see here haven’t ever been touched by humans; and they never will,” clarifies Crimins. “We lend humane, ‘live traps’ to the caregiver, and show how to use them. These traps are simple, and don’t harm either the cats or the people.”

On this day, 96 cats will be seen‚ each of them from the Inner SE Portland area. “In Woodstock, and further east, is an area rich in feral cats,” Crimins tells us. “And, there are a lot of good-hearted people who care for them enough to bring them‚ and take them home again.”

Performing a spay operation in their mobile surgical unit is Marla McGeorge DVM.

In the cat M.A.S.H.
We have about 30 volunteers operating the day-long clinic, in addition to the four vets and four vet technicians. Caregivers bring in the cats inside cages or traps. A blanket is put over the cage to keep the cat warm and reduce anxiety, we’re told.

Then, one by one, they’re taken into a feline version of a Mobile Army Surgical Unit. The mobile hospital gleams of stainless steel and smells antiseptic.

After being anesthetized, the cats are checked over, are spayed or neutered, and receive distemper and rabies shots.

As they sleep, get the full feline “day spa treatment”. They’re flea-combed and sprayed, treated for ear mites and other minor medical conditions, and each has his or her right ear tipped for future identification. Cats that appear to be suffering, as determined by a veterinarian, are tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus; all which test positive are euthanized.

Volunteer coordinator Carma Crimins watches as Suzanne Tate helps a spayed kitty recover from her operation.

In the “recovery room”, we see a dozen volunteers, stroking, warming, and watching over cats as they wake up.

As she caresses a drowsy kitty, Crimins tells us she’s been involved with the coalition for five years. “Over the years, I’ve brought in hundreds of cats. Now, I started help other people get their cats in to the clinic.”

No more unwanted cats
Crimins says she’d like to live in a world in which every cat is wanted. “What we’re doing today will eliminate the suffering of hundreds of kittens this year, and prevent thousands of unwanted and homeless kittens down the road.”

No other programs in Portland provide this service, Crimins says. It’s supported by volunteers and donations. “When you donate to the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon, 92 cents of every dollar goes to fulfilling our mission of spaying/neutering, and community education.”

Ninth Annual Furball May 12
One way you can support the organization is by attending their annual “Furball”. This year, it’s on May 12 at the World Forestry Center. This year’s theme is “Night on the Nile”. To donate to the event, to volunteer, or for more information, contact Karen Kraus at

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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