NORFOLK -- A special team working on Naval Station Norfolk predicts it may accomplish a tricky mission in 2018.
Cat Team 7 began trapping a community of feral felines on the base in 2016. Unlike other Navy teams, its mission has been no secret: corral the creatures, spay and neuter them, and send each off to a forever home.
The team partnered with the base, animal rescue volunteers and the Norfolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals to rescue about 60 cats and kittens in its first year, Caitlyn McIntosh, team coordinator, said. The team rescued about 70, including 20 feral cats and about 50 kittens and friendly felines, in 2017, she said.
"We're going to blow it out of the water (in 2018)," McIntosh said.
Department of Defense policy prohibits trapping, neutering and re-releasing the cats to the base. No one seems to know how long the cats have called the base home, Michael H. Jones, director of environmental planning and conservation for the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, told The Virginian-Pilot in 2016.
The cats live along the shoreline not far from the base's aircraft carrier piers and like to visit a running track and area with picnic tables, and some people have fed them despite signs warning not to do so. While they haven't been much of a problem for humans, the cats have been a menace for protected migratory birds.
Cat Team 7 is now run as an initiative of Boots, Eartips & Toebeans, a nonprofit McIntosh established. The team relies on a network of volunteers, including some local veterinarians, who have stepped forward to help foster, transport and care for the animals. Friendly cats and kittens are put up for adoption while feral cats have been popular among area farmers. People have become more conscious about how the crops they eat are grown, and cats can be a more natural and cheaper way to control pests, McIntosh said.
A feral cat can cost around $500 to $1,000 during the course of its lifetime, she said.
"You might be spending that much on pest control in a year," McIntosh said.
McIntosh said the team is collecting fewer kittens this year than last, which she says is a sign that the cats there are struggling for survival. And there have been some repeat adoption customers. A Navy veteran who brought two feral cats to her farm in North Carolina recently acquired four more through the team. Word-of-mouth has helped; another location has asked for 40, McIntosh said.
Cat Team 7 seeks donations of supplies, including pens, carriers, and litter. For more information, contact email@example.com. To view cats available for adoption, visit tinyurl.com/yawqy4s2 or see www.facebook.com/catteam7/.
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