The mission of Cacapon TNR (Trap Neuter Release) is to reduce the community feral cat population in Hampshire County, WV through the humane trapping of stray cats, spaying/neutering/vaccinating, and then returning them to their home (TNR). Their efforts not only help reduce the cat population but also improve the health and well-being of the cats.
“Kindhearted people start feeding a stray cat and that stray becomes 30 cats in just a few years. Breeding cats are prone to illnesses, birth defects, and diseases, which cause great suffering for the cats and a heartbreaking and unmanageable burden for the people trying to care from them,” says Loree O’Hagan, the organization’s director.
With the help of a $1,000 Hampshire County Community Impact Grant, Cacapon TNR was able to help 6 caretakers trap-neuter-return 16 community cats. All of the cats received the standard treatment package which includes spay/neuter surgery, rabies vaccine, FVRCP vaccine, ear-tip, and a dose of Revolution to treat fleas, ticks, ear mites, and some intestinal worms. Five of the cats needed additional treatments, which included a dental cleaning/tooth extractions, various antibiotics, and tapeworm medication.
While the work they do is extremely rewarding, O’Hagan admits that it can be challenging.
“Cacapon TNR is a series of unforeseen circumstances and challenges,” she says. “The biggest challenge is working with community cat caretakers. Trapping cats that cannot be handled requires hunger. Cats have a natural fear of anything new in their environment, like a trap. Their hunger needs to be great enough to overcome their fear of the trap. This requires their feeders to withhold food for a least the meal before the planned trapping. It is often very hard to get caretakers to agree to this. Many times, we have arrived to trap only to find that the cats have been fed within the past 12 hours. Any efforts to trap are usually unproductive. We often wait for hours for cats to go in traps that won’t because they aren’t hungry enough.”
O’Hagan says being a trapper often involves acting as a social worker or a therapist. “We have to listen to the feeder’s concern, respectfully and gently encourage them to participate in the process because the health of their cats depends on their cooperation. We can usually convince them of this. Every once in a while, however, there is a caretaker who just can’t get on board and we have to, unfortunately, walk away,” she says.
While they do experience some setbacks, they also have many success stories. O’Hagan shared one of them.
“A resident of Hampshire County had an exploding cat population living next door. Many of the cats migrated to her house looking for food and shelter. She recognized the writing on the wall and knew that her property would be just as over-run as her neighbor’s if she didn’t do something. She reached out to a rescue friend from Baltimore who found Cacapon TNR. We are routinely overwhelmed with requests for help, so we weren’t going to be able to help her for at least 9 months. We told her that if she was able to do the trapping and transporting to the TNR clinic, and if her network of contacts could help fundraise, we would support her in any way we could. Even with 4 kids ranging from 5 to 13, she took on the challenge. Since January 2023, she has trapped nearly all of the cats on her property AND her neighbor’s property. She took on additional care tasks including the administration of any medications needed and providing food to the neighbor’s cats when needed. She has TNRed fifty-four cats, with only 2 (very difficult cats) to go. The grant we received from HCCF allowed us to help her with 8 of those cats.”
According to O’Hagan, the resident had this to say about Cacapon TNR and Trap-Neuter-Return in general: “When we bought our house 3 years ago, I couldn’t imagine the stress of having a colony next door breeding out of control. The suffering of kittens born without eyes, succumbing to fleas and upper respiratory infections, is too much to take. The diseases being passed back and forth between the adults, the wounds from fighting, the failing bodies of the mothers in a constant state of pregnancy or nursing is heartbreaking to witness. Now that almost a year has passed, it is miraculous how much their health has improved just by being spayed, neutered, and vaccinated! These cats are living their best lives! Although I did much of the work myself, I could not have done all of this without the help of Cacapon TNR. All of their volunteers have been so helpful and supportive. They took over housing and transporting the cats back in March when my other support system fell through. They fundraised to cover the majority of the costs to TNR and treat my neighborhood colony. And they’ll still be there to help with my last two cats. I’m grateful for what CTNR has done for me and my community!”