In the early hours each week, Sherry Mililli holds her breath, waiting for a feral cat to walk into her trap.
As the program coordinator for Hall County’s Community Cat Program, Mililli traps feral cats, gets them spayed or neutered, and then releases them back into their original outdoor home.
“It’s emotional and it’s frustrating,”Mililli said. “It’s like going fishing. I call it catfishing. You may catch something, you may not.”
The program was launched in the spring through a partnership between Hall County Animal Services and the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.
Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare group, provided a $25,000 grant for the program. This amount covers the surgery cost of spaying and neutering, which is performed at the Humane Society.
Mililli said the ball didn’t start rolling with the Community Cat Program until May, when she was hired to take on the task.
Since then she has successfully trapped 200 cats, all of which have been spayed and neutered. The feral cats also receive vaccinations and a physical assessment, ensuring that they’re in a healthy condition before their release.
A majority of the kittens in the program are not released back into their original habitats because they have the potential to be socialized and adopted.
Out of the 200 cats that have gone through the program, Mililli said 50 were kittens that have since been re-homed or adopted.
All in all, Mililli believes the Community Cat Program has made a large dent in keeping down the feral cat population in Hall County.
“One breeding feral cat in its lifetime living outdoors can produce approximately 100 cats,” she said. “The number 200 doesn’t sound big, but if you think about the big picture, I think it goes a long way.”
Stephanie List, the Hall County Animal Services’ program coordinator, said in 2018 more than 3,000 cats came through Hall County Animal Shelter’s doors. She predicts by the end of 2019, the number will drop significantly.
Katie Crumley, Hall County Government’s public information officer, said local people, including government officials, have known about the area’s feral cat problem for decades.
It wasn’t until Best Friends released its assessment on the Hall County Animal Shelter that practical positive solutions came to the forefront. The Community Cat Program was among the nonprofit’s recommendations along with a barn cat program.
“The Best Friends assessment that took place at the end of last year, really put to light some best practices that Best Friends had initiated in counties and municipal shelters across the country,” Crumley said.
Mililli is currently the only one who traps and transports the program’s feral cats. She receives all of her tips about feral cat colonies from calls that come into the shelter.
“We need volunteers,” she said. “Targeting specific locations would be a great idea, but we don’t have the manpower for that.”
Mililli said volunteers are needed for trapping the cats, transporting them to the Humane Society and fostering the ones that are adoptable.
“It’s just a great service to the community and it’s a great program to get involved in,” List said. “We put these cats back where they were trapped in a much healthier condition. It is helping Hall County’s community cats.”
To report a feral cat colony or to volunteer with the Community Cat Program, contact Mililli at 678-450-1587 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.