Jackson Street Cats

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Helping animals is extremely rewarding, but can be rough and isn’t for everyone, especially those who don’t realize how much heartache is involved. When I first started fostering kittens, I became attached to one of a litter of three. He was the cuddliest and the runt so he was very small and adorable. My heart was broken in half when he died on my watch. I rushed him to the emergency vet, but his liver was failing and they couldn’t do anything to save him. If he had lived, I probably would have adopted him. It took me a few years to recover. I felt like I had let everyone down and that I wasn’t meant to foster kittens.

Fast forward a few years, I’ve started my own TNR (trap/neuter/return) program: the Jackson Street Cat Project. To date, we’ve TNR’ed 25 cats. Neighbors often give me captured kittens, I spay the mother cats, and the program’s volunteers foster the kittens. However, we never take kittens away from their mothers until the appropriate time.

Unfortunately, the kittens often do not make it to their first birthday. Just this spring, two litters were found dead. With so many cats in the area, as well as wildlife, such as opossums, groundhogs, and skunks, there is a good chance that the kittens are in danger. When coupled with disease, parasites, and exposure, it does not look good for kittens. Because of this, I am very thankful that neighbors, especially one in particular, John, catch the kittens so that they can be moved into foster homes.

I estimate that there are around fifty to seventy feral cats lurking around West Jackson Street near York College of PA. Feral cats are the result of intact (not spayed/neutered) companion animals being abandoned or getting lost. These cats, newly on their own, start producing offspring who become wild (feral) cats who have never lived indoors. Like most problems, feral cats roaming the streets are a direct effect of human irresponsibility.

Male cats know when female cats are in heat and stalk them even if the females do not want to get pregnant. This is a huge stressor in cat colonies, starting fights and causing cats to get hurt. The neighbor I mentioned earlier, John, is a resident of Jackson Street and a huge cat lover, being the main caretaker of about fifteen cats. He knows all the cats, when they were born, who their mother was, and what their names are, which he has given them! John is my main helper. He knows the ins and outs of the Jackson Street cat world and the cats trust him.

John has told me many times about when particular females are in heat and the males will not leave them alone. It sounds awful. The life of a feral female cat is not easy. They have a lot on their plate and the last thing they want is to have another litter of kittens. They know how hard it is and how much energy is required. Their bodies, like ours, change and ache.

Intact feral cats do not live as long nor as peacefully as those who get spayed or neutered. Fighting happens more regularly when cats are not fixed. Of course, spayed or neutered cats can still get into fights, but they are not trying to reproduce, which makes it less common.

I started the Jackson Street Cat Project last September after identifying the problem that, in hindsight, had been pretty obvious for quite some time. I’ve lived in the area close to York College most of my life and have been a cat lover since I was little. I noticed many cats parading around Jackson Street about eight years ago when I started taking walks to see some friends who lived nearby. Cats were pretty much everywhere in the alleyways and even in the street. I realized there were too many of them, but I had not heard about TNR yet.

After volunteering at Animal Rescue Inc. for four years and forming a relationship with the founders, I asked about starting the Jackson Street Cat Project. They accepted, but I would have to get funding. I started by making a flier and going around my entire neighborhood placing it in mail slots. I got a few responses, especially from a few of my cat loving neighbors who wanted to help. In a matter of weeks, I also had a couple of donations coming in, both money and supplies like food and litter. I TNR’ed eighteen cats last year with the help of a few friends and neighbors.

The project started up again this year on April 9. I wanted to wait until the weather was decent because I don’t want cats sitting in the traps when it’s freezing out. So far, we caught three kittens and four adults. Three of the four being females who have had multiple litters in the past. This is a great start! I’m thrilled with how it is going and hope that we can make good progress this summer.

My ultimate goal is to TNR all the ferals on West Jackson Street so that they stop reproducing. Less ferals means less cats in shelters. Less cats in shelters means less cats being put down due to lack of space. Working at the rescue I can tell you we get A LOT of calls about cats – there are so many cats that need loving homes but unfortunately millions of healthy, deserving animals are killed due to overpopulation.

To continue this work I need your help. If you can contribute money, wet food, kitten formula, or even adopt a cat from Animal Rescue Inc (or any rescue!), I would very much appreciate it! For more information about TNR please visit https://www.alleycat.org/our-work/trap-neuter-return/
To keep updated with the project visit the project page.

If you wish to contribute, please send cash or check to:
2 Heritage Farm Dr.
New Freedom, PA 17349
Write “Jackson St. Cat Project” in the memo.
Any donation is extremely helpful.

Or donate online:

Jackson Street Cat Donations

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One Comment

Carol Spangler

Thank you for doing this. I live on West King Street and we have had a problem as well. Last year I TNR’d over 10 cats through the SPCA. It is hard because I have become attached to them as well and I’ve taken in a few kittens. You worry when you don’t see them for awhile. A kitten showed up over the winter that I have tried to figure out where it could possibly have come from, but he looks like a few of the others. I too will start again soon to try to stop any more litters of kittens.


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