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Monday, February 06, 2023

Hawthorne residents have seen a rise in some furry new neighbors, but residents aren’t happy about it.

The City Commission agreed to partner with Alachua County Animal Services and Operation Catnip of Gainesville on Tuesday after citizens voiced their complaints about property damage done by stray cats.

An educational workshop will be set up for the community to learn about the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, Mayor Matt Surrency said. The workshop will be aimed to inform people how the program works and why it is done.

“We’re going to work with the community and the people that are involved to try and do a big round-up at one time,” Surrency said. “We’re working on it at this time to figure out the best time to work with all of our partners.”

The TNR program provides spay, neuter and vaccinations for free-roaming community cats that do not have owners, said Audrey Garrison, executive director of Operation Catnip. The cats are ear-tipped, which is when 1 centimeter of the tip of their ear is cut off to show that they were spayed or neutered.

Community cats usually stay around because they are being fed and have a food source to come back to, Garrison said. Generally, the cats are brought to the clinic by people who feed the cats where they live or work.

Garrison said the TNR program is a humane way of controlling overpopulation of feral cats instead of euthanizing the cats.

“You can control the population with spay and neuter,” Garrison said. “As a nation, for years, our solution to free-roaming cats was to kill them and that did nothing.”

Surrency said after the educational workshop, the city will be getting traps provided by Operation Catnip and set them all up at the same time. The cats will be taken to Operation Catnip clinics to be spayed or neutered and eventually be returned to where they were captured.

Garrison said Operation Catnip hosts specific clinic days to bring in the cats but that the organization would possibly set up additional days depending on the number of people interested.

“We’re happy to work with the city of Hawthorne, or anybody else that is willing to be proactive in helping to control the population of cats,” Garrison said.

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