Cat overpopulation is about to paws.

Local nonprofit organization Operation Catnip is aiming to reduce the number of homeless felines with its free spaying and neutering services. Program coordinator Erin Mack said it recently received an anonymous donation that will pay for 100 feral cats to get spayed or neutered.

“It happened randomly, and we just couldn’t believe it,” Mack said. “We’re so happy that someone else cares as much about the cats as we do.”

Mack said springtime is an especially important time to prevent the births of more kittens that would otherwise be homeless. Cats that have been spayed or neutered can be identified by a cropped left ear.

Operation Catnip holds monthly clinics, which provide free spaying, neutering and vaccinations for stray and feral cats. The organization operates out of the Alachua County Humane Society, located at 4205 NW Sixth St., and holds clinics at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, 2015 SW 16th Ave.

“It’s a really great way of reducing the population of stray and feral cats and keeping them out of the shelter, which keeps them from being killed,” Mack said.

Since July 1998, Operation Catnip has helped more than 40,000 cats, she said. It relies on the help of donations and volunteers.

Chris Pereira, a 20-year-old UF public relations senior, has two cats: Bentley, 2, and Princeton James, 10 months. He said seeing the stray cats around Gainesville makes him sad, and he wishes he could give all of them a home.

“I love animals, but I was never really a cat person until I moved away to college,” Pereira said. “Cats aren’t as affectionate as dogs, but they still give me that animal companionship that I otherwise would not have.”

[A version of this story ran on page 3 on 4/16/2014 under the headline "Donor enables 100 cat surgeries"]