MEDINA, Ohio — They are the protectors and defenders of forgotten felines; volunteers devoted to helping cats abandoned or born in the wild.
How to solve the problem of so-called "community cats" is not without controversy. But the volunteers of Medina Meow Fix believe doing nothing is the greatest injustice of all.
What is Medina Meow Fix? It is a nonprofit organization, assisting communities with population and illness control of feral and abandoned cats using TNR: Trap, neuter and return.
Medina Meow Fix, which serves the Medina County area, celebrated its first anniversary last September.
"1,400 animals and around 700 surgeries, and we've really just started," said Medina Meow Fix Co-Founder Keri Huff, of the impact their trap, neuter and release program has already made.
TNR is designed to address the population and health of so-called "community cats." These are felines who don't have owners and live outdoors. In many cases, these cats are feral. Huff and her team, who are all volunteers, are dedicated to humanely trapping the cats, getting them "fixed" and putting them back where they came from.
However, kittens and cats that are people-friendly, are put up for adoption. Medina Meow Fix works with rescues and the Medina SPCA to help make this happen.
The organization also works to rehabilitate sick and injured cats. One rescue takes those that test positive for feline leukemia.
Medina was the first to support and help fund the program. Others have followed suit.
"Rittman just funded us. Wadsworth city just gave us funding," said Huff.
Community education is also part of their mission, especially when it comes to returning some cats to their colonies.
"A lot of times they don't understand. 'Why are you bringing the cats back?' Well, a lot of the cats, we have no way to domesticate them now that they're considered feral. I order things from Alley Cat Allies. They have the best education and I try to teach people how to live with cats in your neighborhood. Education is very important. We do door hangings. We try to tell them what we're doing in the area and if you find kittens, please don't pick them up. Let them be unless you call us and we're able to get the mother and the kittens.
"We wouldn't have this problem if people didn't abandon animals. So we try to make their lives better by spaying and neutering."
Huff says the numbers of stray cats have jumped since the pandemic. A sad tale heard before of owners who adopted, looking for emotional support during quarantine, only to abandon their pets once they returned to work.
"We can't even keep up," said Julie Pflaum, a Medina Meow Fix volunteer who helps set humane traps for the cats. "And we thought with the cold weather, it would slow down and it hasn't. So we're still playing catch up with the cold weather and we know spring is right around the corner,"
Her concern about spring is valid. That means kittens. And for community cats, it can mean a lot of kittens.
Huff says a female cat can have up to four litters a year. And as early as four months after they are born, those female kittens can start getting pregnant, too.
"So hundreds and hundreds of cats can be produced each year. That is a number that's out of control," said Huff.
Trapping kittens when they are young reduces the future adult feral cat population. And for the dedicated volunteers of Medina Meow Fix, it's just one more way to ensure these cats get the nine lives, they all deserve.
"We do this because we love animals and we want to give back to help," said Huff.
TNR programs are controversial, with animal advocates on both sides of the fence. Supporters, such as the ASPCA, see TNR as a humane and effective way to manager feral cat colonies.
Opponents claim, however, by releasing cats back into the same environment it poses a danger to them and can upset the balance of nature.
Huff says she would like to see tougher penalties for those who abandon their pets.
"For me, it's seeing something and doing something if you see it," Huff says. "And fighting against what people will do to a little six or seven pound animal. We wouldn't have this problem if people didn't abandon animals.
Interested in learning more, or volunteering head HERE.
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous story on Feb. 15, 2023.