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Saturday, Jan. 31 -- Central Oregon is witnessing a rising number of feral cats. The latest estimate for the area shows about 10,600 feral cats in total, many of which cluster in groups.


"They can range from groups of four or five cats to 20 or more," says Board President Gail Jett with the Bend Spay and Neuter Project. "It's a big problem."


This weekend, the Central Oregon Cat Alliance -- made up of Bend Spay & Neuter, the Humane Society of Central Oregon and BrightSide Animal Center -- is holding a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the growing population of homeless cats. That takes place tonight, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the COCC Veterinary Technician Classroom in Redmond.


The alliance is looking to get people involved with volunteering, and is hoping to get more information out to the public. But Jett says it would be a mistake if people think volunteering means giving the feral cats to animal shelters.


"That doesn't solve the problem," Jett says. "When you remove a cat from an area, it creates what we call a vacuum effect. So what we're trying to do is leave these cats where they are. They can live very healthy lives."


The Bend Spay and Neuter Project practices what they call "trap, neuter and return." The organization has people bring the cats in -- after safely trapping them. Then staff sterilizes the cats, gives them a rabies vaccine, looks them over and tips their left ear before returning them to the wild.


One of the reasons for that: the national statistics show that there are roughly six to seven cats and four to five dogs born for every human in the country. That means there aren't enough homes for the cats to be placed in. 


Jett says the Central Oregon population of feral cats can be kept sustainable, but that will only happen with help from the public. Most importantly, she says, be proactive.


"You do not need to let [the cats] have the first litter," Jett says. "One mother cat and her kittens, over a period of seven years -- if no one is altered -- you can give rise to about 420,000 cats."

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