VALDOSTA — Two cats can quickly become two million cats if left unchecked.

Julie Greenhaw, the coordinator for the Humane Society's trap, neuter and release program, said two cats, a male and female, can reproduce with alarming speed.

In one year, two becomes 12 cats. In two years, 12 cats turns into 67 cats. Three years, 67 multiplies into 376. 

This process continues year after year, and by the eighth year, those two cats will have grown into 2,072,514.

These numbers are assuming a female cat will only have two litters per year with a kitten survival rate of 2.8 per litter. This is an optimistic estimate as cats in the South can have up to four litters a year with an average of four kittens per litter, Greenhaw said.

There is a solution to the problem, she said, and the Humane Society of Valdosta is making strides to curb the growing cat problem in the city and county. 

They just need more support from the community and its leaders first, she said. The organization also needs funding, which is running out.

"We are nearly out of money," said Emily Smith, Humane Society of Valdosta director. 

In 2017, cats that went into the Lowndes County Animal Shelter had a 26 percent survival rate. 

Now, the survival rate is 85 percent, according to Humane Society numbers.

"We're trying to stop the population from growing," Greenhaw said. "We stop the kitties from being born, so they don't have to be put down."

Smith attributed the massive decline in euthanized cats in Lowndes County to the TNR program and to the more recent success of the Baytree location spay and neuter clinic that began in August 2018.

Smith said the clinic has spayed and neutered 1,224 cats in less than a year. It manages to take in about 140 cats a month for low-cost spay and neuter.

That's 140 cats not killed at the shelter and countless others spared from a similar fate.

Recently, the number of cats going through the clinic has been on the decline due to funding issues.

Smith and Greenhaw agree the decline in spay and neuters at the clinic may mean an increase in euthanized cats at the shelter.

Before the TNR program and the Baytree clinic, feral cats turned into the Lowndes County Animal Shelter were euthanized, Greenhaw said. 

For now, the cats are given to the Humane Society where they are fixed and released back into the community.

"(The shelter is) now relocating and fixing TNR cats, instead of killing them as soon as they walk into the shelter," Greenhaw said.

The process can only last as long as the Humane Society can pay for it since the Lowndes shelter isn't given the resources to address the problem.

The clinic can spay and neuter a cat for $35 a piece, which includes the medicine to put the cat to sleep for surgery, material and veterinarians who alternate Sunday shifts.

Anyone interested in helping the Humane Society can donate to the nonprofit organization, located at 1740 W. Gordon St., Remerton, and can be contacted at (229) 247-3266.

Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256

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