Jamie Barnes knew she couldn’t ignore the calico cat she found in the bushes next to the nursing home where she worked nearly two summers ago. Barnes, the marketing director of Life Care Center in North Charleston, already had two cats
of her own at home. She brought some cat food and set it out. That’s when the magic began for the elderly residents. Word soon spread and this neighborhood cat became a daily nature show for people who lived at Life Care Center.
But this nature show soon became a bit of a soap opera, when the calico became pregnant. Jamie would smile as she listened to the residents wonder aloud how many babies the cat would have and just who the baby daddy was. The scoundrel.
Before they knew it, the momma cat delivered eight babies and this nature show that turned into a soap opera, now turned into a parenting program. The residents were constantly intrigued with what “Momma” was doing. But when Barnes saw that Momma had kept one of the kittens, and wasn’t coming back to feed the others, she was urged to call Charleston Animal Society.
The kittens were treated in the Jane & Jerry Kitten Intensive Care Unit at Charleston Animal Society and were eventually adopted. But before Barnes knew it, Momma was pregnant again and delivered three more kittens. “This story is a perfect example of why we see such an overpopulation challenge with cats,” said Charleston Animal Society Senior Director of Animal Services, Pearl Sutton. “We need all the help we can get from the community in trapping neighborhood cats, so we can get them spayed and neutered.”
This time, Barnes wasted no time and took it upon herself to make sure Momma got fixed. She was able to use traps (which are always available to the public) from Charleston Animal Society and had them set out. Lured into the trap by some tasty treats, Momma was quickly caught and taken to Charleston Animal Society where she got spayed. By the next day, Momma was back at Life Care Center so she could nurse her kittens.
As Barnes and residents at Life Care Center learned, trapping cats can be fun, educational and it can help save lives. So far, two more cats have been trapped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated and returned to the nursing home, thanks to Barnes and her co-worker Kathryn Harris. “This whole process is what we call ‘TVAR,’” said Sutton, “and this year alone, Charleston Animal Society is planning to spay or neuter 13,000 animals in our community!” Statistics indicate the effort is paying off—the number of free-roaming cats seen by Charleston Animal Society dropped 11% between 2014 and 2015.
After the cats are spayed or neutered, they are returned to their original location so new cats that aren’t “fixed” won’t move into the territory and start multiplying. Every day when she goes to work, Barnes says the cats come running. The residents’ families have even joined in on the enthusiasm and follow the progress. “The residents absolutely love the cats, asking about them every day,” said Barnes. This is a reality show all of us can cheer for!