URBANA — Hundreds of feral cats that live outdoors and fend for themselves are going to be treated to veterinary care this fall, courtesy of the University of Illinois' shelter medicine program.
The program is using a grant from Best Friends Animal Society to cover costs to vaccinate, microchip and spay or neuter 500 feral cats, with the first 150 cats scheduled for today mostly coming from area shelters and animal-control programs.
This vet care isn't being given to make these cats more attractive adoption candidates, said Dr. Loukia Agapis, head of the UI College of Veterinary Medicine's shelter medicine program.
It's important to get unowned feral cats back to their own outdoor communities, because they typically haven't been socialized with people and would likely find it very stressful to be confined to homes as pets, Agapis said.
Sterilization procedures are being done to keep the population of feral cats under control, she said.
While cats that have grown up in the wild may be better suited to remain in the wild, Agapis said, having to fend for themselves isn't an easy life.
Microchipping the cats will help get them returned to their own outdoor families when they're found.
"Outdoor cats kind of group themselves together in an outdoor community," Agapis said. "They kind of have their own little territories."
Cats being brought in for treatment are also getting some vaccinations to prevent rabies and some common serious cat diseases, she said.
Appointments are being taken for the next two community cat sessions set for Oct. 20 and Nov. 3, Agapis said.
The UI is requesting anyone planning to bring in feral cats for these services to call ahead so veterinarians and vet students are prepared with enough supplies.
People can bring in feral cats they find in their neighborhoods for these services, as long as the cats are transported in carriers or traps, can recover in the carriers and are returned to where they were found.
For more information, call 217-778-7387.