Caitlyn McIntosh, Coordinator, Cat Team 7 and Rob Blizard, Executive Director, Norfolk SPCA

A group of determined animal rescue volunteers in Hampton Roads is reaching out to Old Dominion residents with farms or stables to see if they might be interested in adopting relocated outdoor cats who would live outside on their property. These cats currently live unowned outside; some are feral and some are abandoned socialized pets. But all will be spayed/neutered and given a rabies vaccine prior to relocation.

This would be a wonderful way to help some cats have a better life as well as to obtain rodent control assistance. The felines would also potentially serve as companions for livestock.

We hope you will take a moment to read on and seriously consider this opportunity. Have a brewery, distillery, vineyard, nursery or warehouse? You may benefit from a working cat too!

Like every community in America, Norfolk struggles with the many unowned cats living on our streets. While trap-neuter-return (TNR) is generally considered the best method for responding to large numbers of outdoor cats, we are in need of implementing trap-neuter-relocate (rather than return) instead for some.

You may ask what the difference is. TNR constitutes humane trapping of the cat, providing spay/neuter and a rabies vaccine, and then returning the cat to his or her outdoor home. Trap-neuter-relocate is similar, but with one simple and important twist. Instead of the cat being returned to a current outdoor home, the cat is relocated to another outdoor place to live where a caretaker like you will provide food, water, shelter, veterinary care and loving oversight.

In our case, trap-neuter-relocate must be implemented because the cats we are trying to save now live on military properties in Hampton Roads, including the largest naval station in the world: Naval Station Norfolk. Military policy states that no stray animals are allowed to inhabit military property. As a result, TNR is strictly prohibited.

Fortunately, we have received permission from Naval Station Norfolk leadership this spring to test a program through which cats can be trapped on the base, sterilized, given a rabies vaccine and then relocated elsewhere via trap-neuter-relocate.

And that’s where you come in.

We want Virginians who have farms, barns, stables and similar facilities to give an outdoor home to a working cat (or cats) as a way of helping these feline friends now eking out a life at Hampton Roads

military installations. You would be putting a stop to a vicious cycle of overlooking their needs and of allowing reproduction to continue.

And, to your benefit, you would be gaining a hard-working barn cat.

You would work with a group of committed volunteers who will handle the trapping, take care of the surgeries and then transport the cat(s) to your property with needed equipment to ensure a successful relocation. Currently, the Norfolk SPCA offers free spay/neuter, vaccines and other limited medical basics for Norfolk outdoor cats through a generous PetSmart Charities grant. Once grant funds are exhausted in 2016, the sterilization surgeries will cost only $40 per cat.

The process of relocation takes time. It will require two to four weeks of caring for the cat indoors in a cage or pen at the barn, stable or other location.

During this period, you will need to provide food and water, as well as to try and develop a rapport with the cat, such that he or she will associate you with the food and water. Feral cat relocation does not always meet with success, since some cats, despite caretakers’ best efforts, will seek out another outdoor home.

The group of volunteers—the majority of whom are current or former military or are spouses of troops—have named themselves “Cat Team 7.” Their name and logo pay homage to the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six as well as the joint cooperation between the Navy and local cat rescue teams.

We are appealing to anyone who can help these cats or will pass this information to others. The hope of all those involved is to significantly reduce the number of unowned cats on local military property.

If you or anyone you know may be interested, please contact us for more details. We are happy to answer any questions and discuss what this commitment would mean to you.

To help us relocate cats off Norfolk military property or for more information, please contact Cat Team 7 at 571-423-9200 or catteam7norfolk@gmail.com. You can see more information about TNR on Norfolk SPCA’s website.