SHANNONDALE — Tina Creller never grew up with cats or had much to with them throughout her life until fate played its hand.
When a friend was moving, Creller was called upon to take over a certain feeding time for the nearby community cats, the neighbors putting together a schedule so the feline friends wouldn’t go hungry. Doing her duty every Wednesday, Creller started to realize the cat population problem in the area, unvetted cats spreading diseases and having multiple litters.
After working with the Loudoun, Va. Community Cat Coalition to try to fix the problem, Creller’s life changed for good, a dedication to cats in the area coming to the forefront that remains today as she leads Mountain Cats TNR.
“People move. They don’t bother to get their cats fixed. They just leave them outside,” Creller said, adding that those wanting to keep the cats from going hungry then feed them, which sometimes only leads to more and more cats.
What started as a small group raising money has flourished into Mountain Cats TNR today, a group that traps, vets and spays and neuters community cats. When possible, Mountain Cats tries to adopt out as many as possible or returns them to their outside homes.
“Through the years, it’s changed dramatically what we’re able to do,” Creller said. “We have a system now. It took some trial and error and learning how to do it all.”
With around 15 volunteers, the 501c, which officially started in the fall of 2015, addresses the problem as much as possible. Creller said in the early years, they were averaged around 100 cats per year trapped and taken to the vet, and in recent years, the number has been as high as 300.
During 2020, Mountain Cats spayed or neutered and vetted 173 cats, a little less than an average year now amid the pandemic.
“With COVID, the clinics were closed,” she said. “We had cats to trap, but nowhere to take them.”
Creller said Mountain Cats is currently dealing with the hardships of finding vets that can offer discounts for the TNR cats to be taken care of. With the number of felines taken care of yearly by the organization, the care can be costly.
She works closely with the SPCA in Gettysburg, Pa., which provides a TNR discount, providing spay or neutering services as well as shots and treatments for fleas, worms or the like for a discounted price. Mountain Cats also works with Promise Animal League in Boonsboro, Md.
“We’re spinning our wheels,” Creller said. “We’re never going to catch up with this problem with the system the way it is. It’s never ending. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Because the number of community cats that aren’t spayed or neutered is so high, the population continues to grow, organizations like Mountain Cats unable to take care of all the cats or do so quickly enough before more come along.
Once the cats are taken to the vet and recovered, Mountain Cats either returns them to where they were — neighbors sometimes wanting the cats there but also wanting them to be fixed to prevent a population increase — or adopts out the friendly ones.
The cats remain on the Mountain Cats property, in the “cat shed,” a cozy home where they can stay warm and safe, until they can be returned outside or rehomed. A volunteer has also been allowing Mountain Cats to use a building the couple has for rent to house the cats until the property is under contract.
“The use of that building has been a Godsend,” Creller said.
Creller said currently, Mountain Cats doesn’t have room for any more until others are adopted for their forever homes, but she works with other rescues to try to help as many as possible, recently dropping some kittens off at another location where their forever homes can be found.
“We work together, the rescues in the area,” Creller said. “We have to. It’s just a big job. We have to.”
The volunteer group works tirelessly to help as many cats as possible, doing everything from fostering to transporting to office work. Mountain Cats sends a receipt for every donation made along with a thank you note.
“We do appreciate and want to let them know we appreciate it very much,” Creller said. “We couldn’t be doing this without them.”
Feline friends up for adoption through Mountain Cats can be found on www.rescueme.org or on the Mountain Cats TNR Facebook page. Creller said anyone interested in adopting can visit either location, the group always having plenty of options for those wanting a new friend. She also said anyone with questions can message through the Facebook page, Creller happy to share her knowledge to help the cats.
“I’m always willing to help someone help themselves,” she said, addressing anyone who may want to trap, vet and release a cat. “I understand how daunting it can be when you’re not familiar with the process.”
Anyone interested in donating to Mountain Cats TNR can do so through Paypal via firstname.lastname@example.org or through mail at 630 N. Mildred St., #452, Ranson, WV 25438.