Living in downtown Jefferson City provides Jennifer Tergin with a variety of happenings steps from her front door, but one thing she saw led her to step in and do something.
Tergin watched a cycle of stray cats with trailing kittens searching for food around restaurant Dumpsters. She began putting out food for the cats but realized that wasn’t enough.
“I would constantly worry about the kittens in the snow or heat, and then I wouldn’t see the kittens anymore and feared the worst for them,” Tergin says.
Not being able to watch the kitten cycle out her window any longer, Tergin decided to catch the cats that were coming to eat and get them fixed.
When Tergin’s path crossed with fellow Friends of JC Animal Shelter supporter Jackie Fischer, who had also started trapping stray cats, the trap, neuter and release organization Wild Thing – Feral Feline Fix was born.
“One unspayed female cat and her corresponding offspring can result in more than 400,000 cats in seven years,” Tergin says. “We needed to do something to help them.”
They trapped their first cats in January 2010 and since then have spayed and neutered 366 cats and have taken countless litters of tamable kittens to the animal shelter for adoption. Once trapped, the cats are spayed or neutered, given a rabies vaccination and their left ear is tipped.
“The ear tip allows us to identify that the cat has already been fixed,” Tergin says.
The organization works with veterinarian Dr. Greg Steck in Centertown and has recently started working with Dr. Esterly at Capital City Animal Hospital.
“These cats are fearful of people,” Tergin says, but colony caretakers help feed and shelter the stray cats and kittens and work with the organization to help the animals. Wild Thing has helped more than 65 colonies and is made aware of new ones each week. According to Tergin, a colony can be as few as two cats or can have more than 30 cats. The caretakers will assist by providing information such as when the cats eat so Tergin and Fischer can trap the animals.
“Jackie and Jennifer are two great ladies who work tirelessly for the animals of this community,” says colony caretaker Nancy Rau. “We all need food, shelter and water every day. These animals have come to depend on us.”
In the beginning, Tergin and Fischer were paying for everything themselves but soon realized it would be a vast undertaking and expense; the average cost per cat is $50. They asked the Heart of Missouri Humane Society for assistance and now receive half of their budget from HMHS.
“The number of cats we can help completely depends on the amount of donations that we receive,” Tergin says. Tergin and Fischer purchase the traps, bait food and gas using their own funds, and donations are used exclusively for surgeries.
To learn more about Wild Thing – Feral Feline Fix or to donate, email WildthingFFF@gmail.com or visit the organization’s Facebook page.
Colony Caretaker Nancy Rau
Nancy Rau has been caring for the cat colony near Washington Park for nine years. Currently, all eight cats in the colony have been spayed/neutered through Wild Thing – Feral Feline Fix.
“I’m asked frequently why I do this,” Rau says. “When you see something that is wrong, people say, ‘Somebody should do something about that.’ I looked in the mirror and saw that somebody.”
Rau explains that taking care of a colony is a 365-day-a-year commitment. “You can’t not go because it is raining or snowing or you don’t feel like it,” she says.
With the help of others she’s met in the park over the years, Rau rotates the feeding schedule and shares the responsibility to help these animals that do not have homes.
“We have a great animal shelter in our city,” she says. “Use it. It is never OK to dump an animal for any reason.”