General Information

OcraCats clinic helps control Ocracoke feral cat population

The veterinary team from Boone, N.C., spays a female Ocracat. From left, Joanna Burkett, veterinary technician, Kevin Johnson, Dr. Howard Johnson, Mariesa Johnson and Garrett Burkett. Photo by Rita Thiel

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By Rita Thiel

OcraCats Inc. held another successful spay/neuter clinic the first week in October.

Veterinarians Dr. Howard Johnson, of Boone, and Dr. Scott Schroeder, and their assistants, composed of family and staff, skillfully “fixed” 49 cats, including about a dozen privately owned cats.

The numbers were split fairly evenly between males and females.

Rabies vaccinations, flea treatments and worming applications were also given to each cat after surgery. Two kittens were also trapped together and being too young for surgery were soon adopted by Jenny Mason and taken to their new island home.

The clinic was partially funded by a grant from the Outer Banks Community Foundation, which covered the cost of the surgeries. Other clinic expenses are paid for by OcraCats.  Not only were free spay/neuters offered to residents’ cats, but several island residents brought their cats just to receive a free rabies booster, provided for by Hyde County.

Trapped feral cats await surgery in the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department. Photo by Mariesa Johnson

Over the past several years, OcraCats has spayed or neutered more than 600 cats from the island. Most of these have been members of the feral cat population. OcraCats’ goal has always been and continues to be to avoid a population explosion of cats that contributes to unhealthy and suffering animals, as well as over-intrusion onto property around the village.

Spay/neuter clinics begin with lots of planning and scheduling, organizing and checking equipment, and a multitude of other details to confirm.

Island residents were given the heads-up to keep their pets inside on the evenings and nights of Oct.1 through Oct.4 as OcraCat trappers fanned out across the village setting Hav-a-Hart traps in strategic areas. Trappers are trained and skilled at knowing the proper way to trap an animal to reduce the amount of stress the animals incur and to keep the animals safe and secure.

This year OcraCats had five island youth volunteers to assist in the trapping and other clinic tasks: Taylor Fuller, Becky Boos, Jordan Jones, Mackenzie Novak and Makin Widener.

“We like to get young people involved,” said Melinda Sutton, an OcraCats member. “It’s a good way for them to see what we do and maybe spark an interest in them to become involved. A couple of the girls have expressed a serious interest in the veterinary field or other animal related studies.”    

OcraCats is always looking for volunteers to help in a variety of areas, ranging from feeding colonies to preparing merchandise for retail sale and helping at events where OcraCats participates as a vendor.  

Volunteers can contact the organization by email at ocracats@gmail.com, by messaging on its FB page, or by talking to one of the local OcraCats members, several of whom own shops on the island–Tradewinds Tackle, The Sunglass Shop and Mermaid’s Folly.

Dr. Howard Johnson, DVM, left, spays a female OcraCat. Joanna Burkett, assists. Photo by Rita Thiel