Lots of people know about Colony Cats and the organization's mission to deal with the overpopulation of felines in central Ohio.
That's a good thing, according to Mona McKinniss, director of the 11-year-old organization based in northwest Columbus.
And it's sort of a bad thing, too, she admitted.
On one hand, more residents are aware of the effort to improve the lives of feral cats by trapping them, making sure they can't reproduce and then releasing or finding people willing to accept them as pets.
On the other hand, the growing awareness strains the resources of the all-volunteer nonprofit organization that was formed in 2002.
"As far as the work that we're actually being asked to do, there's more of it to do. But that's good because it means more people are aware and are responsive to the project and seeking our help," McKinniss said last week. "When we first started, everybody thought we were crazy. It's proven to work all over the country.
"In the big picture, we're a pretty small organization, so we're always begging, we're always trying to write grants, we're always trying to fund-raise."
Colony Cats, which has an adoption center at 2740 Festival Lane and the Kit and Kaboodle Boutique fundraising shop next door at 2736 Festival Lane, has made believers of some residents in the Forest Park subdivision in Northland.
A situation developed several weeks ago when a bank foreclosed on a Hedgewood Drive property, according to Forest Park Civic Association President Mike Stone. The former homeowner had been feeding more than a dozen stray cats, who naturally continued to return to the house in anticipation of food offerings.
A woman walking her dog on Hedgewood Drive saw 16 cats sitting forlornly in the driveway and contacted Colony Cats, said McKinniss, who lives in Grove City.
Member Paula Mascari-Mathew, who also is a Northland resident, swung into action, trapping 10 of the cats left in the lurch by the foreclosure, Stone said.
"She certainly got a big chunk of them," he added.
In the civic association's newsletter, Stone has been asking if anyone knows of a farm where the feral cats, now spayed and neutered, might find a new home.
"Because they're pretty good hunters, apparently," Stone said. "We're grateful for Colony Cats because not only did they help us without our asking but also on their own dime, they paid for the operations for these cats. We deeply appreciate it."
Mascari-Mathew said, "Trap-neuter-return is the humane and effective approach for stray and feral cats."
According to information she submitted for use in the Forest Park newsletter, scientific studies have shown that this process "improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them and decreases the size of colonies over time. ... Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are returned to their home, their colony, outdoors. Kittens and cats who are friendly and socialized to people may be adopted into homes."
In some neighborhoods where Colony Cats has taken action, McKinniss said, residents report virtually no kittens. But that's not the case very often, the director acknowledged.
"We're seeing kittens almost all year long now," McKinniss said. "It will slow down a lot into late fall and winter, especially if it's a cold winter, but cats can always go in heat."
At 4 months of age, cats can give birth to kittens, she pointed out, but they are unable to even try to care for them.
"A lot of them are dying out there, and that, of course, is sad for everyone," McKinniss said.
Donations to help Colony Cats volunteers deal with feline overpopulation may be sent to P.O. Box 163904, Columbus 43216.