Volunteer of The Week: Karen Kirk feeds and rescues feral cats

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 23, 2023

This week’s Vicksburg Post Volunteer of the Week is Karen Kirk, volunteer and founder of River City Trap, Neuter, Return/Rehome. Kirk has lived in Vicksburg since 1992. She is a part-time bank teller and a “reluctant full-time crazy cat lady.” She is married with two grown sons and eight foster-fail cats.

How did volunteering with River City Kitty TNR begin?

I initially got involved with two other women around 6 years ago when I noticed a family of five cats living in the woods behind my
workplace. I started out by taking over the feeding of these cats and ended up having my first experience with TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return/Rehome). We caught all five cats and had them spayed/neutered with the assistance of PAWS Rescue (RCKTNR didn’t exist at the time). Shortly after, I became aware of RCKTNR and met the organizers (Julie Ford and Ashley Gatian). My friends and I shared their vision of humanely reducing the number of stray and feral cats living around local businesses in Vicksburg through spay/neuter, so we officially joined the organization.

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How long have you been volunteering with RCKTNR?

I’ve been involved with RCKTNR for about 5 years.

What is your favorite memory while volunteering for RCKTNR?

Seeing populations of stray/feral cats living around some of the businesses start to stabilize as we were able to trap the cats and get them fixed. It’s especially rewarding when we can identify friendly strays, get them fixed and then rehomed. In the case of friendly strays, we’ve been assisted by PAWS Rescue, as our group’s vet only provides services for true strays/ferals who can’t be rehomed.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?

Just because you’ve never done something before (i.e. live trapping cats), don’t be afraid to volunteer. Trapping is a skill that’s easy to learn and very rewarding when you can improve the quality of life for the strays living in our community. It is very important to note that all of RCKTNR’s efforts are reliant on all of our members.

What are some of your tasks while volunteering?

* I feed the cats in the target area so that they will consistently congregate in the area where we’ll be trapping.
* I set up and monitor the traps and then once a cat is caught I transport them to our vet for their surgery. After the surgery, I transport cats back to their home territory (or seek a safer location/home if possible).
*I continue to feed the cats in our target areas so that they’ll be less prone to wandering in dangerous areas and so that I can check for newcomers who might have wandered into or been dumped at the site.
*I foster when space allows and seek other fosters/homes for kittens/tame adult cats.
*I help train people in the community who reach out to the group with trapping requests.
While our scope of services is limited to the cats around businesses we will loan traps and offer instruction/support to those needing to trap neighborhood strays.

What have you learned from volunteering with RCKTNR?

Besides the basic skills of trapping, I’ve learned the absolute necessity of all cats, both stray/feral and domesticated,
getting spayed/neutered. The number of unwanted cats/kittens in Vicksburg is staggering. The reproduction rate among cats is unbelievable. Cats can get pregnant as young as 4 months old. If left unchecked the potential for literally thousands of stray cats is very real. We have to keep ourselves from becoming disheartened by reminding ourselves that every female cat we catch and get spayed means there’s going to be hundreds, if not thousands, fewer kittens from that cat’s line in the future. It’s been described as trying to empty the mighty Mississippi River with a teaspoon. We need lots more teaspoons out there.

How can someone else volunteer with RCKTNR?

Learn to trap and make yourself available to assist us with trapping (be willing to get up a bit earlier in the morning than you might like to). Assist with the feeding of the cats in the program. Donate cat food. Most importantly, if you can’t do the actual trapping or feeding please consider making a donation. RCKTNR receives no government funding. We are totally funded by donations. While we have a vet who provides our surgeries at a reduced rate it still costs around $100/cat (more if pregnant). Information about how to donate can be found on the River City Kitty TNR Facebook page or by contacting me at vbmsmom61@gmail.com. Advocate for the establishment of a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in Vicksburg. Talk to your vets about it.

If there is a volunteer who should be featured, please submit their name and contact information to  volunteer@vicksburgpost.com.