‘Feral Buster’ volunteer dedicates love, time, effort to helping strays
Cat concerns? Who you gonna call? Well, probably not Ghost Busters, but maybe Feral Busters — aka Debbie Smith. She will answer your call for help with feral cats.
Working under Snippet Citrus, a nonprofit, all-volunteer group that raises money to provide low-cost spays and neuters, Smith performs a service that many residents don’t know about.
Since October is Feral Cat Month, it’s a good time to make people aware of how Feral Busters is gradually reducing their population, eliminating some of the problems and behaviors that people might find objectionable, and allowing these cats to live happier, healthier lives in our community.
Smith lives in Citrus County with her husband of 35 years, along with five cats, including one that’s feral.
After relocating here from Michigan in 1988, she became involved with various animal advocacy groups, including rescue groups, and began fostering adoptable cats and kittens and finding forever homes for them.
She’s a Navy veteran and served as a 911 dispatcher for the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years before retiring three years ago.
“I spent the majority of my life saving human lives, so now it’s time to save animals’ lives,” Smith said. She joined Snippet in 2014 in order to provide this important service to the community. Hence, the birth of Feral Busters.
So just exactly what does Smith do? Studies show that the best, most humane way to deal with feral cats is to have them spayed and neutered, and that’s the goal of Feral Busters.
According to spayusa.org, by spaying or neutering just one male and one female cat, more than 2,000 unwanted births can be prevented in only four years! Feral Busters has spayed or neutered over 1,100 feral cats and is still going strong.
Smith will come to the aid of any resident who wants to do the right thing for these cats by getting them fixed. For $10 per cat, she will trap them, transport them to a veterinarian where they will be altered, given a rabies vaccination and ear-tipped, then return them to their home ground. Smith said she has had an entire street of neighbors chip in to have all the feral cats altered.
“Everyone wants healthier, happier and less-aggressive cats in their neighborhood,” she said. “And certainly fewer kittens!”
There are occasions when a feral cat has a medical issue that must be dealt with, and there is a small medical fund for that. On top of everything else she does, Smith collects cans for cash redemption to add to this fund. Sometimes appreciative feral cat caretakers will also add to the fund.
If the feral cats cannot be spayed/neutered right away, Smith will hold them until their surgery is scheduled. She turned a spare bedroom into a “cat room,” where she has steel cages and cat carriers stacked and waiting for the next furry feral.
“I used to have the cages in my garage until a feral cat went into the engine of the car one day and it took hours to get it out —that was when we decided to make the bedroom cat proof and get the garage back,” Smith said.
Besides all the work trapping the cats, there’s the cleanup: Every cage, every trap and every food or water dish has to be sanitized with bleach and the towels or blankets used to cover the cages (to reduce stress on the cat) must be laundered.
“Some cats are intelligent enough to make you think outside the box. As a matter of fact,” she said, “speaking of boxes, I took one of those huge appliance cardboard boxes and cut holes so I can see out of it. Now I have a place to hide when I set the trap.” Smith prefers to use a baited wooden drop trap with a string that she pulls to drop the door after a cat enters. Sometimes she sits in the cardboard box, or behind a bush, for hours waiting for the feral cats to go into the trap. When asked if she can read a book while waiting, she said she can’t do anything but watch the trap since the cats are so wary. Timing is everything.
“One Easter Sunday, I spent 10 hours trapping at one location,” she said.
Despite the challenges and the long hours, there are some funny moments. Smith related a story about trapping a colony at one of the local grocery stores. Some of the cats had the telltale left ear tip, indicating they had already been neutered. She and two other volunteers from Snippet were down to the remaining three cats. All of a sudden, one of the street-smart, ear-tipped felines entered the trap, grabbed the sardines and tossed them out of the trap for all the others to enjoy. Then there was the time she trapped a tom cat that was so big he was able to drag the trap away. Smith had to jump on top of it to hold it down, calling for the client to come and help her.
Her hard work also has its rewards. Smith recalled a time when she returned two 4-month-old kittens to the wooded area where they lived. They were quiet at first, but then started calling their mom and the rest of their family. Hearing their calls, the other cats in the group responded, and watching them reunite was very heartwarming.
Each cat that is spayed or neutered will, in time, save thousands of lives, Smith said.
“Just knowing that I am doing my part to help make our community a better place to live for both people and animals — it’s my way of giving back to the community,” she said.
October is Feral Cat Month. To reach Feral Busters for help with feral cats, or to donate or volunteer, call Snippet Citrus at 352-436-4268.
Big news….Snippet Citrus has been awarded a $20,000 grant from Florida Animal Friend. Snippet will use these funds for our 2017 “Hip to Snip” campaign. Thank you FAF! Help Florida Animal Friend continue to provide life-saving grants by purchasing a spay/neuter license plate! http://floridaanimalfriend.org/purchase-a-tag/
Last August I was in the pet section of Walmart in Inverness, I was buying cat food for the ferals around my home, when a young lady came in with the cutest little raggedy puppy and being the animal lover I am I could not ignore them! While I was talking to her I noticed another young woman came in with a similar looking and aged puppy, so I had to ask where they got them? I just assumed there was an adoption event in the area but she said “no, there is a man giving them out in the parking lot” And said I just have to get out there and see this. Then the lady told me that I better hurry because someone had threatened to call the cops on the man! So I left my cart and I ran out and I saw no man or puppies. I asked a few people but nobody knew anything so I went back inside to finish shopping and try to put them out of my mind.
I left about a half hour later and was putting my groceries away when I heard a little whimper coming from the area where you place your carts. Well, I went right over and there in a torn up old cardboard box were these two beautiful little gems! They were seconds away from getting out of the box. I can’t imagine how the man could of just left them. I guess it was because someone had threatened to call the police on him. Read more
My Fiancé and I were both certain that we wanted to get a dog. However, my fiancé came home from scoping out his hunting spot and told me he saw a kitten, only about a month old, squalling in the middle of the woods. Someone had dropped her. All I could think about was that little baby waiting to be eaten. So after about 2 hours we went back to get her. We now have a kitten. Oh, the thoughts that ran through my head. She had worms, fleas, and the poor thing was very malnourished. We de-wormed her. We de-flead her, and fed her. This took a while. Now we needed to get her fixed, and vaccinated. Steve and I are on a fixed budget. We could not afford the prices that I got when I called around to local veterinarian offices. I got quotes over 350 dollars. Steve called me on lunch one day and told me that he had found a place called Snippets Citrus on facebook. They helped us get financial help to get baby Kitty fixed so that we did not have to worry about the investment of more kittens if not. Kitty has been such a joy to our lives and is a great addition to our household. That unconditional love does not matter if you are a cat or a dog. Thanks Snippet. Kitty now has a loving forever home and has brought much love to us. Natasha Coffey
Snippet Citrus is dedicated to helping Citrus citizens who need financial assistance get their cats and dogs altered. This will benefit our citizens both 2 legged and 4. Please call 352-436-4268 to see if you are eligible for assistance. Snippet is an all volunteer organization that raises funds thru donations and fundraisers. If you would like to help our county cats and dogs please send a donation to Snippet Citrus, P.O. Box 476, Homosassa Springs 34447.
The extremely high grass next door moved unnaturally. There was no breeze so I know there was something live, hiding and or hunting. I stood as still as I could and finally was the tips of two pointed black ears; then a whiskered face with big, watchful, green eyes. I sighed as I sadly thought….another abandoned cat. Read more
Around Christmas 2012, Naomi’s husband passed away and not long after that the cat that they had adopted many years ago from the animal shelter became ill and had to be put to sleep. By April 2013, Naomi said the house was too quiet and lonely. That’s when she decided to get another cat. She asked her friend Lois Thomas, a co-founder of Snippet Citrus, to take her to the shelter to look for and hopefully adopt another cat. She saw Marvin, a five year old handsome orange male. As soon as Naomi saw him in person, she knew he was the one!
After a few weeks of Marvin exploring his new house and making sure his new “mommy” was alright, he settled right in. Several of Naomi’s friends came to meet Marvin, and he was the perfect gentleman. Although Naomi told her friends she didn’t like the name Marvin, he seemed to know that was his name; he responded to her when she called him. Her friends suggested she call him Marvelous Marvin and that worked for Naomi. She thanks Marvin for bringing life back into the house. Naomi and Marvin have interesting conversations and love to cuddle. This is truly a Christmas story; now one year after Naomi’s losses, she and Marvelous Marvin are enjoying each other and the joyful holiday season.
A pet can make a human feel wanted and alive, and the best part is that the pet gets a loving home!
Contact Snippet Citrus
P.O. Box 476, Homosassa Springs, Florida 34447