Pat Tally, president of Victoria Trap-Neuter-Return, drives out on Mission Valley Road with the backseat of her rental car filled with cat carriers.

Aug. 14 was a light load for Tally. She was delivering only four cats that day to Dr. Sandra Cochran, a veterinarian, to be either spayed or neutered.

Victoria Trap-Neuter-Return

A young male tabby looks to see whether Joyce Kubala, secretary for Victoria Trap-Neuter-Return, has any more food. Kubala can put a hand on a few of the cats, making it easier if they need medical care.

Tally, 75, has been with the local nonprofit Victoria Trap-Neuter-Return, or VTNR, for about three years. She took over the president position after the original organizers moved from Victoria. When Tally arrives at Cochran’s office, she is greeted by familiar faces – feline and human alike. One of the others at the vet that day is Joyce Kubala, VTNR’s secretary. Kubala is picking up medication for a stray foster cat she is nursing back to health.

Victoria Trap-Neuter-Return assists residents with traps, trapping and carriers and helps people get stray cats to the vet.

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“We help people get their cat fixed, their stray cat fixed, their neighborhood cat fixed. Our goal is to reduce the number of feral or free-roaming cats in the community,” Tally said.

Traditionally, feral cats were rounded up and euthanized, but the thought behind the Victoria program is to trap the cats, spay or neuter them and return them to the area where they live. The process, Tally said, stabilizes the colony size, improves the health of the cats and reduces spraying by male cats. The fixed cats will also run off any new cats that enter the territory.

It’s a good way to keep a few cats around a home or business to control snakes, mice and other rodents, she said. VTNR also adopts out a small number of cats through fostering and adoption events at PetSmart every Saturday, but its focus is to reduce the number of free-roaming cats in the community.

Cats can go into heat every three weeks and may have three litters a year, according to thenest.com.

Victoria Trap-Neuter-Return

Pat Tally, president of the Victoria TNR, talks with a caller about trapping feral cats on their property.

Kubala, 58, a retired nurse, joined the group in 2013 after she noticed a colony of cats downtown and started feeding them. She feeds about 80 cats in and around downtown Victoria.

“I’ve always loved animals ... I love everything – even lizards,” Kubala said. Growing up, she said she had pets but was always drawn to cats. Her father wouldn’t allow her to have one in the house, so when she moved out and into her own place, she got cats.

“I always say I’m not even a cat person,” Tally said. “This has evolved. I try to keep the number of cats at my home under 20. I try to spare the neighbors. I don’t want to be the lady down the street with all the cats in her yard.”

Victoria TNR exists through community donations and volunteers.

Tally said the group really had made good strides in controlling the number of cats before Hurricane Harvey, “but after people left and didn’t take their cats or cats ran away to other neighborhoods, the cat population has ballooned and now we are having to deal with the ramifications.”

Kubala questions why she and the others in VTNR are the only people who appear to care about the problem.

Victoria Trap-Neuter-Return

Feral cats finish the food put out by members of Victoria Trap- Neuter-Return. The local nonprofit feeds and cares for stray cats in the Victoria area.

“I don’t feel as good about it as I use to,” Kubala said.

There are so many cats in the community, and people won’t spay or neuter their animals, she said. Instead, VTNR has to work to collect donations to pay for care for those cats.

Tally said she wants people to understand there isn’t a governmental group, such as the city or county of Victoria, that will come and trap and remove stray cats. She encourages residents as soon as they see a new stray cat in their neighborhood to trap the animal and have it neutered. The program also clips or removes the tip of the cat’s left ear to indicate that the animal has been fixed.

Tally estimates she alone transports 500 or more cats a year to get neutered and helps with the adoption of about 100 cats a year through PetSmart.

Evan Lewis is a photojournalist for the Victoria Advocate.

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