Local feral cat TNR program gains traction

Cara Jackson founded the Marshalltown Strong Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) program with the goal of spaying or neutering six cats. Since April 2019, she and her team of volunteers have fixed 50 cats. The goal is to bump that number to 75 by mid-October.

Around $4,700 has come into the VCA Animal Hospital-The Vet, 507 W. High Street, for these efforts. Jackson hopes that figure will soon hit $7,500.

“On average, there is one cat colony about every block — three to 12 cats — and that adds up very quickly. The problem has just been ignored way too long,” Jackson said.

Feral cats, which are born in the wild, tend to avoid human contact, living in colonies, keeping to themselves. Traps have been set up in various neighborhoods to catch these creatures, who are then taken to the vet to be spayed or neutered, then returned where they were found. One of the cat’s ears will be “tipped” which is the surgical removal of a small portion of the ear tip, to signify that it has been altered.

“The tornado did not bring kittens with it, although they sure are more visible since their homes and structures were destroyed,” she said.

Jackson asked for extra assistance since being diagnosed with cancer.

“Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean anything has stopped,” she said.

Volunteer Beth Streeter decided to pitch in after reading Jackson’s posts on social media, including on the Facebook page Marshalltown Strong TNR.

“We first met up on May 20 of this year (to set up traps). I remember she was on her way to the doctor’s office,” Streeter said.

Streeter has been tasked with caring for kittens that are too small to be fixed.

Jackson said feral cat offspring can be adopted out because there’s a chance they can be socialized among people.

“But do not take trapped feral cats out to the Animal Rescue League,” Jackson said.

Marshalltown ARL Director Shelly Deal said it is hard to find homes for these critters.

“Feral cats don’t want to live indoors so it’s important for people to understand the shelter is not the place for them,” Deal said. “They develop fear aggression or become ill from being stressed out. I support TNR 100 percent — the ‘R’ meaning return, not release. However, if the cat is unable to go back to its outdoor home, then we work together to try to find barn homes who welcome them.”

Acceptable barn homes must provide food and shelter, keeping the cats sequestered there for at least 2-3 weeks so they get used to their new surroundings.

While the team at VCA Animal Hospital – The Vet have done all the medical procedures for Jackson’s program, other local vet clinics have expressed interest in assisting.

“I bit off definitely more than I can chew,” Jackson said. “It’s an eight-year plan before Marshalltown will see a difference. That is a TNR plan. We’ll see a big difference in the amount of kittens in the northeast quadrant of the city next spring, and some in the northwest too.”

Jackson receives “rescue” rates for the procedures to help stretch the funds raised.

“The disease and overpopulation will decrease by controlling the population,” Dr. Dennis Drager said in a previous interview with the T-R.

Jackson hopes to next start a project that will build cat houses.

People interested in helping to cover the cost of the altering and vaccinations may phone the vet clinic at 641-753-5486 or drop off monetary donations. Donations via PayPal may be sent to: CaraJackson20143@gmail.com. For more information, Jackson may be reached at carajackson2018@icloud.com.


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or



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