Marshalltown Strong TNR founder: cats are everywhere

T-R FILE PHOTO Cara Jackson, founder of Marshalltown Strong TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return), sets up a trap in a Marshalltown neighborhood.

Busier than ever, Marshalltown Strong TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) faces the twin hardships of vandalism and a shoestring budget.

“We didn’t think we would be busy as we were this year,” Marshalltown Strong TNR Founder Cara Jackson said.

The goal for 2021 was to trap, neuter and return 100 stray and feral cats, and it was hit early a month and a half ago. Marshalltown Strong TNR is up to 125 cats now with 35 more on the surgery schedule, with the expectation to exceed their goal by at least 60 cats this year. The program has reached 425 cats total since their inception three years ago.

As to how Marshalltown Strong TNR was able to surpass their goal already, Jackson says, “There are cats everywhere.”

With four surgery spots a week open for stray cats, which are performed by volunteer veterinarians, Jackson said surgeries have been solidly booked since May.

“There’s just so many,” she said. “If I had 20 surgery spots a week, I could still easily fill it. There’s just only so many that my vets can do because they work into their schedule out of the goodness of their heart.”

Jackson said there are at least 150 cats currently living in colonies waiting to be neutered.

But despite the efforts, donations have been down for the organization. Jackson said several businesses came up with checks to donate in order to save the organization this year.

“We’re stable, we do have enough to get through the end of the year,” she said. “It’s going to be close. It’s going to be really close whether or not we make it all the way through December.”

Vandalism is also an issue as Marshalltown Strong TNR is now beginning to build winter housing for the cat colonies made of straw and insulated totes. One of the colony’s homes was vandalized twice this past week, with the insulated totes found pulled apart.

“It happened last winter too, but this year seems to be worse because we have kittens that are going missing and whole groups of kittens being removed, which is called cat-napping,” Jackson said. “People think it’s cute. Kittens are cute, but they’re taking them away from their nursing mothers.”

Marshalltown Strong TNR works with caregivers of colonies of community stray cats to keep them fed and sheltered while also working to trap, vaccinate, neuter and spay the cats. After the cats receive their surgeries and shots, they are returned back into the colonies in order for the cats to live safely, but also to keep the population of stray cats in Marshalltown under control. An unneutered male cat in the wild can have at least 2,000 descendents.

“It’s a pretty short lifespan,” Jackson said. “We’re just trying to make it as pleasant as possible, so there’s less suffering and also taking care of the population. It keeps everyone happy.”

A colony of stray cats are a group of cats working together in order to survive. Most of the cats living in the colonies are feral, meaning the cats don’t want human contact and shouldn’t be touched by humans. A colony could be just two cats, but Jackson said there’s at least one colony in the south side of Marshalltown close to 100 cats. At least 80 percent of cats in that particular colony have been neutered. But Jackson said Marshalltown Strong TNR receives a call about every three months being tipped off about a new cat colony.

Jackson said if people allow their cat to roam the city the cat could be trapped by Marshalltown Strong TNR. She said the cats should at least be spayed and neutered otherwise they could contribute to the overpopulation issue.

“If you’re populating, you’re part of the problem in Marshalltown,” Jackson said.


Contact Trevor Babcock

at 641-753-6611 or



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