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One cat a time: Volunteers working to humanely reduce Vicksburg’s stray cat population

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(Photo by Brittany Williams)

Stray cats have been a growing problem in Vicksburg for quite some time, but a few local volunteers are working and reaching out to the public to help reduce their numbers humanely.

Karen Kirk and Sharon Prewitt are just two of the ladies who have devoted their lives to see that the population of stray cats decreases.

“There will always be stray cats,” Kirk said, “that issue is not going to just go away, but we can substantially diminish the number of cats by getting them fixed.”

Kirk says it makes her ill when people say they are going to get their cat spayed or neutered, but for many cat owners, that day never comes.

Sharon Pruitt

Prewitt chimed in. “If you’re not vigilant to get a cat fixed, they are going to have kittens,” she said.

Prewitt mentioned the heroine of their operation is Sheri McBride.

“I told Sheri we have got to do more than just feed them, we have to get them fixed, I thought if we could just get her colony fixed, the problem of stray cats would be solved,” Prewitt said and then laughed. “Boy was I wrong.”

In Vicksburg and Warren County, there are nearly 30 cat colonies that have anywhere between three and 20 cats each.

“They are happiest with their colonies,” Prewitt said, “that is where they are born and raised.”

Fewer than half of the cats in these colonies have experienced TNR—Trap, Neuter, Release—a method that can reduce the numbers of cats in the wild. Prewitt said she learned TNR from P.A.W.S. Rescue and that the organization supports what she does in the community.

(Photo by Brittany Williams)

Getting the cats into an animal shelter or with a loving family is wonderful and a high priority, she said, but their No. 1 goal is to neuter or spay the cats to reduce their reproduction.

“The shelters are doing all they can,” Prewitt said, “but they have a horrible problem of overcrowding, and we have an equal horrible problem of the number of feral cats.”

According to Prewitt, when animal shelters are overcrowded, many people will just dump cats or kittens where ever the can.

Last year, Prewitt used the TNR method on 30 feral cats and in 2017, 35 cats were trapped, neutered and released, thanks to her efforts.

“I thought I was getting a handle on it, but there was always one female cat not fixed, and that’s all she wrote because then there was a whole new batch of kittens,” she said.

Female cats can start reproducing at only 5 months old.

“You think about it,” Kirk said. “On average one cat has five kittens and, assuming at least one is female, in five months, she’s reproducing. It’s a cycle and scary the number of cats being reproduced in our community.”

Prewitt and Kirk, along with Leigh Connerly at P.A.W.S. Rescue and other individuals around the community, band together to feed and do TNR on the stray cats in the area, but Prewitt says she really needs more help.

“To properly do TNR, you have to get out there early—like between 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.—to set up the traps,” she said. “The cats are smart. If they see you setting up, you can forget about catching them.”

Prewitt, now in her 70s, admits she has slowed down this year due to her husband’s health problems and other issues.

“The trapping is actually quite fun,” she said. “I like to think of it like deer hunting except you aren’t hurting or killing an animal. You’re actually creating a better life for the animal.”

Prewitt went on to say that the TNR method prevents the cats from living a life of malnourishment, fighting and having kittens back-to-back. In the wild, many kittens starve. The average lifespan for a feral cat on its own is only about two years.

TNR success kitties. (Photo by Sharon Prewitt)

“I did not intend to be a full-fledged crazy cat woman,” Prewitt said, “but the more I saw the life these cats have to live is heartbreaking.”

Sometimes trapping is not an option. Shelter is another big piece the volunteers like to focus on. The ladies create cat shelters out of plastic containers with a hole cut in the top so a cat can escape bad weather.

“Shelter is important so that these cats have somewhere to go,” Kirk said. “Cat’s fur is not waterproof.”

Putting shelters out is not as easy as it sounds. Kirk said some businesses have issues with the women helping the cat colonies.

“I tried to put shelters out at some places, and they threatened to prosecute me,” Prewitt said. “A few businesses can be very hostile when all we want to do is help the cats and potentially keep the number of cats around their business to decrease or go away altogether.”

Both Kirk and Prewitt expressed the need for the community to help in any way they can.

“People think they have to donate a ton of money they don’t have or give up a ton of time they may or may not have just to make a difference, but that’s just not the case,” Kirk said. “We really need help building shelters, donations of money or sacks of cat food, and if you want to take it one step further, come out and help Sharon [Prewitt] trap in the mornings.”

(Photo by Brittany Williams)

Kirk said she would like to see the schools take on the stray cats as a class project by collecting food and building shelters.

“We could easily provide the teachers with a diagram and the kids could build the shelters,” she said. “They are super easy.”

If you are interested in joining in the efforts to help volunteers like Kirk and Prewitt, they encourage you to text before calling Karen Kirk at 601-618-1626 or Sharon Prewitt at 601-529-0879.

Crime

Handgun stolen in auto burglary

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A handgun was stolen in an auto burglary Monday in Vicksburg.

Monday, Nov. 30, at 10:34 a.m. officers took a report in reference to an auto burglary that occurred at 3133 Washington St.

The victim reported someone stole a SCCY 9-mm handgun from his 2000 GMC Sierra.

If you have any information about this incident, please call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511.

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Crime

Shooting suspect turns herself in

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Devona Jackson (photo courtesy VPD)

The suspect in a Nov. 25 shooting turned herself in to Vicksburg police investigators Monday

Devona Jackson, 36, of Vicksburg, was charged with one count of shooting into an unoccupied vehicle in connection with an altercation at the Smoke Break convenience store, 1217 Cherry St., on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Jackson was arraigned in the Vicksburg Municipal Court, where Judge Angela Carpenter set her bond at $15,000 and bound her over to the Warren County grand jury.

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COVID-19

Mayor Flaggs extends Vicksburg’s mask mandate through Jan. 4

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. during his Nov. 25 news conference. (photo via video screen grab)

Mayor George Flaggs, Jr. has extended Vicksburg’s COVID-19 Civil Emergency Order from 8 a.m. Dec. 2, through 8 a.m. Jan. 4, 2021.

The order continues the mask requirement currently in effect for public buildings and businesses, current social distancing guidelines for public or private social gatherings, and the juvenile curfew from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

A summary of the order is below.

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