The Midcoast Animal Lover Who Can Trap 100 Stray Cats
Kendra Hubbard nabs kitties to control the midcoast’s feral populations.
By Willy Blackmore
Photographed by Ryan David Brown
Kendra Hubbard gets a lot of calls about cats. Lots of cats. “If someone tells me, I know we have 12 feral cats here, then I know they probably have 25 or more,” she says. Since she was 10 years old, she’s been a volunteer at Thomaston’s Pope Memorial Humane Society of Knox County, where she started off brushing the cats. Now, at 38, she’s an ace at trapping feral ones.
Feral cats may not seem like the most pressing issue affecting Maine, but get 25, 50, maybe 100 cats all living — and inbreeding — in one place, and you’ve got trouble on your hands. “You’re breeding cats that have horrible immune systems,” Hubbard says. Kittens get terrible diarrhea and eye infections, conditions that can do serious harm to the animals, even killing them. And wherever there are a couple of dozen cats, there sure aren’t many songbirds.
“It’s a whole vicious cycle,” Hubbard says, “and it’s preventable.” All people have to do, she says, is fix their pets.
But until everyone gets that memo, Hubbard is doing what she can to alleviate the problem. Through the Humane Society’s Trap-Neuter-Return program, she catches cats living in feral colonies around the midcoast, then works together with the shelter and veterinarians to get them fixed. To snag the kitties, Hubbard uses a fleet of small metal traps — like what you might get from the hardware store to catch a skunk or raccoon — and baits their trigger-loaded platforms with kibble or wet food. Patience is an asset: she doesn’t like to put out too many traps at once, so she’ll set just five or six for a colony as large as 80 cats. Catching a few at a time allows shelters the time and space to fix the cats as they come in, as well as to vaccinate them and test them for diseases. As of September, the Thomaston shelter had already taken in 272 stray cats this year, many of them feral captures.
Often, those animals then return to a feral life. “Most are so feral that they aren’t adoptable into homes,” Hubbard says. “They aren’t going to be a house cat.” One that Hubbard adopted has more or less lived under the bed for the last 8 years. Many are returned to the spot where they were caught, so long as they have shelter and someone willing to provide them with food and water. Others are adopted by farmers as so-called barn buddies, living in small, deliberate colonies where they can enjoy their days keeping rodent populations at bay.
And then there’s a small percentage that becomes “Kendracized.” Fostered at Hubbard’s house, alongside her nine indoor cats, three dogs, three lizards, one ferret, and a rotating cast of other fosters, a few feral cats do end up highly adoptable.
“Those cats have a really good chance of having a great indoor life,” Hubbard said. “They don’t have to grow up outside, without knowing what human love is.”