Trap Neuter Return Q&A With Cathlene Hirtzel

Last month HCHS held a Town Hall meeting for a Trap Neuter Return program in Hendricks County. At that meeting, Cathlene Hirtzel, HCHS volunteer and colony caretaker, spoke about the importance of implementing a TNR program in Hendricks County. This month, she answered some questions about TNR and what a TNR program could do for Hendricks County. If you are interested in TNR or would like to get involved in the program, please visit to follow the program’s progress or to get involved! The program’s success depends on a strong volunteer network. The community cats of Hendricks County need your help!

colony_catsCathlene, please tell everyone a little about yourself and how you learned about Trap Neuter Return (TNR).

Well, I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother. I think by nature I have been an animal lover since I was little. Until about 6 years ago, my love was contained to “just being a pet parent.” When my husband and I opened a business here in town (our business was planted right in the middle of a cat colony), our lives began to evolve into rescuers, one kitten at a time so-to-speak! Within just a few weeks we realized we were seeing many, many cats and we needed advice and help to be able to address what we were seeing.  From there I found an online program through Indy Feral that explains TNR, cat colonies, and caring for them. I think after I made my first call to them for guidance, it quickly turned into a large networking of people that could help. In turn, I was introduced to a woman that was a volunteer for HCHS, who was working on building a TNR program through the Humane Society. Remembering back, I think everyone I spoke with directed me to links, literature and such, to others that practiced TNR, and the “mentoring” began.

What exactly is TNR?

I believe the most simplistic way to explain it is: trapping a “free roaming” cat (in a live humane trap), having the animal spayed or neutered, administering rabies and vaccinations to the cat, the ear is “tipped” as identification the animal has been sterilized, and returning the animal to the location in which it was living. So this is physically the TNR process. However, there are a few other things that must be assessed, or ground rules to follow when you are considering TNR for a cat you are seeing.

  1. Is it friendly? Does it come to you and enjoy being petted? If so, the cat may be a lost cat looking for their owners.
    If you are able to touch the cat, then we suggest you take the cat to a local shelter, vet, or rescue to scan for a chip.
  2. The behavior of a cat does not always define if a cat is a stray or a free roaming that has lived its life outdoors “feral.” Many house cats that become lost can exhibit “feral like behavior” due to stress and the fight or flight expression.
  3. Frightened or “feral behavior” should always be trapped with a live humane trap and not handled. The professionals can scan to see if the cat is a lost pet in the TNR process and returned to owner if needed.

What are the primary benefits of TNR?

  • The number one benefit for the cat is their overall health. With the cats vaccinated against disease, this will increase their life span while protecting against disease they could contract living outdoors and amongst other cats, predators, etc.momma_cat
  • The females will no longer have the strain on their bodies to produce multiple litters each year.
  • The males will no longer be driven by the “need” to mate, in which they will live a life without the aggressive fighting males can endure when unaltered.
  • Reduces many of the issues people have with feral cats; the fighting, yowling, and other “negative behaviors” people feel the feral cats cause.
  • Lastly, and arguably most important, is to reduce overpopulation from sterilization.

Are there any other benefits to a community having a TNR program?

Absolutely. With the program in force, the health benefits for the community are vaccinated cats that are outside. The cats will have less illnesses and less threat for the community’s health. With managed colonies and continued care it will make for better neighbor relations with the cats and each other.

The TNR program and managed colonies can demonstrate to all, that compassion for cats teaches non-violence and tolerance for others. It is a reflection of the community and their values to humanely treat the cats and end overpopulation.

Do free roaming cats pose a risk to public health?

Most diseases that affect cats cannot be transmitted to humans. Infectious diseases that can be transmitted from cats to humans is through the cat directly and its feces. Since feral cats avoid human contact, cats are rarely the cause of an infectious disease.

You are more susceptible to get a communicable disease at the grocery or with publicly “touched” facilities than with a feral cat.

Ultimately, how can a TNR program and updated ordinances help end the feral cat overpopulation problem in Hendricks County?

With the ordinances in force, we will be able to identify areas of need that are experiencing overpopulation. Our citizens will be able to freely ask for help without fear of consequences for them or the cats. We will be able to systematically address the areas, neighborhoods, or private citizens’ properties that have feral cats in need of sterilization.

feral_kittenWhat are the advantages of adopting TNR ordinances for cats and caregivers?

We can end the overpopulation cycle as they are identified, bringing a healthier and longer life span for our community cats, and protection for those whom feed and care for them. It can also bring unity within our community for a greater cause, promoting anti-cruelty and joining with our surrounding counties, as stated, for a universal stand for better laws and treatments for our free roaming cats.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about TNR?

There are several things that come to mind. Ignoring the free roaming cats is not a proactive or active stance to have with the cats and overpopulation. It is not an out of sight, out of mind issue, regarding their lives, their health and wellness, or their overpopulation issues.

If we want to be a community that cares for our people and our people’s needs we must also want the needs of our helpless animal’s lives addressed as well. We should not be a people that turns a blind eye toward the free roaming cats and ignore the suffering they endure on a daily basis when allowed to populate endlessly.

It is not a difficult program to implement. Everyday citizens are able to make a difference. Changing the life of even one cat that is free roaming in their area is a start. The desire for this program is here in Hendricks County, the people do want to make a difference in our community and with our cat overpopulation issues. Expressing human kindness to each other and our animals is an instinctive emotion and it should be protected as such. We also should have laws to protect that instinctive desire as well.

TNR Town Hall Meeting

TNR Town Hall Meeting

Hosted by Hendricks County Humane Society
July 11, 2017

On Tuesday, July 11th, 2017, the Hendricks County Humane Society hosted a Town Hall meeting to address feral cat overpopulation solutions for Hendricks County. In attendance, were guest speakers Tammy Sollenberger, Executive Director of Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic; Michael Delp, Director of Johnson County Animal Control; and Lisa Tudor, founder of Indy Feral and representing Indianapolis Animal Care Services.

Each speaker shared facts, experience, and input regarding the development of ordinances and solutions for the overpopulation of feral cats present in Hendricks County. Also speaking, were Cathlene Hirtzel, HCHS Volunteer and colony caretaker, and Carol Battistini, President of the Hendricks County Humane Society Board of Directors. Julie Gill, HCHS volunteer, moderated the meeting.

A number of residents from Hendricks and surrounding counties were present to ask questions, share their own success stories with feral cats, and address personal concerns regarding the feral cat population and Trap Neuter Return (TNR) programs.

Please join HCHS for the next meeting regarding the development of a TNR program for Hendricks County on Tuesday, July 25th, at 7:00 pm at the Hendricks County Government Center, 355 S. Washington Street, Danville, Indiana, Room 3.

Special thanks to all of the guest speakers, HCHS volunteers who helped organize this event, and the Hendricks County Animal Shelter for their presence at this meeting.

For updates on the development and status of the TNR program, please continue to visit the HCHS website and follow HCHS on Facebook.


Tammy Sollenberger, Executive Director of Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic


Michael Delp, Director of Johnson County Animal Control


Lisa Tudor, founder of Indy Feral and representing Indianapolis Animal Care Services


Julie Gill, HCHS Volunteer, Carol Battistini, President of HCHS Board of Directors, Cathlene Hirtzel and Cameron Johnson, HCHS Volunteers


The Big Black Dog

A Big Black Dog’s Five Month Journey

Blossom IMG_2039

This is the story of a big black dog and her 5 month journey. There are multiple messages that one can glean from this story and we leave the reader to pick the message(s) most meaningful to them. For those of us who work with domestic animals every day, we are once again reminded that animals can’t speak and they need us humans to help them. The humans working at three organizations all played a role in this story and we are grateful to them: PetAgree Boarding and Grooming in Danville, Hendricks County Humane Society, and Indy Lost Pet Alert.

The big black dog was first seen on a hot Saturday afternoon in early June wandering along old US 36 in Danville across from Hendricks Regional Hospital. Her staggering gait and the confused, exhausted look on her face, told Corey, a passerby, that this dog needed help. Not one to turn away an animal in distress, Corey offered this big black dog a ride in his car; an offer the big black dog could not refuse. Corey’s Saturday afternoon plans were now under revision! Where he was headed that afternoon did not allow dogs so he had to drop the dog off somewhere while the search for her owner took place. But where? The Hendricks County Animal Shelter and the Hendricks County Humane Society were both closed for the day. The Sheriff’s Department suggested that Corey hold onto the dog until Monday and Animal Control would gladly pick her up.

Corey could not keep the dog until Monday. He was struggling to come up with a solution for this big black dog, who was by now sitting comfortably across his entire back seat, when his eyes fell upon a roadside sign, PetAgree Boarding and Grooming, and it was open! Corey and the big black dog walked into the building and Corey explained that the dog seemed to be lost. The PetAgree employee nodded her head in understanding. It was noted that this big black dog had a cute pink collar, but no tags and no microchip!

Now another problem—where was PetAgree to put the dog? The kennel was filled with boarding dogs, so there was no place to put her that she wouldn’t be in close proximity to their boarders. Not knowing her health/vaccination history, the staff could not expose their clients’ dogs to her. It was decided that the big black dog could go into the outdoor single kennel which was a large shaded play area stocked with water, food, a bed, and some treats.

PetAgree employees willingly took on the problem of the big black dog, thanking Corey for his concern and for taking action to help this lost dog. They assured him that they would find her home or place her in a good home. The dog’s picture was taken and blasted on social media as well as posted to Indy Lost Pet Alert, Hendricks County Animal Shelter, and Hendricks County Humane Society. Signs were posted locally along with a 24 hour phone number, thanks to Cameron, a PetAgree employee and Humane Society volunteer.

When PetAgree closed for the day, not wanting the big black dog to spend the night outside, Cameron brought her to the Humane Society and provided her with a large air conditioned room, a bed, food, and water. The big black dog fell right to sleep, feeling safe and loved. She joined in Sunday activities at the Humane Society that included lots of people loving on her and providing for her needs. Monday finally arrived and the Humane Society was sure that her owner had called Animal Control to report her missing. With much anticipation of a happy reunion, Animal Control was called but “no” there were no reports of anyone looking for a big black dog.

What to do next for the big black dog? She would be placed in a foster home while the search for her owner continued. A foster home was found, but just before the foster mom arrived at the Humane Society, it happened: THE PHONE CALL from a crying lady asking about her dog. Cameron was skeptical. Was it someone trying to get a fantastic dog for nothing? Was it a puppy mill operator? Was it some sort of dog selling scam? All these things went through her mind. Fact checking was done, authorities were contacted, and proof of ownership was requested. The phone call to Cameron came because of an observant volunteer at Indy Lost Pet Alert who matched the picture of the “found” big black dog with the picture of the “lost” big black dog posted back in January. When the lady walked into the Hendricks County Humane Society, all skepticism was washed away by tears of joy because the big black dog was ecstatic! She clearly recognized this lady and she was jumping and twirling with happiness. No doubt about it, this lady was her “mom,” whom we soon learned, she had not seen in over 5 months.

At last, the big black dog has a name, Blossom Girl, and her story unfolds: She lived with her family in a little community near Cloverdale, Indiana. Blossom was a gift from the husband to his wife, intended to bring his wife courage and inspiration as she dealt with a health problem. Blossom was stolen out of her yard when she was just 9 months old. The thief left her collar on the driveway, a collar that included her name and phone number. Her family was very sad and did everything possible to find her, including posting her picture and information on the Indy Lost Pet Alert website.

It was the folks at Indy Lost Pet Alert who made the connection from the “lost” posting back in January to the “found” posting in June. Blossom’s owner received an email from Indy Lost Pet Alert that her dog might have just been posted under “found” dogs and they gave her Cam’s phone number. And now we know the rest of the story. Blossom and her owner were reunited and each of them gleaned something from this reunion. The dog is happy to be back with her family and the owner has renewed interest in taking care of herself so she can be there for her dog.

What did this dog go through in the 5 months she was gone? Was she stolen to be sold so the thief could get money? Was she stolen to be bred? How did she get loose from whoever had her? Was she wandering down the road hoping to get back home to her real family? We can only wonder what the answers to these questions might be.

We relate Blossom’s saga and give credit to the three organizations who worked together to get her back home: PetAgree in Danville; Indy Lost Pet Alert, and Hendricks County Humane Society. In addition, it is wonderful to know that there are good people like Corey (the real hero!) and Cameron who are willing to be good Samaritans on behalf of the animals. Ah, if only animals could talk!

Finally, a plea from Cameron, “I BEG YOU ALL to get your pets microchipped! If your pet does get stolen, it will be harder to sell. If your dog gets lost, the Animal Shelter, the Humane Society, most veterinarians, and most pet stores have scanners to read the chip. Our pets can’t talk so they depend on us to do the right thing to help them.”

Merrily Nilles, HCHS Volunteer
July 10, 2017