Cats and those who care for them share a treasured friend in Cindy Valerio.
As founder and president of Community Cat Companions, she led a successful endeavor to humanely reduce the population of feral and stray cats in local areas, including Lake and Ashtabula counties.
A single cat can typically have two litters per year with an average of four kittens each, greatly increasing the feral cat problem many cities are dealing with if left unaddressed.
Since 2015, the nonprofit organization has spearheaded efforts to neuter more than 5,000 cats while implementing numerous programs and partnerships that positively affect the well-being of fluffy felines.
As the organization celebrates its 10th anniversary, Valerio notes that when it first started, entrapment, incapacitation and return orders did not exist in many communities. Since then, she has worked with city councils and other groups to initiate regulations and use them to implement the TNR.
In 2015, former Willowick mayor Richard Bonde invited Valerio to speak at a council meeting regarding the feeding bans. Later, he requested that the group work within the city to run a TNR program.
Soon after, an ordinance was signed to support the method as the most humane and effective method of controlling the potential overpopulation of abandoned, stray, and feral cats in the city.
Valerio noted around this time “it became very clear to me that … Lake County had no service, there were no other ordinances, no funding. Cuyahoga had tons of them, Lake had none.
In 2017, Community Cat Companions once again stepped in to run the program in Mentor. Subsequently, a related ordinance was passed and other cities have since followed suit.
Valerio first became concerned about the homeless cat population after her neighbors who regularly fed a number of cats abandoned them when they moved house. Borrowing a trap from an animal sanctuary, the resident of Euclid took it upon himself to care for them.
Realizing that a similar problem existed in multiple areas and on a much larger scale, she set out on her mission.
“It was very small, we had no equipment. I borrowed traps, encouraged myself and with other organisations,” she said.
The goodwill efforts of the group are remarkable.
After two and a half years of working with Mentor, a reduction of around 30% in feral cat colonies was achieved, she said. Since 2021, a Snip and Tip cat control operation in Madison has targeted trailer parks and treated more than 200 cats.
“It’s a small area and it’s very confined, (with many) mini-settlements,” Valerio said.
The Snip and Tip service, which has a cat neutered or neutered by a veterinarian and then cut off one of its ears so it can easily be identified as having had the service, is free and will expand to Painesville in 2023.
Together with TNR, the organization has facilitated around 2,000 cat adoptions which play another important role in controlling wild populations.
Money for the group to operate effectively is made through grants and fundraising. Partnerships with Pet Smart Charities, PetFix, and the Ohio Pet Fund license plate program have all helped advance its mission.
In addition to getting familiar with its services, Valerio hopes the public will become aware of what lies ahead with future plans.
“We’re going to start moving into pet retention…working on ways to help people keep cats in their homes.
home,” she said. “It’s already started, but we need good software. This element will lead to funding and finding the best destination for our money. We see a great need for it. »
Valerio isn’t alone in her cat-centric endeavors.
“It’s not just me, we have really good volunteers and it’s 100% voluntary,” she said.
A Paws and Give Thanks fundraising dinner is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on October 29 at the Fairport Harbor Senior
Center. Tickets can be purchased at lakecountycommunitycats.org or by calling 216-956-5129.
In October, for Subaru Loves Pets Months, Adventure Subaru in Painesville partnered with
Community Cat Companions and will donate $100 per adoption, up to $3,100.