Holiday Giving: Group is an angel to the stray cat population

bcain@newsobserver.comDecember 14, 2012 

The gray cat was a feral at a home in Spring Hope that had almost 60 cats outside. 59 cats were trapped over 3 weeks and all were spayed/neutered and vaccinated. All of the kittens were taken for adoption, along with two friendly adults. The homeowner kept the other adults. ABOUT THIS CAT: He was a feral cat that was TNR'd but was too wild to be adopted. In this photo, he is playing with a toy for the first time. He and several of the feral cats loved playing with the toy. Owner said they had never had toys before.


  • Let’s be-Devil Barry! If your donations to our Holiday Guide to Giving charities top $58,000 this year, columnist Barry Saunders will don the garb of his hated Duke Blue Devils for a picture we’ll publish Dec. 21. As of Friday afternoon, more than $13,000 had been raised. Please go to our database of local charities at and click “search” to see the entire list. If you make a donation by Dec. 19, send an email to Burgetta Wheeler at with the amount, your name or company’s name, and a phone number. Please put HOLIDAY CHALLENGE in the subject line. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Thoughts naturally turn to helping those less fortunate around the holidays. But one local animal charity’s mission is centered on some of the smallest – and most forgotten – creatures all year long: stray cats and kittens.

Tia Hagnas is the founder and president of Alley Cats and Angels, a Triangle-based all-volunteer, nonprofit rescue group that focuses on the stray and feral cats and kittens that many other rescue groups overlook. The group’s mission is to get those cats adopted into permanent homes or placed into safe environments where they may go forth, but never multiply.

Hagnas says her group, one of the many in The News & Observer’s Holiday Guide to Giving, takes a holistic approach to dealing with cat overpopulation.

“We take in kittens and friendly cats that are found in feral colonies, and we’re typically in the trenches getting them,” Hagnas said. “We’re crawling through a ditch or climbing up a tree to get them. It’s not ‘Bring them to us.’ ”

An Alley Cats and Angels specialty is taking on what Hagnas calls “the really hissy-spitty kittens that no one else wants.” Those unsocialized kittens are placed in special foster homes where volunteers carefully coax them into becoming peaceful, loving cats ready for adoption.

The nonprofit, powered by about 30 volunteers, has so far taken in 330 cats in 2012 and adopted out 263.

Some unadoptable feral cats are relocated to barn homes through the Alley Cats and Angels Barn Cat Program. Since Hagnas founded the group in 2007, it has placed about 400 cats in barn homes.

Other feral cats the group encounters can be TNR’d – trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to their original location, where they are monitored and cared for by volunteers. Animal advocacy groups say TNR is the most efficient and humane way to control cat populations.

Alter an Alley Cat

The group also puts a lot of resources into its Alter an Alley Cat Program, which subsidizes the spaying and neutering of cat. Spay-neuter vouchers, which can be purchased for $60, are taken to local participating veterinarians who accept them as payment. The voucher covers the surgery, as well as distemper and rabies vaccinations. Right now, three vets in Rolesville, Cary and Raleigh accept the vouchers, and the group is in the process of expanding that network.

But even the low-cost vouchers are a hardship for some. Hagnas said that in many cases, Alley Cats and Angels works with people on the cost

Helping shelters

Alley Cats and Angels sometimes pulls at-risk cats and kittens from county shelters. But it can only do that when foster home space is available.

The group pulled about 60 cats and kittens from the Cumberland County animal shelter this year.

“Until recently, almost no one pulled from them,” Hagnas said. “Or, unfortunately, they’d go in and cherry-pick and take the Maine Coons and Siamese and leave the others. We go in behind them and we’re like, ‘Dadgummit, little black kitties, come on!’ ”

Though small in number, the Alley Cats and Angels volunteers accomplish much in the name of protecting forgotten felines and working to limit exploding cat populations.

And they know they still have lots of work left to do.

“It may not sound like a lofty goal, but you have to address the issue of overpopulation at the root,” Hagnas said. “And we’re a pretty small group to accomplish what we accomplish.”

Cain: 919-829-4579

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