They are despised
by some and often killed. Yet, the presence of
/stray cats on farms, ranches, abandoned buildings, and urban alleys often starts with the abandonment of someone’s pets. These animals are usually not spayed or neutered, and therefore, populations multiply and go unchecked. However, there are solutions to curb feral cat populations without lethal means and to care for them in compassionate
This humane approach to addressing feral cat issues, particularly breeding, not only saves cats’ lives but also addresses community concerns. What is TNR? Cats are humanely trapped
, taken to a veterinarian, spayed/neutered, vaccinated for rabies and other diseases, ear-tipped (this is the way to know if a cat is part of a TNR program), and returned to their outdoor community.
This program began in the United Kingdom., and in 1990, the non-profit Alley Cat Allies formed in the United States and began implementing the project. Such a program “improves the co-existence between outdoor cats and humans in our shared environment,” according to the organization.
Learn more about Alley Cat Allies and TNR by watching this short video: https://youtu.be/A14ZH-RSdKo
The American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also supports TNR and other methods of working with feral cats. Read some of their ideas here: https://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-community-cats-and-community-cat
Feral Cats, Birds, and Other Animals
Even though songbirds can be killed
by stray/feral cats, a bird is harder to catch than a mouse. Just as a bobcat or lynx stalks a rabbit for its meal, cats that live outdoors or in a barn are beneficial for keeping rodent populations, like mice, which spread disease to humans, to a minimum. During times of ships crossing the ocean, seafarers employed
cats for just that purpose, and farmers and ranchers to this day have cats on hand to keep down the mouse and rat populations.
Friends of mine own a ranch about 75 miles from where I live. They welcome the stray cats which come onto their property. They feed them and whenever possible,
them humanely, take them to the vet for spay/neuter and vaccination, then release them back on the ranch. Their barns and outbuildings have less
because of these cats. I have rarely seen a dead bird on their property, and my friends even put out feeders for the songbirds; therefore, they aren’t concerned
about the feral cats killing birds.
One of the stray cats they discovered a few years ago had been someone’s pet for she was/is super friendly and even declawed. She is now their house pet, although she is allowed
outdoors on occasion
. I wrote a short story about “Fancy the Farm Cat” that I’m happy to share with you; just a leave a comment on this blog post.
Read a comment from Alley Cat Allies regarding bird and animal predation by feral cats here: https://www.alleycat.org/alley-cat-allies-statement-about-journal-of-conservation-biology-article/
Help for Community/Stray/Feral Cats
During my travels, I've visited two small towns, one in Wyoming and the other in Oregon, where community cats were cared
for and TNR programs were implemented
. People and town governments can work together, alongside local and national cat advocate groups, to help reduce populations of feral/stray/community cats and do so in humane and compassionate, non-lethal ways.
Best Friends Animal Society provides resources for those who desire to help stray cats in their community. They also run successful program partnerships with other animal welfare organizations in Utah, where Best Friends is based
. Learn more about these endeavors here: https://utah.bestfriends.org/our-programs/communitycats
As the ASPCA notes, “Community cats exist because of generations of human action and inaction, therefore humanely addressing the needs of these cats and implementing programs which help prevent their reproduction, are the responsibility of the communities in which they live. The ASPCA encourages cat advocates, animal shelters and rescues, local government officials and the public to work together….”
To receive a free copy of my short story “Fancy the Farm Cat,” please leave a comment and your email address.
“So far, we’ve done 72 cats and kittens and we still have 20 to 30 more to go,” explained the woman who sat across the table from me.
We shared coffee and conversation during my recent visit to Oregon for a family reunion. I learned about the all-volunteer pet rescue organization Hope 4 Paws – Grant County from two different people while visiting relatives in Prairie City, Oregon, and after garnering a contact phone number, I was now learning more about the group. With so many feral, unaltered cats in the community of John Day, this group had secured a grant as well as local donations and was working with an area veterinarian to spay and neuter cats in a mobile home park. Most of the felines were being fixed under a Trap-Neuter-Return program, while many kittens were being vaccinated and altered then adopted to loving families. This small group of people (less than 12 volunteers) made a commitment to their community and to the animals of that community to help animals in need. I left a small donation to help toward the next round of vaccinations and spay/neuter as well as two of my books to use as part of a future fundraising endeavor.
Commitment is critical to pet rescue. For the past 10 years in my state of residence, Wyoming, a pet rescue organization has committed to not just helping pets in need, but to saving lives of animals in the state’s kill-shelters. Black Dog Animal Rescue (BDAR) began saving dogs’ lives throughout the state, fostering them in volunteers’ homes, and adopting them to new loving families. During the past decade, the organization has grown, now also taking in cats, and instituting a partnership with a medium correctional facility to implement a program preparing dogs for adoption behavior and training program called P.A.C.K. – inmates work with the dogs on obedience and some agility training. A recent program graduate named Niffy, now christened Tiffy, was adopted by one of my friends.
Barb began looking for a dog a few months ago and asked me for advice on where to adopt. I gave her several suggestions, including BDAR. She was familiar with the organization from a family member living in Cheyenne, the community where BDAR is located, about a 3-hour drive from our town of Casper. Barb and her husband took a day to drive down after putting in an adoption application for this 2-year-old border collie cross they had seen on BDAR’s website. Barb was looking for a dog which would hike, run, and bike with her, and Niffy appealed to her due to the border collie’s nature of being energetic. She also considered putting the dog into an agility program, another activity for which border collies are skilled. Barb was impressed with both the dog and the organization.
“They were very knowledgeable and answered all of my questions,” she told me after adopting from BDAR. “It’s been a long time since I’ve adopted a dog. It was a pleasant and positive experience, and I’d recommend BDAR and do it again. And Tiffy – I just love her! She was shy the first few days but now she has learned the routine of the house. She is smart, she is affectionate, and she learns quickly. I’m excited to see how she does with agility.”
Why do I support animal rescue? For several reasons, including the fact pet rescue is necessary. With nearly seven million animals going into shelters across the country every year, and the many strays and community cat colonies with little to no medical needs met, rescues are critical to the health and welfare of both community animals and humans. All this takes commitment. Many times, as in the case of Oregon’s Hope 4 Paws, it’s a group of volunteers who make that commitment. BDAR began as an all-volunteer organization, but saving the lives of dogs and cats across an entire state is a huge, fulltime job. Therefore, the group now provides a small staff; but, they continue to rely upon volunteers to help, as most non-profit organizations do. The commitment of people to help animals in need inspires and awes me; therefore, I suppport these organizations who do this work.
Without commitment from staff members and volunteers, where would the animals, and the communities, be? I’m so grateful to these and all the animal rescue organizations for what they do, and I will continue supporting pet rescue groups in various ways as long as I live.
How about you? What can you do to help pet rescue groups in your area? For ideas, visit these websites:
Her golden eyes beckoned me, like a sultry look from Brigitte Bardot. I cautiously approached. She extended a slender front paw between the bars of the cage, as if to shake hands – certainly to vie for my attention. Her round face and lavish, orange and white fur gave her the appearance of royalty. “You’re a princess,” I murmured as I softly stroked her outstretched leg. I then reached between the cage slates to scratch between her ears and under her chin. The diminutive cat responded with a low purr and a subdued ‘mew.” She didn’t belong behind those bars, so I paid her bail and took her home. Her previous owners gave her the name “Ama.” No one knew what it meant or had ever heard such a moniker. A unique name for a princess-like cat. Loving and quiet, Ama settled into her new life with grace and tranquility. Her best friend became a cocker spaniel named Sam, whom I had adopted from the same shelter a year previous. They often cuddled together on the couch by the fireplace. Sam and Ama shared a composed camaraderie, rarely, if ever, spatting over space, food, or attention. If Garfield and Odie had never quarreled, Ama and Sam could have been their stand-ins.
So starts a short story I wrote a few years ago about this sleek, amber-eyed kitty I adopted in 1990; the tale is part of my book Tail Tales. I mentioned Ama in last week’s blog, and since June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, I wanted to talk more about cat adoption and other programs which help cats – and how we can get involved.
Why do cats make great companions? Here are a few reasons:
Ama and I shared life for more than 15 years; she passed in 2006 at nearly 19 years of age. Both she and our mutual dog friend Sam came from the Bozeman, Montana humane society, adoptions that strengthened my resolve to always provide a home for rescued pets.
Every year, more than three million cats enter animal shelters across America. Many are stray, and sadly, only about 5% are reunited with their owners; nearly 1 million cats that come into shelters are killed due to lack of reclaiming strays and lack of cats adopted. This month shelters and rescues around the United States promote cat adoption and reuniting with owners since June is designated as Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. In addition to the strays and the owner relinquishments, this time of year is known as “kitten season,” when pet adoption organizations become overwhelmed with mamma cats and their babies. Spaying and neutering are critical to keeping cat populations down. Additionally, the numerous community cat situations (also known as feral cats, those living in cities, suburbs, and rural areas on their own) adding to that feline overpopulation, the need for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs is rampant.
There are several ways we can help:
By helping organizations and programs that help cats, you are helping kitties in need – and making special friends in the process.