Cat Abandonment and Cat Saving (Post 30/30)
As a cat advocate for over four decades, I’ve felt the ups and downs of the ytap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) movement’s evolution. That evolution is deeply embedded in my personal evolution and it is my belief that successful TNVR projects now must be approached through an organic holistic standpoint. What does that mean? Well, by way of explanation, let’s talk through a little history of cat abandonment and cat saving.
At a younger age, my first encounter with “feral” cats was catching sight of an elderly man opening cans of cat food in an overgrown field behind a run-down skeleton warehouse building. Being moved by the sight, I had to approach him, mostly out of fear that he was using his money to care for the cats rather than himself and also how was he able to care for so many, were there others and did he need help of some kind. Turns out he had family, wasn’t starving or homeless himself and truly loved caring for the cats who he felt were orphans, thrown away that he found and must take responsibility for.
Haunted by the thought that there must be other locations, elderly people out alone caring for abandoned cat souls, I started to reach out and found somewhat of an “underground” network of caregivers, mostly feeders, who were heart-bound to these cats, knew their plight was man-made irresponsible acts and felt that feeding was the solution to remedy their circumstances. Overpopulation was an afterthought; once recognized as a major issue in terms of how many cats could be birthed by two unfixed strays in a year’s time, the growing networks started to get veterinarians involved. The first spay/neuter clinics were held by word of mouth, vets would “borrow” practice space on weekends or after regular hours. Trappers received clinic slots and went out to trap to get ahead of spay/neutering to decrease overpopulation. This was all done free of charge, as charity work.
Fast forward to a point in time currently, TNVR is a huge movement that ebbs and flows continuously. It is so rewarding spiritually and, in a life-saving sense and I applaud anyone who finds themselves pulled in by a cute furry face with whiskers who lets you know they are homeless and in need of a caring friend. Falling in love is wonderful and caring for the voiceless brings loads of feels that cover the spectrum of emotions, so let me just inject a few practical tips to help bring about the best support for projects that speak directly to your passion for those found free roaming or community cats.
If you find yourself bonding with a stray or community cat and have decided to promote TNVR, keep in mind that the location you meet that cat on needs to be addressed first if it isn’t your personal property. That means take the time to talk to property owners, find out if they are friend or foe of cats, TNVR programs and colony managers on the property to maintain and feed any cats that are permitted to be assisted there. If they say no, either pursue giving them an educational presentation about the benefits of having a managed colony work their property or make arrangements to have the colony relocated to a more conducive area nearby for their safety and well-being. Check for hazards, toxic pesticide use, unclean water, unfriendly neighbors and plan accordingly. Recognizing and addressing issues up front leads to a much smoother TNVR encounter and less stress worrying about the colony or cat caregivers being in danger. Also, plan on servicing that colony after TNVR for at least three-five years beyond date of returns from neutering. Reach out to social media groups for “check-ins” and ask questions, loads of questions to insure the absolute best circumstances are achieved to survive outdoor life for the cats depending on your team.
Thank you to everyone who shares passion for cats and their plight as community cats. Please open a dialog to put together a local and longer distance support system that can help your work save as many lives as possible and know that you’re appreciated for your contributions of time and caring in assisting cats who are underserved.
Please submit any questions, thoughts or information that comes to mind about how toyou plan to approach your next TNVR project. We are here to welcome conversations that will make your work rewarding for your collaborators and the cats you will assist.
Suzanna Schiefer, contributor