The small tuxedo cat was waiting for me every morning on my recent vacation – sitting on the edge of the beach walkway with his tail curled around the pole to the resort sign. To most people, the cat was invisible, but I saw him right away and slowly approached. Today is National Feral Cat Day and my thoughts immediately turn to my new little friend.
This particular cat was one of the many cats at the resort’s colony. Tux didn’t run, but did step back short of being petted – not quite feral but a bit shy. A few days later there was the Tortie on the edge of the bushes meowing for attention and then the tabby with a loud purr wanting to be petted.
For several days, I thought I was special because they seemed to be waiting for me on my walk. Then one morning, I met the colony caretakers on a feeding run. It was mealtime…not my time.
At many places, these cats would be trapped and euthanized, but at this resort and on Maui a small non-profit and group of volunteers had tackled the cat issue. Many of the cats were friendly strays. There are fewer options for cats here - the Maui Humane Society – the island’s open access shelter – has a high euthanasia rate. So, with no coyotes or other predators and with the mild weather, this area was a safe refuge for them.
National Feral Cat Day
Today is National Feral Cat Day. And, around the country communities are stepping up like this. They are tackling their community cat issues with Trap Neuter Return (TNR) programs instead of capturing and euthanizing. It’s saving lives and helping more friendly strays and abandoned cats get a second chance at a happy ending. These programs that are often run by non-profits also save communities the cost of catching, housing and euthanizing feral cats.
In the Chicago area, there are so many pieces of the puzzle in place – larger organizations supporting in the effort and smaller groups doing their part in their neighborhoods. That's great news because it's really National
Feral Cat Day here 365 days a year. Here’s a quick glance at some local efforts –
- Tree House Humane Society oversees over 420 colony caretakers. They work with them on TNR services, vaccinations, food and educating neighbors on the issue. Tree House also oversees the Cats At Work program that puts small colonies in places like warehouses and factories to help manage the rodent population.
- PAWS Chicago & The Anti-Cruelty Society both offer low cost spay and neuter services.
- There are tons of smaller groups in Chicago working as well – Chicago TNR, Hyde Park Cats, Throop Street Ferals, just to name a few – that took action when the number of homeless cats in their neighborhoods exploded.
- Many smaller cat rescues throughout our community take in the friendly strays that come in through TNR or through various animal controls and find them homes.
- In DuPage County, Feral Fixers just celebrated six years of TNR efforts with 5,500 cats saved. An amazing feat for a small group that’s made great strides in their community. Triple R Pets works in and around Western Springs.
- In suburban Cook County (especially around Wheeling), the Feral Feline Project has had a dramatic impact. They TNR the feral cats and work to find homes for the friendly strays they take in – that group (the rescued) can number 500 a year.
- Tackling much of Lake County, Spay and Stay has worked in various communities for the past 10 years, saving 5,000 lives. They also are working with PetSmart Charities on the Fixing Waukegan program aimed at providing spay/neuter services in that community. (Their Black Cat Ball is Saturday.) Fat Cat Rescue works in North Chicago.
The invisible cats
In many communities, people only realize that there is a problem with excess stray and feral cats when the population is getting out of control. Few really see the cats weaving in and out of the alleys and back yards in the shadows when it’s just one or two. When communities step up, steps can be taken before it all gets out of control.
Why should you care? On a national level, seven in 10 cats that come into animal controls don’t make it out alive. Thanks to TNR programs with feral cats and the spay and neuter work done on strays, those numbers are dropping. Each cat that comes through animal control costs communities hundreds of dollars. Also, according to PawNation today…along with the ferals do consider how many free roaming cats may just be strays trying to get home.
Thanks to Alley Cat Allies for doing so much to shine the light on Feral Cats…they are the founders of National Feral Cat Day.
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