by Diane Peresie
I have been a serious photographer for many years. I have received several prizes locally over the years and even a couple nationally. The national photos, btw, were of my cats. I have always loved cats and can’t remember life without one.
When I turned 80 years old, I went into a complete “now what?” mode about everything, including my photography. I had very serious photo equipment, I had gone to workshops, I had taken photos of people, events, flowers, scenery and architecture. I had way too many framed photos stuffed in closets at a time when I was trying to get rid of stuff and I had no desire at this time of my life to even consider a business….so, now what?
One day while cruising the internet, I read about a photographer in Baltimore who was photographing feral cat colonies for a local TNR group. Light bulbs went flashing in my head! THIS is what I wanted to do.
I was not involved with any TNR group and really only had a vague idea about what they do. I googled local organizations and picked one called Nobody’s Cats. They were extremely active and successful so I gave them a call asking if I could photo their colonies, at no cost. They didn’t know me from Adam so they had me come in. It turns out they always used purchased stock photos with cats in them for their printed material and, yes, they would like to give me a try.
The first time they took me out, we went to three colonies that were amazingly close together. They were on or very near businesses that I frequent often. I had passed the area a million times, never knowing about the cats. The total cats in these three colonies was about 100 cats….all had been TNRd.
I will say I was speechless after that first time. I learned about the red tape the organization had to go thru to first get permission from the township and then permission from corporation headquarters of the businesses. I was stunned to learn the numbers of feral cats just within an 8 county area. The work this organization, and other similar organizations, is a forever job unless and until people learn that they must neuter ferals and pets.
My best eye opener has been meeting the Caretakers. These are men and women who have signed up to TNR and help provide food and shelter in a certain pocket of cats. In their training for this they are sometimes told to view it as a job, don’t get emotionally involved,don’t name the cats because “things happen.”
Are you kidding me? What crazy cat person in their right mind would not name each and every cat? I never met a Caretaker that had not named every cat. At feeding time they know who is missing and who is new at the table. Speaking of feeding, I have never seen a skinny feral that had a Caretaker. These people sacrifice their time every day and their money providing food. They are fiercely protective of their colony. When “things happen”, aka unspeakable torture by a human, they weep. If they know the person who did the torturing, they go to great lengths to see that they are prosecuted. A lot of our animal laws were wimpy so they have joined forces with other organizations and Caretakers and have successfully changed state laws in our state of Pennsylvania.
As I was photographing these colonies, I too got emotionally involved and wept right along with them when “things happened.”
Out of the many Caretakers I have met let me tell you about Pat. I have gone several times with Pat on her “run,” in both good and bad weather. In good weather it took us a little over two hours; after a bad snow it took us a little over four hours. Pat makes 11 stops to feed inner city colonies. Pat doesn’t even know exactly the total number of ferals, but she knows them most by sight. She has trapped the majority of them but more always appear. When “things happen” to one of her ferals she has trapped them and taken them to a vet on her own dime. She has brought home many that were people friendly. I asked her once how many cats she has at home. Her reply? “You can ask my age and you can ask my weight, but don’t ask how many cats I have.” Pat has been feeding these cats every day for over TEN years!
This has been a very gratifying experience and since I have now provided Nobody’s Cats with more photos than they will ever need, I will be contacting other organizations to see if I can help. I feel a great responsibility to show the inherit dignity and beauty of all the cats regardless of their situation. I marvel at their superior survival skills and their will to live. I realized that the places they live would not be a choice you and I would make but for them it is their castle and in bad weather their salvation. I cherish the work of the organizations and Caretakers. I feel a murderous hate for those who go out of their way to hurt these beautiful and proud creatures.
If you know of an organization in your area or know a Caretaker, donate dry or canned food. Donate to organizations who embrace the whole TNR effort.