by Beth Frank, President and Founder of Community Cats United, Inc
Let’s talk about a few topics in the world of community cats. But first, what exactly is a community cat? Community cat is a term that includes any unowned cat, whether they are feral (unsocialized) or friendly (lost or abandoned pet cats).
These cats join together and live in colonies. Under trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR), these cats are humanely trapped by experienced trappers and taken to a veterinarian to be spay/neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped (the universal sign of a TNVR’d cat).
Now let’s say you see a community cat or a group of them. What do you do? Since TNVR has increased in popularity as a proven method of decreasing humanely the number of community cats, the first step is to research if there is any TNVR group in the area. If you are new to the world of TNVR, an established group is a great start to guide and help you on what to do. They can show you how to trap, give you ideas on how to best bait the trap and so on. TNVR is more scientific that most people realize. Plans are made for the best time to trap and where the trap should be placed for best results, the type of bait that works best, etc.
Here are a few tips when doing trapping. Its always a good idea to spend some time assessing a site prior to launching a trapping. Get to know the surroundings such as is this a duplex, a large apt building, someone’s backyard, or perhaps the backyard of a neighbor.
If possible, try to locate who the cat friendliest people are in connection with the cats. Is there someone feeding them? Are there bowls laying about? You can always put a note into
a baggie and place it under one of the cat bowls with your name and cell phone number on it, asking them to call you as you would like to talk about the beautiful cats in the area.
If it is a large apt building and the manager is known to be a friend to the cats, then go directly to the manager with a well thought out plan, and let them know what you can do for them and the current cats to keep the number of cats from increasing. If the manager is not cat friendly, then most trappers will work with a renter to trap those cats that are not spayed or neutered, and that they are feeding.
Once someone becomes irritated that the cats are there and you are the caretaker to the colony, it is best to move the cats slowly as far from that direction as possible without putting their lives at risk of traffic and other obstacles. It is also wise to change your routine to feed early in the morning or late at night so as not to draw attention to yourself, and thereby the cats in the colony.
Some people will try to find homes for light colored cats as they are much more noticeable in the vicinity of a colony and can actually put more risk towards the colony as people will notice the cats more frequently.
If you are in a community and some people are for the trapping and others may be suspicious of it, its best to do the ones you can and hope that by neighbors talking about how great and easy it was, they too will jump on board.
Each scenario is different and can run the gamut from a simple trap setting in someone’s back yard to a real heated debate about feeding a colony that might involve animal control. Some sites will require you to contact animal control for help, a lot depends on the local laws in your area and how much your animal control is willing to work with you. These days it is much easier to work as a team and help one another as everyone is really looking for the same goals, less homeless cats and less euthanasia.
There is also a prodicol for before and after surgery. Once each cat is considered to be ok to return to their colony, they are released there. This is not re-abandonment because there is a caretaker that will now manage the colony for food, water, shelter and health. Often, rescues will rehome the friendly cats.
Many times trappers and feeders do it all by themselves – and pay the bills for food and surgery out of their own pockets. They fly under the radar because many are harassed and threatened by people who don’t know what TNVR is and how it works. And it does work. To these people I say: stop becoming part of the part – be part of the solution instead. Let’s not continue to victimize the victims.
Anyone can help these community cats. Everyone starts somewhere and hopefully an experienced TNVR person is found to mentor. So the next time you see a cat or group of cats outside, please don’t walk away. Ask if anyone knows if the cats are owned or if there is a caretaker for them . If not, step up and show them the compassion you would want if you were in their place. Become a TNVR person!
Good-hearted people often just feed the cats, as spay/neuter can be costly. It is not uncommon for TNVR people to go without vacations and more to pay for the costs of managing a colony. But feeding alone does not help the situation. Spay/neuter MUST be done. Many vets will offer special packages for community cats, understanding the need is so great and funds are so short. We applaud each and every one of these vets. They are an active part of improving animal welfare.
Many times, individuals connect when feeding and trapping. They start talking about wanting to form a group. Groups that are incorporated and have 501c3 status with the Internal Revenue Service as an approved non-profit have the ability to get grants from Petsmart, Best Friends, and many more. These grants help to pay for spay/neuter services. Pet food manufacturers will often donate overstocked food to these groups to help with the cost of feeding. So gaining a 501c3 status gives a huge advantage for receiving donations and grants as they are now tax-deductible. Always consult an accountant and/or attorney to get started as rules vary by state.
When TNVR is done within a colony, the number of cats will decrease through attrition. Results everywhere are showing this to be the case. What would happen if TNVR is done on a wide scale basis? The results would be amazing.
This article was written by Beth Frank, president and founder of Community Cats United, Inc. (Trap-Neuter-Return Community). In less than three years, this group has membership of 18,500 individuals and 1,000 groups, including 109 countries and all 50 US states.
To learn more about TNVR, please visit our websites and Facebook page.
www.communitycatmovement.org (educational wing of Community Cats United, Inc.
Facebook: Trap-Neuter-Return Community