Homeless animals have had lots of good news in the past few years; the availability of foster homes has increased, hospice care is more widely available, and adoption rates have been increasing.
The challenge that always remains is the massive overpopulation of cats. No matter what progress has been made, there always seems to be a never ending wave of cats and kittens that arrive at the shelter needing our help.
The world we live in is not black and white; there are many shades of grey and cat care is one of the more grey areas of animal welfare. We know that the best and safest place for a cat is indoors. Indoor cats are safer and live longer, healthier lives than their outdoor counterparts. Indoor cats also don’t pose a risk to wildlife and are not public nuisances. Knowing all this, I used to feel that it was cruel to let cats outside but after years of seeing feral cats cowering terrified in cages and hundreds euthanized, I know that isn’t the answer either.
The solution that has been offered is TNVR; an abbreviation for Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, and Release, a program in which feral cats are trapped, surgically sterilized and vaccinated, and then released to the area they came from. Typically there is a feeder or caregiver keeping an eye on the colony and ensuring that should a new cat show up, it is altered as quickly as possible.
For years we have weighed what we know, what we feel, and what we have learned. There has been criticism for our delay in embracing TNVR and I will admit, for myself, it has been a process. Not born out of ill-will or carelessness, but quite the opposite. Having seen so many stray cats come in mangled, sick, dying and suffering it takes a lot of mind-bending to embrace putting them back out in a world that can be so dangerous.
I have required a lot of education from people I respect and organizations that have seen proven results. The old way wasn’t working; euthanizing healthy cats because they came from outside and wanted to go back out wasn’t working. The goal of TNVR is the same as our goal; reduce the feral cat population. Spay and neuter as many as you possibly can. TNVR however doesn’t involve euthanizing healthy cats and it also controls population more effectively by having altered cats “hold their ground” so new cats don’t move in where they have been removed (the vacuum effect).
Our program is in the very beginning stages – we are researching and targeting areas with a known population of unaltered feral cats. We are developing a trap-loaning program, as well as an actual support system of volunteers to assist with trapping and transport. We have a lot of ground to cover and a lot of work to do, but we’re excited to start, even if we are starting small.
We will be able to take our program to the next level with the opening of the People for Animals clinic in Millville in the coming months. We are already working with PFA, whose TNVR experienced staff has been so enthusiastic and helpful as we get started and once the clinic opens up we will have even more opportunities.
Community cats are a community issue and we’re reaching out to our community for help. We are looking for volunteers who are experienced with trapping or want to learn and would be able to actively trap on properties. We also need volunteers who can transport cats in traps in the mornings/late afternoons to clinic appointments as well as volunteers with experience fundraising.
We are in urgent need of funds to continue to support the program. While we are actively looking for grants, it’s tough to be competitive when we are just getting started.
We are seeking volunteers to help with this program as well as donations to support our TNVR work.