You just never know when a half-grown stray or feral kitten will show up.
And I never used to know when I should say something about whether or not a kitten is spayed or neutered, or whether anyone was caring for the feral cats.
I sometimes feel I’m risking being known as the “crazy cat lady”, but over the years I’ve learned to always speak up. Sometimes I’ve been embarrassed, but usually I’ve been pretty glad I did because often I can spread information about low-cost spay and neuter and managing stray and feral colonies to people who really didn’t know this existed, or that the appearance of a kitten could indicate the need for such activities.
Last summer, on their Facebook page, the Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest posted that there were kittens behind their office, then posted a photo “for those who need a Friday kitten photo.”
I know their office is in a pretty urban area in the City of Pittsburgh, and it’s likely this kitten was stray or feral. Also, by her coloring as a dilute calico, she was likely a “she”. In any case, I figured it didn’t hurt to say something, so I asked if the kitty had a home, and mentioned that they should trap and spay ASAP if someone else didn’t or they’d have some extra kittens soon. The author replied that he thought the kittens lived in the yard behind the office, and asked if I was a neighbor.
I answered that I was not, but that I was always concerned when I saw kittens or adult cats who might be stray or feral or headed that way, and I always offered a bit of information about TNR and spay/neuter deals at shelters, including the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT).
The author replied that there may already be a feral colony there because he saw kittens and cats last year, very skittish, and that he had a friend who was involved in TNR and would enlist her help.
In the meantime another reader commented to say thanks for the information, she hadn’t known about HCMT but was glad to find out the information and encouraged me to keep spreading the word.
I had been hesitant, but I was never more glad to have spoken up. I gave information to two people who are aware and will likely use it, and pass it on as well.
In years past, I would have headed over there to assess the situation, and if no one in the vicinity was interested in taking care of the situation, either caring for the colony themselves or trapping and moving them, I would have returned with traps and tried to catch as many as I could myself, taking them home and getting veterinary care, altering, feeding and re-homing on my own. Ah, the bleak 1980s and 90s, too many cats and not enough programs, but I was glad to have found a few sympathetic vets who knew what I was doing.
Along came TNR, the Homeless Cat Management Team, early spay and neuter for shelter animals and aggressive spay/neuter programs for adult animals at shelter clinics, and a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. With more options and more awareness, I could get away with handing out handfuls of information, posting flyers in the area and making a few follow-up calls. As my household grew geriatric and I was less willing to bring in rescued cats in miscellaneous condition, I had built up a network of concerned friends and converts who were glad for the information and I could focus on my rescues here at home, knowing I’d at least spread the word.
So now instead of doing the footwork, I do the social network—though I always carry good old-fashioned flyers with me, and often have conversations with people who are totally off the network. I work with or am a member of a number of local conservation groups and visit their land, and also use local trails. I also tend to go off on painting and photo forays to uninhabited areas on the edge of town such as the now-empty steel mills and industrial areas, and along the waterways that run behind everything.
Often, I see cats, settled into these quieter areas that afford protection, but an easy run to a dumpster or someone’s back yard where they might be fed. I’ve posted HCMT and clinic information in these areas, talked to people on trails who say they always see the cats, and also handed it to people in their back yard who were sympathetic to the cats and fed them though they found it difficult to keep up with caring for them, but felt they couldn’t stop now that they’d started.
I sometimes follow up with people I’ve sent information to, and it often takes a nudge to get people to take advantage of the programs. But each time it’s accepted, and often with gratitude, it confirms that animals, and especially cats, are increasing in respect in our society, and not considered the throw-aways they once were, and that we should always speak up and offer whatever we feel is appropriate. Helping even one cat with spay and neuter helps to solve the problem of feline overpopulation.
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