I spent the weekend attending the 2020 Online Cat Conference, from Friday night through Sunday afternoon, and I’m nearly on overload with information, some old, some new, some enhanced and explained, some reinforced, but all of it good for cats.
I remember some time in the 80s carefully walking through the woods to see if I could find the mother cat and kittens I had seen from the interstate and hoping I could catch them—with no traps of any sort, only carriers and food, and no place to take them but my own home. I was not successful that time, though others I caught a cat or two. Later, trying to surround some terrified kittens with plastic fencing hoping that would slow them down as they tried to run up a hill further into the brush so I could, again, grab them, I managed to catch only two of the five.
When I moved into my house in 1990, there were about 20 cats in my back yard. The owners had moved out months before and the yard was somewhat overgrown, and I discovered in the next few months that most of the cats were socialized but many were wary. Many had come from the big Victorian houses broken into rental apartments in the street behind me. People who weren’t permitted to have pets put the cats outside, and many cats hung around for the connection with food. Others put cats outside because of behavior problems, like spraying, not using the litterbox, scratching people or things, and giving birth to kittens. I did manage, over the next year, to help people with some of the issues and to get most of these cats into some situation that wasn’t outdoor living, and to get a few spayed and neutered. I couldn’t feed them in my yard because the sight of them set Stanley into a pissing fit because they were in his territory, but they were fed by other people.
But in the meantime I had met a few others who were rescuing cats from various places such as institution grounds and apartment complexes, and we could share rescued cats—divide them up to those who could best care for them. I could never take bottle babies, but another woman could, and others could take kittens. Thank goodness I found them, and that they were careful in their care and in adoptions, unlike others who would give cats away to anyone who wanted them, or, just the opposite, those who would never give up a foster because they were convinced no one would take the care they did.
But I’ll never forget the ones I did not catch. I’ll never forget the terrified faces of a little five-week-old tortie and a tux who should have been playing themselves into exhaustion backing off into the brush, never to be seen again. All the other kittens who eluded me, the cats in hoarder’s houses, the cats who were so far gone by the time I could finally catch them that there was no way to make them well again.
Resources for cats have changed so much in the past 35 years that it’s hard to believe it’s the same world we live in. I first heard about trapping cats in the early 90s and first used a trap in the late 90s. I didn’t realize that TNR had made it to American shores from England, and that was followed quickly by pediatric spay and neuter. In the late 90s I worked with a customer on a project in collaboration with Pittsburgh’s three largest shelters and first heard about the no-kill movement, all of these changes before the year 2000.
In the following decade, rescues began to pop up everywhere, and while some could be as unreliable as the hoarders-to-be who would not adopt out any kittens or cats, most of them were busy saving lives, keeping cats out of shelters when euthanasia numbers were still very high, but inching downward with promise. Suddenly I wasn’t alone out there in the woods, and I wasn’t empty-handed, I could actually persist and catch all the cats with traps, and also call for backup when I needed it. And I could work with a shelter and a rescue or two to surrender my kittens and cats when they were socialized and ready and the shelter or rescue had space. I didn’t need to worry about rescuing another cat that might not be adopted leaving me with less space to take in other rescues.
The decade just past and up to today built on that with an increasing status of cats and more cat-specific rescues, more innovative care for rescued cats with life-threatening injuries or illnesses, more people all the time who were willing to sit out in the cold and watch traps, to take the time and skill to socialize feral kittens, and shelters opening up to work with rescues to help save lives in shelters.
After attending the conference, my head is full of even more new and wonderful innovations, both for cats and for people who love them, many we’ve already implemented in some way where I am, others on the way: Cats Safe at Home, collaboration, Best Practice Playbook for Animal Shelters, the Community Cat Pyramid, Return to Field, removing barriers for people living in underserved communities with affordable services for their pets, working cats, reducing shelter euthanasia, targeted TNR, and more.
The conference was hosted by The Community Cats Podcast. I’ll be writing about much of what I learned in the coming weeks, and I hope you’ll find it interesting and useful.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Great Rescues Day Book:
Portraits, Rescue Stories, Holidays and Events, Essential Feline Information, All in One Book
Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.
Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.
The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!