In 2001, feral (also known as community) cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies instituted National Feral Cat Day. October 16, 2013 marks the day's thirteenth anniversary.
In a news release, the organization's president and co-founder Becky Robinson stated, "There is a sea change in our how our nation’s cities are approaching cats whose homes are the outdoors. Hundreds of municipal and private shelters and animal control agencies have embraced trap/neuter/return and abandoned the cruelty of ‘catch and kill’. Communities are seeing firsthand that these innovative programs really work.” Locally, Spring Farm CARES conducts a trap/neuter/vaccinate return program once a month for local community cats, and R-CATS regularly performs this service for feral cats in the Rome area.
Robinson continued, "Since National Feral Cat Day was founded in 2000, we have seen widespread and growing evidence that communities are realizing 'catch and kill' for feral cat management is a cruel failure, and that Americans don’t support it. In fact, a 2007 Harris Interactive survey conducted for Alley Cat Allies revealed that Americans think it is more humane to allow a stray cat to live out his natural life outdoors than to be taken to a shelter and 'euthanized.' What Americans do support is Trap-Neuter-Return, the humane approach to feral cats. Stray and feral cats living outdoors are humanely trapped, then vaccinated, sterilized, and eartipped by veterinarians. Socialized cats and kittens are adopted into homes. Healthy adult cats are returned to their outdoor colony homes. Trap-Neuter-Return ends reproduction, stabilizes populations and improves cats’ lives. More than 250 local nonprofit groups have been organized across the U.S. to carry out Trap-Neuter-Return in their communities. And every year, hundreds of events are held across the county to mark National Feral Cat Day in all 50 states, and even internationally – even as far away as Australia,
The most promising development we have seen in the last decade is that more than 330 local governments—at all levels, from municipality to county to state—have officially endorsed or embraced Trap-Neuter-Return. Major cities such as Washington, D.C., Chicago, Baltimore and New Orleans have all implemented successful TNR programs." Interested parties can read more about these and other TNR programs in Alley Cat Allies' Law & Policy Brief. The group points out a statistic on page 11, which shows that TNR has grown ten-fold within the last decade; that data does not include the many communities that support TNR but have not officially passed an ordinance.
This year, Alley Cat Allies will mark the day by releasing “Architects of Change for Cats,” a blueprint for animal pounds, shelters and animal control agencies for implementing changes to end the practice of catching and killing community cats. The guide includes several examples of communities that have changed their practices and have since seen reduced animal shelter intake numbers, stabilized outdoor cat populations, widespread community support and other powerful metrics of success. One example of an animal rescue that has helped influence practices historically applied to community cats is Safe House Animal Rescue League, based in Illinois.
Want to help locally? There are several ways to help humanely manage the area's community cats.
- Help a worthy organization such as Spring Farm CARES or R-CATS by helping them with fundraising (that helps pay veterinary bills and day-to-day care) with a personal donation, or by asking the leadership at your workplace to place donation canisters in the building. Donors can also support R-CATS by participating in their ongoing Flower Power fundraiser.
- R-CATS is having a "Coffee and Dessert" event at Spressos on National Feral Cat Day (October 16th). Lorie, the owner, is very generously donating coffee, tea, and baked goodies for the event, and R-CATS will be selling tickets for $5.00 each by the end of the month. This will be a "get to know us" event to give people in the community the opportunity to stop over and find out what the group does, why they do it, and why it's the right way to address the homeless cat population in Rome. The event is scheduled for 6 PM to 8 PM.
- Another easy way to help the R-CATS Program raise money for its spay/neuter mission is by donating returnable bottles and cans. The group has an account with Stan's Cans on Turin Road and it receives $.06 for every bottle and can turned in when the customer tells them that it's a donation to the R-CATS Program. If donors are unable to get there to drop off returnables themselves, please contact R-CATS and they will arrange to pick up your cans and drop them off for you.
- Volunteering is always helpful. The next R-CATS volunteer meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 24, at 6:30 PM in the Common Council Chambers at Rome City Hall.
- R-CATS also needs donations for their food pantry. Through the pantry, R-CATS provides dry and canned cat food to individuals throughout the City of Rome who are taking care of homeless cats. Please contact Allison Nickerson at firstname.lastname@example.org for information regarding pick up or delivery.
- Make a donation to Alley Cat Allies, to help them assist smaller organizations with humane community cat management.
Alley Cat Allies actively offers support to local organizations. Robinson explained, "As the national leader on Trap-Neuter-Return and humane care for outdoor cats, Alley Cat Allies works with communities and our individual supporters in a number of ways. Our National Cat Help Desk responds to over a thousand requests per month from individuals and groups seeking advice and support. This help can be as simple as providing resources and how-to guides to help caregivers implement best practices for TNR, or help them educate their neighbors to foster understanding in the community. Our support can also be more complex: providing staff resources and on-the-ground support to get a major Trap-Neuter-Return program in place in target municipalities; helping to change laws that threaten the lives of cats and/or punish caregivers; pressing for criminal action in cases where outdoor cats have been subject to cruelties; or implementing community education programs to dispel myths about outdoor cats,
We also have a network of more than 1,500 knowledgeable individuals, organizations and veterinary clinics called the 'Feral Friends Network,' which helps connect caregivers with local advice or services, and also serves as “boots on the ground,” broadening our reach into communities where we are working to spread positive change."
While October 16 may be designated as National Feral Cat Day, these cats need our help around the year through TNVR programs, fostering feral-born kittens and educating the members of our communities about the humane management of feral cats. Those who care have many opportunities to get involved, and fellow advocates encourage them to take the first step to make a better world for cats.