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Alley cats, also known as feral or community cats, have been part of our communities for centuries — but sadly, they’re not always welcomed. These cats live in groups called colonies and are found in both urban and rural areas, occupying alleys and buildings, or making their home in fields and wooded areas. A life outside might sound inhumane, but cats that are truly feral typically don’t do well indoors and therefore live a much happier life in the freedom of the outdoors.
To animal advocates, they’re viewed as harmless and are often cared for by people who feed them and provide shelter to protect them from the elements. Others, however, view them as a nuisance that destroys property and harms wildlife, especially birds. Cat overpopulation is a well-recognized issue, but the methods by which some choose to manage colony size, such as poisoning and mass-euthanasia, are inhumane. Another method, relocation, isn’t necessarily effective and should only be used as a last resort or if animals are in danger. Other efforts involve bringing the cats to shelters, only to have the feral or under-socialized cats deemed unadoptable and euthanized.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) initiatives — humanely trapping cats, then performing spay or neuter surgery before returning them to their colony — have been proven to be an effective form of management, but local laws and ordinances can sometimes impede these efforts. The issue of cat overpopulation and outdoor colony management is complex, but those dedicated to the cause are working tirelessly to change misconceptions and provide educational tools that help both cats and the community. With compassion as their driving force, these organizations are doing their part to help save lives.
Alley Cat Advocates
Alley Cat Advocates/Facebook
In Kentucky, Alley Cat Advocates works in the community to provide TNR programs and initiatives to manage feral cat populations and reduce the number of cats euthanized in shelters. Their focus on specific neighborhoods has not only provided hundreds of spay and neuter surgeries but has drastically reduced the number of feral cats being turned in to the area shelter.
People working to help manage and care for cat colonies can find resources through their Community Cat Care Center, and their large-scale “Big Fix” events help colony caregivers receive spay and neuter help for anywhere from a few cats to entire colonies.
Alley Cat Allies
Maryland-based organization Alley Cat Allies has been advocating for feral cats for over 25 years. They’ve implemented TNR programs across the world to help change outdated methods of managing outdoor cat populations. They’re also active in the community, providing education and assistance, and working at the legislative level to help change laws.
Their Feral Friends Network provides guidance for those interested in helping cats in their community, plus they have a variety of toolkits, webinars, and other helpful information on their website to help with everything from fundraising to understanding animal cruelty laws.
Based in Michigan, Carol’s Ferals works to help members of the community with TNR efforts and to find adoptive homes for socialized cats and kittens. Through education and in-person training sessions, they help people understand the issue of feline overpopulation and provide resources for those caring for outdoor cats.
The organization also provides low-cost spay and neuter surgeries and vaccine services for cats before they’re returned to their colonies, as well as rehoming services for socialized strays and barn cats.
Feral Cat Coalition
San Diego’s Feral Cat Coalition is working to help reduce cat overpopulation and provide care for cats in their community through TNR programs that, to date, have helped over 40,000 cats. They help community members get involved in TNR initiatives by providing humane traps and low-cost spay and neuter surgeries, and they work to educate the public about cat behavior and the benefits of TNR.
The organization also helps people tame feral kittens in an effort to find them adoptive homes, and they actively work to educate people about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets to reduce overpopulation.
Neighborhood Cats is working to help cats through their educational efforts and targeted TNR programs in New York, New Jersey, and on Maui. They’ve helped train over 7,000 people in New York City on humanely trapping cats, and their online resources and award-winning handbook have been used by organizations throughout the country.
To help reduce conflict in the community, the organization provides information for humane ways to keep cats out of your yard, including fencing options, using scented plants as a deterrent, and how to build outdoor litter boxes that will help keep cats from digging in your garden. And for those who want to help feed or house outdoor cats, they offer tips for feeding and building outdoor shelters.
Are you interested in helping in your community? Check with organizations above as well as those in your area for ways to get involved with education, advocacy, and TNR programs that help provide a safe, healthy, and happy life for these misunderstood felines.
Lead image source: Pixabay