A Word from the Editor…

Dear All,

As you’ve noticed, we’ve been gone for awhile, but we miss you, and sometimes you’re all kind enough to leave notes saying that you miss us. Here’s the thing: Crepes and I have been separated, through no fault of hers or mine or anyone’s, really. She’s gone to live with the DadFOD. He takes lots of photographs of her, which she seems to believe means she now has a modeling contract.  No reason to set her straight on that one.

In any case, we still feel like we have things to say. I may not be able to blog as frequently, but I’m still learning things that I want to share with you. Things are still going on with all the other kitties and there have even been some additions (through no fault of my own, once again) that have enhanced our home.  I’d like to introduce you to them and continue helping promote the little guys that need all the help they can get. We’re still even trying out a few products here and there (only the ones that really interest us and we think are great ideas for enhancing your furry buddies’ lives) and figure we can let you know when we find something cool. And also, Louie has REALLY been waiting for his chance to blog. And, being one of the other special needs pets in the house (heart murmur), he believes it’s his time to shine. Who am I to tell him he can’t?

 

We’ll be in touch. And don’t worry,  you’ll still get to hear from Crepes often.

Crepes, the model, the enigma. (photo provided by the DadFOD)

 

With Love,

 

Alana (and Crepes, and all the rest.)

Tabby’s Place: A New T(2)NR Mission

Those that have been reading my writings for awhile know that I’m a fan of Tabby’s Place. I’ve never been there, but the work they’re doing out in Ringoes, New Jersey resonates all the way across the internet to Chicago and beyond. It tickles my whiskers to be able to talk about them again because they’re doing something new and exciting! However, I’d like to turn this article over to MomFOD, since the topic is of a serious nature and, we all know, she’s far more serious than I. Hit it, MomFOD!

Feral "Maybelle," fixed up and ready for adoption!

Feral “Maybelle,” fixed up and ready for adoption!

MomFOD: Thank you, Crepes. Tabby’s Place is well-known for taking in sick, wounded, and dying cats, providing hospice care to those that are near finished with their journey, and providing long-term care to those who have no other place to go. Their population usually contains about 30% special needs cats and 70% normal, healthy kitties. Doing great work in the animal welfare arena since 2003, Tabby’s Place is now excited to announce that they’re expanding into the world of TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return.) For those who don’t know, TNR is a process of trapping stray cats, providing them with spay and neuter surgery, and returning them to their colonies to live out their lives, usually with help from a community member who oversees feeding and welfare. It’s an effort to reduce feral cat populations in the hopes of a euthanasia-free future.

The R part of TNR

The R part of TNR

Crepes: I’d just like to pop in here and mention that I was the product of a successful TNR project. Without TNR, I’d still be out there living with Uncle Dad and Aunt Mom in our terribly inbred and overpopulated colony outside of Chicago. I’d probably be my own grandmother by now. 

MomFOD: Thank you, Crepes, for that delightful image. Moving along, Tabby’s Place has something a little different planned for their project, which they’re calling “T2NR.”

Crepes: Terminator!

MomFOD: No, Crepes! Not, T2. T2NR, for Targeted Trap Neuter Return. When asked to clarify the difference between the T2NR program and traditional TNR methods that have been in use for the last decade or so, Angela Townsend explained:

“…the concerted focus on a particular geographic area is a key difference between TNR and T2NR. The other primary distinction is that, for T2NR, we have to be proactive. That is, we won’t be waiting for folks to call us up or bring in feral cats as they find them (like traditional spay/neuter clinics do); we’re explicitly going out to reach all the free-roaming cats in our target area ourselves. This is inevitably “messier,” as it will involve finding cats in places where they can’t safely remain (and then having to find them a new, safe outdoor colony); dealing with community members; etc.”

The T2NR program, according to Tabby’s Place’s web page, centers around these steps:

  • proactively locating free-roaming cat colonies,
  • altering and providing medical care for the cats,
  • forging collaborative relationships with the community,
  • safely relocating cats who cannot remain where they were trapped,
  • and arranging for ongoing care and monitoring for the colonies.
Rescued feral babies. Can I get a "squee?"

Rescued feral babies. Can I get a “squee?”

Tabby’s Place is now estimating that they have roughly 1,000 cats living in their first targeted area surrounding their sanctuary. Their very first goal is to expand their in-house hospital to a larger wing of their building. They want to reach and provide medical care for each and every one of those cats within the next three years.

Crepes: A lofty goal!

MomFOD: And yet attainable, nevertheless. If the new program works, Tabby’s Place will be one of the leaders in reducing the feral cat population, providing a model for all other rescues to follow. Should this succeed and spread to other states, the USA will make a huge leap towards a no-kill future.

Crepes: Hallelujah! 

Feral rescuing in progress.

Feral rescuing in progress on the target site.

 

MomFOD: Presently, Tabby’s Place is collecting funds to get this project underway. With a goal of $400,000, Tabby’s Place is nearly 60% of the way there. They’re offering various types of sponsorship levels, including some lovely commemorative plaques for $500.

Crepes: Thank you, MomFOD, for that excellent report. 

MomFOD: You’re welcome, Crepes. I really couldn’t have done it without you, mostly because you wouldn’t let me. If you’d like to help Tabby’s Place reach their goal, please contact Tabby’s Place’s Development Director Angela Townsend at at(@)tabbysplace.org or 908-237-5300 ext 235. For more information, visit Tabby’s Place on the internet.

 

"This program is great! Also, I'm hungry!" - feral kitten.

“This program is great! Also, I’m hungry!” – feral kitten.

 

Feral Fixers – TNR We Can All Help Manage

feral fixers

Outdoor cats that are intact, meaning not spayed or neutered, produce exponential numbers of new kittens each year. These kittens, when left on their own, become feral, meaning they are not very friendly towards humans. Often, the cats fight for territory, yowling and arguing, and in the process, they spread FIV to each other. When people call animal control services, these feral cats get picked up and, most often, euthanized because they are un-adoptable. (That’s what almost happened to me!) There is, however, another way to contain these feral colonies, without employing euthanasia, called TNR, or Trap Neuter Return. Today, we have with us Indigo and Jackson, cats affiliated with Feral Fixers, a group that specializes in TNR. Started in 2007 by Tammy McAuley and Ted Semon, Feral Fixers has neutered almost 5,000 cats so far! Let’s learn more.

 

Indigo and Jackson Wrestling

Indigo and Jackson Wrestling

Crepes (C): Welcome, Indigo and Jackson!  Explain to me a bit about TNR and about Feral Fixers. What is your goal?

Indigo (I): Well, MY goal is to have hugs and be petted all the time.  I would like to have a home with my new buddy, Jackson, that has no children, but adults that we can shower with affection.

C: Mmhmm. Excellent plug for yourself. I’ll be more specific: What is Feral Fixers’ goal?

I: Feral Fixers’ goal is that all cats have a home.  Until then, their goal is to reduce cat overpopulation and euthanasia thru TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return), using low-cost spay/neuter for ferals, strays, and owned cats in DuPage County in Illinois.

C: How many cats has Feral Fixers prevented from being euthanized?

I: Wow, that’s a hard question to answer, because you’re measuring something that didn’t happen.  We have neutered almost 5,000 cats.  If half of them were female and each of them had just one more litter of 4 kittens, most of whom would be at risk, you could say that we saved 10,000 cats from euthanasia.  Since those litters would have gone on to have more kittens and so on and so on, then 10,000 is a good starting number.

Jackson (J): I would have been euthanized.  I’m FIV+ and a few years ago, before people learned more about FIV, I would have been “put out of my misery.”  I am not miserable, I’m very happy and healthy.  I eat some special food – I’m a special cat for many reasons – but otherwise I’m just like any other cat.

Feral Fixers' 3000th Cat

Feral Fixers’ 3000th Cat

C: Your website offers information for people who want to become “colony caretakers.” Tell me, what is a colony taker, and in what ways does Feral Fixers support a colony caretaker?

I: A “colony caretaker” is typically someone who is already feeding cats, which is only half of the “care.”  In order to really and truly take care of ferals, you must neuter and vaccinate them and follow up with health care.  Feral Fixers loans traps, instructs in their use, and helps with low-cost spay/neuter – that includes vaccinations and a microchip.  If the cats need additional healthcare – wounds, worms, upper respiratory illnesses –  we help the caretakers find an answer for that, too.

C: Feral Fixers sounds like an excellent resource for someone who would otherwise not know what to do with cats they might find on or near their home. Is being a colony caretaker a difficult task?

I: It is long-term.  Neutered feral cats can live more than 10 years.  That means feeding at least once a day, putting out water even when the temperatures are freezing and watching for illness or new, unneutered cats joining your group. A big surprise to people are the number of cats that become friendly – like me and Jackson.

J:  I was a surprise?  How come?  Isn’t everybody just like me?

C: Jackson does seem rather friendly. Tell me, how did you curb his, shall we say, unwanted attentions?

I: Well, Jackson’s way of communicating that he wanted attention was to whap! and claw at his caretakers.  They were elderly and could not risk this behavior and asked for Feral Fixers’ help.  Jackson came to the “Tammy training camp” for new friendlies so that he could understand that the way he would treat another cat simply would not work for getting attention from people.  It took months but he was finally moved to a foster home.

C: Essentially, it sounds like caretakers need to pay attention to behavior changes and make plans for homes for their former ferals who want to come inside and be friendlies.

I: Correct.

C: Are you able to help support out-of-state caretakers, or can you help them set up a program in their own area?

I: We are contacted by people from out of state.  We usually connect them with other organizations in their area, point them towards some of the resources we used when we started, and share how we did it.  There are so many differences just in our own county, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone who wants to care for one colony or start a larger scale program. There are national organizations like Neighborhood Cats, Best Friends, Alley Cat Allies, HSUS – all can be huge resources of information and can be slightly different, so its good to look at them all to get a good overview.

C: Do you do any sort of adoption assistance? What do you do with cats that you pick up that aren’t feral and are adoptable?

I: Almost 40% of the cats we encounter are kittens (tameable), strays who were in a home once and want to go back to that, or ferals who have decided the indoor life is worth a try.  We try to determine that as soon as possible to make a plan for the individual cats. We are always in need of more fosters for the kittens and the friendlies and have had to return some cats that would have needed just a few days or week of interaction to be placed in a home.   We are in contact with several shelters to give them cats for adoption and we do whatever we can to get the cats that want a home into one.

C: I heard you had a harrowing story yourself, Indigo. Tell me about it. 

I: My people were feeding me and saw that I had gotten covered with blue paint.  While they were trying to get me into one of those traps , I had cleaned all the blue paint off.  I was much happier!  My people contacted Feral Fixers, said how much I liked being petted, and asked if I could possibly go for adoption after being neutered.  I was at Tammy’s house, she took care of me after my surgery.  Boy, did I feel like crap!  See, there’s nasty stuff in paint.  Most of my hair fell off, I was drooling – talk about embarrassing!  And, I couldn’t control myself, I needed to be petted! So when Tammy would put me back in my cage, I didn’t know how else to tell her I needed more (communication skills improve with time), so I would try to bite her arm.  But  Tammy and other people who came to take care of me made it clear that that was unacceptable and I learned the right way to get attention.  And, thank goodness, whatever it was got out of my system and the drooling stopped!   But I still had no hair!  There was talk about food allergies. I got a new food called “duck.” So, my hair is growing back and I don’t feel crappy anymore, life is pretty good.

feral fixers

Indigo Without Hair

C: Hair is very important, as any lady will tell you. Your facilities were recently damaged by the flooding in the Chicago area. How has that affected you?

I: We don’t have a facility. The base of operations is Tammy’s home.  Cats going for spay/neuter are housed in her garage the night before and return there for recovery for a day or two after.  The water in the basement reached 6 feet, so a lot of stuff had to be put into the garage to work on the basement, which meant no cats coming and going from there.  One of our volunteers has been staging cats from her neighbor’s garage, and Tammy hopes to return to using her own garage after a thorough cleaning.

 C: Has it changed the way you operate?

I: The flood has changed our organization a bit.  We will be focusing more on getting the friendlies on to shelters sooner so that they do not come to Tammy’s house for foster, we now have off-site storage, we will be marketing harder to get fosters.  There might be a brick & mortar location in our future, a spay/neuter mobile clinic. We hope to work more closely with shelters to control the cat overpopulation problem as a whole.

C: What has Feral Fixers done so far that you’re most proud of?
I: It is so hard to pick just one thing.  We’ve neutered just under 5,000 cats in 5 1/2 years.  We’ve helped to reduce the number of adoptable cats euthanized at DuPage County Animal Control to just 5 last year when it was hundreds in previous years.
Indigo & Jackson... Love time, part deux

Indigo & Jackson… Love time, part deux

C: That’s huge!  Great job! What else?
I: The number of kittens coming into Animal Control has been drastically reduced.  We are working with many shelters on placing adoptable cats.  Several municipalities are working with us and embrace TNR as a cost-effective way to reduce complaints and conflict with the public.  Entire neighborhoods are working together on “their” cats.  Caretakers no longer watch kittens be born, just to die, not being able to afford the surgeries to control the number of cats.  So many more cats are healthier, will live longer and if they chose, are now in homes.  We are very proud of the big picture and the part we have played in creating it! I’d also like to add that I’m proud that I was able to stop biting people and now I have my buddy Jackson to wrestle with!
***
There it is! A story about amazing people doing good for cats out of their own homes and garages. It’s good to know that such kindness exists in this world. If you have questions about TNR, you can contact Feral Fixers directly or one of the other organizations they suggested, such as Alley Cat Allies, HSUS, Best Friends, or Neighborhood Cats. Or, as always, you can email me and I’ll point you in the right direction!
Love,
Crepes.