Recently, I was discussing the issue of trap-neuter-return (TNR) of unowned outdoor cats with Jennifer, a fellow Norfolk resident. She told me her story about how her local community came together to help the feral felines they were seeing every day.
images | alleycat.org
I suggested she share her story with Norfolkians as an example of successful cooperation among neighbors to help animals and also to educate others who may want to help feral cats in Norfolk. Even though, like many of you, she was initially unfamiliar with the practice, she tells me now that she is glad she got involved in TNR to help the cats and kittens who live on our streets. I encourage you to do the same.
Here is Jennifer’s story.
‘My son was born last summer and we started walking as a way to get out of the house and back in shape. I noticed two or three cats who hung out at a certain spot along our daily walk.
As I started paying more attention, I saw that there were actually more like five or six cats in the neighborhood, and I started bringing kitty treats for my new friends. As summer rolled into fall, a few older kittens showed up and my count eventually grew to twelve free-roaming cats.
Some of my friends are very active in animal welfare and I had read about TNR, but never tried it. As much as I enjoyed seeing my friends on the daily walk, I knew I had to do something to prevent more kittens from being born.
A friend and I placed two traps one night and caught two cats to bring in to the Norfolk SPCA’s spay/neuter clinic that accepted feral cats via its TNR program. The next week, we brought another cat and a small kitten in for sterilization surgery. The kitten later found a home, so only one cat was returned back to the colony after being fixed.
We posted our success on the Hampton Roads Community Cat Caretakers Facebook page, which is sponsored by the Norfolk SPCA. Shortly thereafter, a few of my neighbors who had also been feeding the cats—but not TNRing—contacted me and suggested we join forces. We developed an alliance to control the population via TNR. This is how our neighborhood group started and we’ve not looked back since.
Of the twelve cats, we’ve trapped eight. Two were already sterilized but not eartipped, meaning they likely were abandoned or lost house pets. An eartip—which is the trimming of the left ear while under anesthesia during spay/neuter—is performed to let future TNR practitioners know the cat has already been sterilized. Feral cats are also given a rabies vaccine and other basic medical care, as needed, along with the spay or neuter surgery.
Two more cats of the twelve have found homes and now live in the lap of luxury. There are still four cats left who are possibly intact and we hope to get them before kitten season starts in earnest.
A few of the cats have distinct markings and/or personalities that make each feeding like a reunion with friends. There is the fluffy one who sasses if you’re too slow filling the food dishes, the trio of younger cats who like to wrestle and dart about while you engage in colony care, and the elder statesman who still seems to hold his “top dog” spot in the pecking order.
We have our own private page on social media that we use to track the colony numbers, schedule feedings, and communicate about shoveling out the colony when it snows. Our neighborhood group is composed of men and women, and includes different age groups.
What we have in common is our commitment to caring for this colony. We’ve provided them veterinary care, shelter during recent storms, and placed a feeding station where the colony would be safer from predators and the elements.
We’re fortunate because other neighbors heard about our efforts and donated cat food or supplies to our group, and the Norfolk SPCA now has a grant that will pay for future surgeries at no cost to the caretaker.
Sometimes, feral cats are referred to as “community cats.” This story illustrates exactly how a neighborhood has come together via TNR to care for the colony with whom we share our living space. We are a community accepting the responsibility for truly doing our part to help our community cats.’
If you are interested in learning more about TNR and the Norfolk SPCA’s feral cat spay/neuter surgeries, including the Norfolk SPCA’s grant from PetSmart Charities allowing us to provide free spay/neuter for more than 1,300 free-roaming cats in Norfolk, please visit NorfolkSPCA.org/tnr.