On Friday, April 26 & Sunday, April 28, Joseph and I took part in Big Fix Friday – a friendly competition between Stray Cat Alliance and Best Friends Animal Society to see who would be the first to trap, neuter and release 50 feral cats.
Trap-neuter-return is the humane trapping of feral cats in order to spay or neuter them, and return them to where they came from. Although all feral cats did originate from lost or abandoned tame cats at some point, they have reverted back to a “wild” state. Because they haven’t been socialized, they aren’t good candidates for adoption or living indoors, and the best chance they have is to stay where they are. The only effective method of population control is trap-neuter-release, which prevents future generations from having to live the difficult life of a street cat.
We helped the Stray Cat Alliance team and were assigned a colony in South Los Angeles. We used 9 traps and were able to catch 7 cats in about 4 hours, helping SCA reach a total of 58 cats trapped on the first night. By the end of the second night, volunteers had trapped 111 cats!
Of our colony, one of the cats we trapped turned out to not be feral after all, and was actually extremely friendly. He is about 1-2 years old and was not neutered, had no identification, and the man who feeds and looks after the colony assumed he was feral because he was never able to get near him – but he might have just been fearful in an outdoor environment. We called him Alex, and once he was inside he became very social and affectionate. After his surgery, he went into a foster home and is now available for adoption!
All of our surgeries went well and we were able to return the other 6 cats to their caregiver, a man who lives in his van near the colony and provides them with food and fresh water every day. Although he said the cats never let him near them, he said he cares about them very much and knows they appreciate him too. When we told him about Alex and asked if he would be okay with him finding a home, he did seem a little sad but didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Although the weekend was primarily about the cats, I was just as moved by their caregiver. On the first night we offered to share some snacks we had, which he declined, and asked if he needed anything else. All he wanted was a flashlight, which I brought him on return day with a couple sets of batteries, and he looked like he was going to tear up as he thanked me. It was only a small gesture, and what we did for his colony only took a small effort, but seeing his kindness toward the cats inspired me to want to do more.
I know of a few feral colonies in Torrance alone, and for a couple of months now I have wanted to start a small TNR program here in the South Bay. My goal is to find a local veterinarian I could work with, who would allow me to volunteer as technician during the spay and neuter surgeries. This would save them from having to pay an employee for the extra work, while giving me the opportunity to gain more veterinary experience, and be present through the whole trap, neuter, release process. My hope is to find a doctor this summer and get the ball rolling, hopefully neutering at least 5-10 cats spread over 2-4 days each month. The doctor search will begin as soon as finals are over, but if you know a vet who might be interested, please send them my way!
To learn more about TNR and Stray Cat Alliance, visit StrayCatAlliance.org.