Threats to the livelihood of community cats come in many forms and we at Alley Cat Rescue work hard to combat those threats every day. One of the latest threats comes in the form of this pseudo junk science piece that has unfairly set community cats up as a scapegoat for numerous environmental concerns. We are working diligently to dispel these myths by informing Journalists, Public Leaders, and the community at large about this issue. If you encounter anyone who has been misled by this hysteria please point them to our website where they can read about the benefits that community cats provide to the environment and the success of TNR programs over lethal methods of animal control.
Today more individuals are sharing their homes with companion animals than ever before, with cats being the number one pet in American homes. The bond between humans and animals is strengthening, and the public no longer finds it morally acceptable to use lethal management practices to control animal populations. In particular, the tradition of mass killing feral cats through catch-and-kill, is being replaced by a new model, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), that is more humane, more effective, and less costly. As evident in Alley Cat Rescue’s 2016 Feral Cat Survey, more animal control agencies and local governments are supporting TNR efforts for managing outdoor cats in their communities, while rescue organizations are improving the lives of outdoor cats by providing sterilization services and vaccinations.
In 2016, 77% of rescue groups reported that their local animal control agency approves of TNR for feral cats, that’s a 40% increase from the number of groups that said animal control approves of TNR as reported on the 2012 Feral Cat Survey. In comparing the the two surveys, there’s also a 16% increase in the number of rescue groups reporting their working relationship with animal control agencies as being “easy” or “intermediate,” which leads us to believe there is a significant shift toward accepting TNR in the animal control field.
There has been similar progress with the relationships between feral cat groups and local governments. In comparing the results from 2012 to 2016, there has been a 22% decrease in feral cat rescues finding it “difficult” to work with local policymakers. However, despite these reformed relationships, most local county-run shelters and animal control agencies do not provide TNR services to their communities, with 62% of respondents saying their local animal control does not currently offer programs to assist feral cats.
Other significant findings from the survey reveal that the majority of rescues are comprised of a small handful of core staff with a larger support system of volunteers and foster families. Most of these rescues are managing multiple colonies, with 57% caring for 1-5 colonies and 21% caring for 6-10 colonies. The average size of these colonies tends to consist of around 5-10 cats, with 37% of groups caring for colonies of 11-20 cats. When comparing the results from ACR’s 2012 Survey, there has been a significant decrease in the average size of the colonies these rescues are caring for, which coincides with the reported decrease in the number of kittens present before TNR and the number born in these colonies after TNR has been implemented.
Rescue organizations are also improving the lives of feral cats by not only eliminating the health concerns that accompany constant reproduction, but by offering protection against diseases such as rabies, distemper, and leukemia. Ninety-three percent of respondents inoculate feral cats against rabies and only a small portion of cats test positive for either feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus. In addition, these rescues are assisting a large number of senior cats, with 94% of respondents saying they care for cats who are 6 years and older. Rescue groups are also providing spay and neuter services to owned cats, with 74% responding that they sterilize pet cats as well as feral cats.
Animal control agencies and local governments, along with the American public, are supporting TNR programs because they effectively reduce the number of cats living outdoors and they are humane. Over 1.4 million cats enter U.S shelters each year, with 7 in 10 being killed. A large portion of the cats who are destroyed in our shelter system are adult feral cats and kittens born to unsterilized free-roaming cats. Local policymakers are realizing these rescues are providing a vital public service which results in reduced pressure on local shelter resources and decreased euthanasia rates. It's encouraging to see the continued enhancement of relationships between feral cat groups, animal control, and local policy makers, however, more improvement is still needed in making affordable spay an neuter and Trap-Neuter-Return services available to the Public.
How will emergency personnel know to find and help your cat if a fire happens while you’re away? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), each year half-a-million pets are affected by home fires, and pets and wildlife accidentally start upwards of 1,000 fires in the home. In recognition of National Pet Fire Safety Day, here are some tips help keep your cat(s) safe from fire.
IN CASE OF FIRE
And always remember, the number one rule of home fire safety is to make sure you’ve got working smoke detectors, and are testing them every month.
Let’s say it’s summertime and your cat is due for vaccine booster shots, so you make an appointment with your vet. It might be a short drive, but if you stop to run an errand on the way and don’t park in the shade, you could be putting your cat at risk.
Cats who have an increased risk of heat stroke:
Cats deal with excessive heat in a manner similar to dogs; they sweat a small amount from their foot pads, and also disperse heat through panting. In most cases this is adequate, but in situations of extreme or fast-rising temperatures, it may not be enough to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
A heat-stressed cat may begin to pant rapidly, and her paws may become sweaty or clammy. She may move around anxiously, searching for a cooler spot. Prolonged heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion, and eventually heat stroke, which can cause serious organ damage or failure.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion:
Of course, the best way to avoid heat exhaustion and stroke is to make sure your cat doesn’t experience extreme and prolonged environmental heat. However, if your cat shows any of the above symptoms and is or has been in a hot environment, there are a few things you should do immediately:
Move the cat to a cool environment
If you find your cat in distress but conscious, the above steps may be enough to bring her body temperature back to normal, but you should contact a vet anyway for further instructions. Cats should be closely monitored for symptoms or unusual behavior in the days after a heat-related event, as the effects of over-heating may take some time to become apparent. If you find your cat unconscious in a hot place, the steps above might be helpful in the immediate moments, but she’ll need emergency treatment by a professional as soon as possible.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) in warm weather
The warmer months of the year are popular trapping times for people doing TNR projects and for colony caretakers. If you’re out trapping during hot weather, be mindful of the places where cats in traps might encounter extreme temperatures. If you’re transporting a number of trapped cats to a clinic, be sure the vehicle’s interior stays at a comfortable temperature and do not leave trapped cats in a vehicle unattended.
If you have a number of cats at a holding site waiting for transport, make sure the cats are in a shady place, out of direct sunlight. And be aware that paved surfaces can get very hot, so it’s best to minimize the time a cat spends in a trap on exposed pavement.
A good rule of thumb is if an environment feels uncomfortably warm for a person, it will be uncomfortably warm for a cat. Even sunrooms and garages, spaces in the home we may assume are safe, can become unbearable on hot days if not properly ventilated. And do not underestimate just how quickly the temperature inside of a car can rise when under direct sunlight. An increase of 20 degrees or more can happen in a matter of minutes!
Alley Cat Rescue's new Alliance for Cat Protection program is building a network of support for shelters throughout the United States. Alliance shelters receive comprehensive training in humane programs for community cats, including public workshops and staff training that save animals' lives. Our dedicated team visits each Alliance community to transform it from top to bottom through education and hands-on support, even holding a field training in which colonies of cats are trapped, neutered, and returned.
In the last month, our team conducted workshops in Mercer County West Virginia and Vance County North Carolina. We specifically chose to work with these shelters because they recently had a change in directors who brought new visions and a more progressive approach to assisting animals in shelters. These directors were excited to welcome our trainers and were open to learning the best practices of humanely managing community cats.
At each shelter we spent one whole day working with the entire staff. From field officers to receptionists, we provided training on how to respond to phone calls and emails so that more cats are kept out of the shelter and remain in their homes, along with detailed instructions on navigating conflict resolution. We also trained staff on how to properly implement a community cat (TNR) program, how to get the community more involved, and we even discussed the topic of fundraising to assist shelters in receiving the financial support they need to help more cats.
During the second day of each workshop, we went out into the community for a hands-on training session. We taught shelter staff and members of the community how to properly trap and transport cats, along with explaining to them the importance of TNR programs for free-roaming cats. We spoke with neighbors, telling them how they can be most effective in helping community cats and how they can participate in the shelter’s community cat program.
In both West Virginia and North Carolina, we received lots of wonderful feedback from the staff and community members, along with heartfelt appreciation and gratitude from the shelter directors. Our presence and training was beyond well received and we couldn’t be happier! ACR’s new Alliance for Cat Protection program is giving these shelters and these communities the kick start they so desperately need to implement successful TNR programs. Our workshops provide shelters with not only the knowledge of managing community cats, but we also show them how to implement the information through hands-on training and we provide them with a support system, so if they have any future questions they can easily follow up with us. All these shelters needed was a little boost to show them it’s not difficult to implement a TNR program for their community and now they are on their way to saving a lot more lives!
As always thank you for your continued support! Your generous donations make these workshops possible. You can also help cats in your community by ordering a few copies of “Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats” – that lays out the best practices for implementing a TNR program and which our training workshops are based off of – and donate them to your local shelter.
‘Tis the season for kitten weanin’, and it’s all paws on deck here at Alley Cat Rescue during our annual springtime kitten season. This year we began receiving calls about found newborn kittens in March, and Alley Cat Rescue and our network of foster caregivers are taking in more vulnerable kittens each week. These kittens have come from a variety of places, including a county animal control department, a city code enforcement officer, compassionate private citizens, and caretakers who are removing kittens for adoption during Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) projects.
One of these kittes is Keanu. The kind person who found him realized he was in rough shape when his first foray out of a carrier was head-first into a wall. She saw that his eyes were stuck shut and knew he needed help fast, so she contacted Alley Cat Rescue. We got Keanu in to see one of our trusted vet partners right away, who diagnosed Keanu with a dangerous upper respiratory infection that would require close monitoring and treatment multiple times per day. With the knowledge that she could count on Alley Cat Rescue for support, Keanu’s caregiver agreed to foster him and nurse him back to health. We’re delighted to report that his infection has been cleared and an adopter has already been found!
It’s support from readers like you that allows us to step up and take action to save innocent kittens like Keanu. Yet around the country, we know that high numbers of kittens are still being killed in municipal shelters that don’t have the resources, knowledge, or facility space to care for small, fragile kittens. If Keanu had been taken to a shelter or animal control facility, he may not have been seen by a vet in time to get his URI under control. He may have died from a wholly treatable infection.
About 80% of kittens born each year are from free-roaming, community cats and many end up at shelters. That’s no surprise when we consider that only 2% of community cats are thought to be spayed or neutered. Community cats are the primary source of kittens each year, so we must focus our efforts on this population, and the most humane and effective way to help these cats is through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
TNR is so effective for managing free-roaming cats because it stops a colony’s population from growing through spay/neuter, while reducing its size through the adoption of kittens and socialized adults. Volunteer colony caretakers, who visit daily to provide fresh food and water, then monitor the site for any new cats who arrive and need to be sterilized.
Examples of TNR’s success are everywhere. Just a few weeks ago, Alley Cat Rescue helped a woman who cares for a small colony at her workplace. Initially there were just two cats, but because they were not fixed, the colony grew to ten cats. We provided information about the importance of spay/neuter, and helped trap, sterilize, and return the cats. These cats now have sturdy, weather-proofed shelters, are receiving fresh food and water each day from compassionate employees, and importantly will no longer be producing kittens who could end up killed at municipal shelters.
This week we’ll be returning a mother cat named Juno to her colony site. She and her newborns were found by a caretaker who Alley Cat Rescue works with on a regular basis. We brought the new family in, found them a place in foster care, and now, after a few weeks of growing strong and socializing to humans, the kittens are being spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped and will be available for adoption soon. Juno will return to her supervised outdoor colony after recovering from spay surgery.
Each kitten Alley Cat Rescue takes in receives the medical treatment and supportive care that he or she needs to grow, thrive, and eventually find a permanent home, but there are many others who are not so lucky. To stop the tragic killing of kittens in shelters, we simply must reduce the number of kittens being born from community cats. Please join us in spreading the message that TNR is the best way to fix the flood of springtime kittens, and consider donating to support more of this life-saving work.
When it comes to Tigger and his inappropriate scratching at the side of the couch or on the back of a favorite recliner, only in America does the word “declaw” come to mind. In most European countries, this procedure is considered “inhumane” and an “unnecessary mutilation” … in which it should be viewed. Declawing a cat is not a simple manicure, but the amputation of the last joint of a cat’s toe; in order to remove the claw, the bone must be cut. It’s equivalent to cutting off the first joint of a human finger. Ouch! This is a serious surgery with a painful recovery. And remember, the cat still has to walk on his paws, jump, and scratch in the litter box while experiencing this pain.
Claws are an important part of the cat’s design. Not only are they used for hunting, but also for exercise and marking territory. Cats scratch to help them exercise and stretch muscles, and to aid with grooming; scratching removes old nail sheaths. Cats also scratch to communicate their presence, by leaving both physical and scent marks. Cats have scent glands between their toes that leave pheromones behind to communicate with other animals. Additionally, cats use their claws to express emotion – when Morris scratches at your leg around dinner time with increased excitement – and for defense if threatened.
Declawing a cat has no health benefits and comes with lots of potential and serious complications.
Long-term, chronic conditions:
In addition to serious health problems, many cats who have been declawed suffer from psychological trauma that manifests as negative behavioral changes.
As anyone can see, declawing a cat is a drastic and cruel response to protecting furniture. The good news is there’s plenty of humane solutions to prevent Tigger from tearing up the couch.
Keep in mind, nail trimming and Soft Paws should only be used on indoor cats; if cats are permitted to go outside, they will need their claws for defense.
In 2002, West Hollywood, California became the first U.S. city to ban declawing, with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Burbank, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Beverly Hills and Culver City all following suit in making declawing illegal. Later in 2012, California became the first state prohibiting landlords from requiring tenants to declaw or devocalize their animals, with Rhode Island following suit in 2014. And in January of 2015, a law was introduced that would make New York the first state to ban declawing; the bill is awaiting a committee hearing. For more information on declaw legislation visit (ThePawProject.org).
SoftPawsWiki photo: myllissa from Seoul, S. Korea (Red Nails Uploaded by Caspian blue) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
DeclawWiki photo: Turn685 (Own work Turn685) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Each year 2.4 million healthy and adoptable animals are euthanized in shelters. That means that about every 13 seconds, an animal who would have been a loving and loyal companion loses her life, often because the resources needed to care for her and find her a home simply aren’t available.
On the first Tuesday of each month, Alley Cat Rescue takes the issue of pet overpopulation head-on by holding our Cheap Fix Cat Clinic. By offering low-cost services for community and pet cats, we reduce the number of adoptable kittens and cats needlessly killed in overcrowded shelters, as well as the number of cats living outdoors.
Coming to the clinic is an easy process for people and cats alike. Clients begin by requesting an appointment online, then we follow up to confirm and provide clear instructions on how to prepare cats for spay/neuter surgery. On the morning of the clinic, clients drop off cats in traps or carriers, complete a couple simple forms, and are given an estimated time for pick-up.
Once all the cats are checked in and traps and carriers are clearly labeled, Alley Cat Rescue staff and volunteers safely transport them to our partner clinic. Later in the day when surgery is finished and the cats have recovered enough to travel, we transport them back to our office for pick-up that evening, or hold them overnight when necessary. Clients also receive required vaccination documents and instructions for post-surgery care.
For community cat colony caretakers, finding affordable spay/neuter and vaccination services is crucial. Costs add up quickly when a caretaker finds a number of cats in a colony, sometimes ten or more at once, who are in need of veterinary services. Cost becomes even more important when you consider that caretakers are usually spending their own limited personal funds on a project that benefits the whole community. For this reason, we offer community cats spay/neuter surgery, vaccination, and ear-tipping for only $20, a fraction of what the same services would cost at a private veterinary practice. We also have humane traps to loan, which helps caretakers keep equipment and supply costs down.
Pet cats are also welcome at the Cheap Fix Cat Clinic! A pet cat may not be spayed/neutered because a person plans to keep him or her indoors and doesn’t think it necessary. Someone may have found a kitten and brought her in from outside, and is solely focused on providing food and purchasing other essential items. Some also believe that kittens are too young to be sterilized or that it is healthier for a female cat to have a litter before being spayed. The truth is that kittens can be safely spayed or neutered once they reach two pounds in weight (around 8 weeks of age), and there is no health benefit to allowing female cats to have a litter before being spayed. We wholeheartedly encourage pet adoption, and to support those who’ve decided to add a furry member to their family, we offer spay/neuter surgery and vaccination for just $50.
ACR Since launching the Cheap Fix Cat Clinic only two months ago, Alley Cat Rescue has provided these important services for nearly 50 cats in our community, and we are eager to help more! Having your cat spayed eliminates many medical and behavioral problems. In fact neutering a cat, male or female, adds years to their lives. It is one of the best things one can do not only to spare cats from death in an animal shelter, and bring down the euthanasia numbers, but it will increase the quality of your cat’s life and enable the cat to live longer. Over the last 20 years ACR has been spaying and neutering cats in the Washington DC Metro area. Over the years around 35,000 cats have been sterilized by ACR. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today so that we can continue to offer these life-saving services and reach more cats in need.
Texas veterinarian Kristen Lindsey made national headlines last year after posting a picture to Facebook showing her holding up a cat shot through the head with an arrow. In the post, she bragged of the incident being her first bow kill and wrote, “The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it’s head. Vet of the year award…gladly accepted.”
Last week Lindsey’s case went before the Texas State Office of Administrative hearings. The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is seeking to revoke Lindsey’s license to practice veterinary medicine, arguing in part that the cat in question was an owned cat named Tiger and not a feral tomcat, and that no matter the cat’s identity, Lindsey violated her professional oath by killing the cat in a cruel and inhumane manner.
Lindsey and her attorney argued that she was justified in killing the cat, that the arrow to the head of the cat resulted in instantaneous and painless death, and that killing what she believed to be a feral cat was in line with her oath because feral cats pose risks to the public and other animals. Lindsey and another witness who testified on her behalf, livestock owner Preston Northrup, also made statements to the effect that killing feral cats is widespread and common in rural areas of Texas.
This case is disturbing for the manner in which the cat was killed and because the killer was a vet, a person who we assume has compassion and empathy for all animals and not only the companions who live in our homes. But we believe there is a broader issue at work here, and that is the mindset toward feral cats that Lindsey and Northrup described, which devalues feral cats simply because of who they are and where they live. They believe that every feral cat is dangerous, sickly, and unwanted. It is this immoral culture of killing that must be changed.
As advocates for all cats, it is our role and responsibility to educate and provide resources to the public, the veterinary field, and policy makers, so they may come to understand that feral cats are the same species as our beloved companion cats, just living in a different environment and with a different view of humans. We must show people who feral cats truly are: intelligent, dynamic, and beautiful animals, so similar to our beloved companions and just as deserving of our respect and compassion. We must also continue to push for humane and effective management policies, like Trap-Neuter-Return, while showing trap-and-kill or shoot-to-kill methods for what they are; cruel and ineffective. Finally, we must never stop talking about our moral obligation to treat all animal lives, including all nine of every feral cat, as inherently valuable and deserving of compassion.
We’re confident that the system in place will work and that Kristen Lindsey’s vet license will be revoked. In the meantime we’ll keep putting our comprehensive Guide to Managing Community Cats in the hands of as many mayors, councils, animal control officers, and compassionate citizens as we can. We’ll continue to grow our Alliance for Cat Protection program, which educates shelters and rescues across the country through hands-on workshops and training. And we’ll continue working hard to reduce the number of free-roaming cats outdoors through our monthly Cheap Fix Cat Clinic, which provides low-cost spay/neuter services for companion and feral cats, and the annual May Spay Challenge that gets new vets around the country involved with helping community cats every year.
Our work for feral cats would not be possible without your support! Please make a tax-deductible contribution today so we may continue to provide these life-saving programs.