Thursday, February 3, 2011

Allies and Friends

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~~attributed to Margaret Mead

 When I pause to think about products and people that make life better for the Thirteen Cats, the very first thought that pops up is "Alley Cat Allies." 

There was a time when municipalities across the country would indiscriminately issue what are called "catch and kill" orders. A city would declare war, in essence, on some of the most vulnerable members of society, its feral and stray cats. They would be trapped by whatever means were allowed. Terrified, the cats were removed from their neighborhoods and homes, and executed with no quarter and no mercy. The goal was to erradicate a population. It never works.

Despite the thousands of lives lost, despite the terror and suffering of the cats, depsite the effort and expense of the humans, it didn't work. The population wasn't erradicated. Some cats survive, or others would move in to make use of the habitat and resources which had attracted the cats in the first place. These survivors, or these newcomers, would have kittens. It's the way of the world.

In a few years, the colony would have grown again to capacity. Another erradication might be mounted. This is known as the vacuum effect.

Catch and kill simply didn't work. It was cruel, and it was expensive.

Trap-Neuter-Return works. Colony cats are trapped in humane traps. They are vaccinated, spayed or neutered, the left ear is tipped, and the cats are returned to their homes in the wild. There, human neighbors assist in caring for the cats, providing access to food, shelter and water. If you're a regular reader of the ThirteenCats blog, you know I participate as a caregiver with a managed colony. The TNR program was initiated by one of my neighbors. All the individuals in this colony have been spayed or neutered, and there have been no kittens since 2005. As I write, that was six years ago.

Alley Cat Allies didn't invent TNR, but they have done amazing things in pushing toward its acceptance as THE way for cities to care for their stray and feral cat populations. Even The National Animal Control Association has recognized that TNR and managed colonies provide a viable, cost effective, humane alternative to the old-style catch and kill methods.

The Alley Cat Allies website is an amazing resource for people and communities either directly involved in managing a colony, or just wanting to educate themselves and their neighbors about catly concerns. I have found there so many things: plans for building kitty shelters and feeding stations; hints and suggestions about caring for the cats in winter and harsh weather; step by step instructions on how to set up and carry out a trapping day for a colony; pointers to other feral friends; public service announcements to share; and tons of resources for helping me help advocate for the cats in my neighborhood and in my city.

And to think, it all started with two women, back in 1990, who saw a need and set out to help. The ripples continue to move outward. The world is changed.

stlcatlady is a poet, blogger, and freelance writer of shortstories, news articles, and other such oddments, many of which center around her favorite subjecs: cats , philosophy, and folklore. You may contact her by sending email to stlcatlady1 at gmail dot com.

PS:  Below is a public service announcement video from the Alley Cat Allies YouTube station. It's about a minute long. It's  not depressing, but rather hopeful and beautiful. Enjoy! ~~stlcatlady


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