In this new column, I’ve asked you to submit your own pet and animal stories. Last week you submitted several, including more reports of hidden kitties and one about an unusual encounter with a bird. I will publish your stories next week, so please remember to check back then.
Saving kitties in our communities
Every community that I have ever lived in has had populations of stray cats. Often called “feral” cats, that term is now avoided because many of the cats were once pets and are not truly feral (wild). We now try to use the term “community cats,” which implies they have been and still are members of the local community.
Cats often get bad press for negatively impacting wildlife, especially birds. I get my feathers ruffled when people loosely blame cats for the reduction of birds and other native species from the environment. Yes, they do capture animals to eat but don’t you think there are other, more important, factors that are decimating our wildlife? Toxins, loss of habitat from development, floods and drought from climate change (not going to argue this here), mirrored buildings that birds ram into. There are many challenges to wildlife in today’s environment and cat communities are a small, but still important, part of it.
Ignoring the cries for mass capture and euthanasia of community cats, I strongly support a humane trap, spay/neuter and release (TNR) program that controls populations and reduces their environmental impact. It has been proven to reduce the number of cats even while new cats are added from abandonment. It works thanks to many dedicated and fearless volunteers that help manage these colonies.
But does spay/neuter/release work?
YES! Multiple studies have shown that spay-neuter-release programs significantly reduce the number of stray cats in communities. By eliminating their ability to reproduce, the cat colonies will gradually get smaller, thus reducing their impact in a humane way.
When I had my cat clinic in Asheville, NC, I did everything I could to help organizations and volunteers—providing low-cost veterinary care, helping with supplies, and helping find homes for those cats who were friendly. Now you know why I have had up to 19 cats in my care at points in my life! But I now have 11 cats, some of whom were prior strays.
I will introduce you to one group doing this important work. I consider them heroes and cannot say enough about their importance.
Friends2Ferals in Western North Carolina
I have worked with Nancy Schneiter, director of Friends2Ferals, for many years. I am in awe of her commitment to cats in and around Asheville, NC. She goes into areas with stray cats to trap them, get them medical care, and get them spayed or neutered. She works with many people who care for communities—feeding and watering—and with people who don’t have the resources to manage their cats at home, the precursor to abandonment and increases in stray cat populations. Luckily, Asheville is home to SPCA/Humane Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to low-cost spay/neuter services and training veterinarians all over the world in the techniques to perform high-quality, high-quantity spay/neuters (see below).
On surgery day, Nancy can have more than 20 cats lined up for the procedure. Remember, many of these cats are not socialized and are very difficult to handle. After surgery, she will release the cats back into their community with a tell-tale ear tip so that the cats who have been neutered can be recognized from afar. On non-surgery days, she is monitoring colonies, responds to calls for her help and manages veterinary issues with numerous cats. She never ceases to amaze me with her energy and dedication.
Support our heroes
There are many ways to help. Nancy is someone who I have worked with and seen firsthand the good she can do. But there are many individuals, groups and organizations in the U.S., Canada and throughout the world doing this important work. If you would like to help, I am sure there are opportunities in your community. Call them, donate dollars and supplies, call them out for doing a great job. You would touch my heart and be a hero forever if you help Nancy in her work.
There are also several U.S. national organizations that support TNR that deserve our support. You can check them out here:
Now… an incredible Irish journey
Four thousand miles away from home, a little sea turtle was found washed up on a shore in Ireland. The young turtle was battered, hypothermic and near death. It had survived months of sea travel across the Atlantic, a miracle because the Loggerhead turtle is native to Florida and Southeast U.S. waters. This poor little turtle was likely swept across the Atlantic by raging storms.
Found by a couple in Northwest Ireland, the turtle was taken to the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium, where it will recover and gain strength. According to director Kevin Flannery, she is eating voraciously and has almost tripled her weight. He anticipates a full recovery and successful release in the Canary Islands.
Do you have a pet or animal story to share? Please send it to me using the form below. Include a photo, too, if you have one. Thank you!
And we’ll get back to your stories next week. Just not enough room for them this week.