It Takes a Community to Support Feral Cats: Here’s How You Can Help

This post first appeared on Care2.com.

Twenty-six years ago the definition of feral cats wasn’t part of the national consciousness in the United States. Today, hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the country are managing feral cat colonies using the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method of control. Among them is Donna Moussa who runs the TNR program for Save the Animals Rescue Team II (STARTII) in Bergen County, NJ. Moussa got involved with the program after following a mother cat and her kitten into a neighbor’s backyard where she discovered more than 40 ferals lounging around the pool and hanging out in flower pots.

“I thought I would trap these cats and have them spayed and neutered and that would take care of the problem,” Moussa said. “Little did I know there were thousands of feral cats living in communities all over the county.”

Twelve years later Moussa and her team have trapped more than 3,000 feral cats, transported them to the spay/neuter clinic, and cared for them during recovery before returning them to their colonies. Feral cat advocates nationwide hail this method as the most humane way of managing colonies. According to numerous scientific studies—many conducted while monitoring feral cat colonies on college campuses—TNR improves the lives of cats, improves the relationship between feral cats and the people who live near them and over time decreases the number of cats in a colony.

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Declawing Cats: Not Equal to Trimming Your Fingernails

This blog first appeared on Care2.com

At a recent party, I was struck at how flippantly one of the guests spoke about declawing her cat. Her explanation was that the cat was scratching her furniture and since she could never part with her beloved companion, the only option left was to have her cat declawed. Then a few weeks later while waiting for a hair appointment, the topic came up again when the woman sitting next to me was telling her companion that she had adopted a cat and was going to have her declawed so that she wouldn’t destroy the furniture or scratch her children.

Stories like this make Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary Executive Director Becky Tegze cringe. In the Cat House at the no-kill animal sanctuary located in Middletown, NY, residents roam freely in rooms that simulate a home environment. There are scratching posts in every room and rarely do the feline residents scratch on the furniture. If they do, staff and volunteers immediately get to work redirecting them to the scratching posts.

Mr. Meowgi enjoys using the scratching post in the Cat House at Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown, NY

Experts at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) say that, too often, people seek declawing surgery for their cats because they believe it is a simple procedure—the equivalent of trimming your fingernails. In reality, declawing involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle. Cats scratch and use their claws to mark their territory, condition their nails, defend themselves, capture prey and play. They also use their claws to stretch their backs. These are all natural behaviors.

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How to Create a Pet First Aid Kit

 

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One night I got a call from my friend asking if I had styptic powder. She had cut her dog’s nail too close to the quick and now the nail was bleeding profusely. I pulled out our pet first-aid kit to find that not only were we all out of styptic powder, but we were short on many other medical supplies as well. It was time to head to the store.

Experts at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommend that anyone who shares a home with a pet should keep a pet first-aid kit on hand. You can purchase a first-aid kit designed for people and add pet-specific items to that, or you can purchase a specialized kit at a pet store or from a catalog. Alternately, you can start your own kit from scratch.

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How to Be a Green Pet Parent

Environmental protection matters to me, and this year I am extending my “go green” attitude to include our dogs. For starters, I need to reconsider how I am disposing of doggy poop. Currently I use plastic grocery bags to pick up after our dogs. That means using plastic shopping bags instead of cloth. And those plastic poop bags end up in the regular garbage where they can take up to 400 years to degrade.

Not picking up the poop is never a good option, either. According to environmental experts rainstorms wash the waste into sewers where it can eventually find its way into rivers and beaches. It’s also a health hazard to leave dog waste laying around your yard, and it’s disrespectful to neighbors not to pick up after your dog in the neighborhood or community parks. Not to mention, in many communities you’re breaking the law by not cleaning up after your dog.

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Does microchipping really help in finding a lost pet?

I just renewed my annual membership for our foxhound, Bella, in the HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service. I debated whether or not to spend the $19.99 membership fee. If I hadn’t renewed the membership, Bella’s microchip number and our contact information would remain in the HomeAgain Recovery Database. I could still access that database to update contact information. And if Bella ever did get lost and was taken to an animal hospital or shelter, they could scan for the microchip, read its unique code, and reach out to HomeAgain to retrieve our contact information.

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So Why Pay a Membership Fee?

As a HomeAgain member, I get much more support from the company. If Bella should ever get lost, HomeAgain will send out lost pet alerts to veterinarians, shelters, and Volunteer Pet Rescuers in the area where Bella was last seen. As a Volunteer Pet Rescuer, I get these email alerts all the time. They include a photo of the missing pet, the exact location where he/she was last seen, and a lost pet flyer with the pet’s photo and contact information.

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When Your Pet Doesn’t Want You to Leave: Dealing with Separation Anxiety

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We lost our Rottweiler mix, Lucy, three years ago and while she will always live in our hearts, there are plenty reminders of her still around the house. Lucy suffered from severe separation anxiety. Crating wasn’t an option as that made her even more nervous, so we did what we could to dog proof the house.

I dreaded coming home from work every day because I never knew what to expect. It could be curtains or blinds ripped from the windows, chewed floor molding,  ripped up rugs,  holes in the walls around the doors and windows, or all of the above. I will never forget the frantic look on Lucy’s face when I returned home. Her eyes were huge and she was panting like she had just come back from a strenuous hike.  I often wondered what our border collie, Jason, must have thought as he watched his “sister” going through these episodes.  So often he tried to calm her down by licking her mouth and she seemed to enjoy that.

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Do Pregnant Women Have to Part With Their Cats?

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It’s not at all uncommon to see posts on pregnancy forums where a contributor shares that her OB-GYN advised getting rid of the family cat.  The fear is that the pregnant mom might contract toxoplasmosis, a rare parasitic disease that can be transmitted via a cat’s feces, and passed along to the unborn baby. Toxoplasmosis can lead to miscarriage or cause malformed babies. For some parents, this fear is so great that they are compelled to part with their beloved cat/cats. Every year shelters take in cats who lose their homes when a new baby is on the way.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), it is not necessary for pregnant women to part with their cats. By following safety tips, mothers-to-be and family cats can happily share a home.  In fact, according to the CDC, people are more likely to get toxoplasmosis from eating raw meat or from gardening than from their cats.

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