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Growing up as a self-proclaimed zookeeper in the neighborhood, I took it upon myself to feed the neighborhood feral cats. I felt bad that they didn’t have a home of their own, so I wanted to help them by at least making sure they were well fed. My intentions were good, if somewhat naive in retrospect.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I was actually contributing to the growing number of homeless cats in my neighborhood by giving them an abundant source of food. Since cats’ interest in procreation is proportional to the amount of food available to them, good nutrition was like an open invitation to have more kittens who would then need more food.
And then those kittens would grow up to have more kittens who needed more food … and so on and so on.
I’m a bit older and smarter now, and I’ve learned that while I wasn’t wrong about making sure our neighborhood cats are looked after, there was one important step in the process that I didn’t know about: Trap Neuter Return -Monitor (or TNRM).
As a child, I obviously had the “monitor part” under control pretty well. However, the TNR part of the equation is equally important in making sure the cat population doesn’t get out of hand.
No matter where you are, community cats are likely to live among you. Community cats (what people often refer to as “wild”) are cats that are not owned and live outdoors in virtually every landscape on every continent inhabited by humans.
Like house cats, they belong to the house cat species (Felis catus). However, community cats are generally not socialized – or friendly – to humans. They lead full, healthy lives with their cat families (called colonies) in their outdoor homes. TNRM is the only humane, effective approach to community cats, helping them and the communities in which they live.
If you’re new to the world of community cats, here are some fun facts to know and discuss at dinner parties:
1) Community cats are actually very comfortable outdoors: The outdoor life of cats is nothing new. For most of their natural history, cats have lived outside next to humans. There is evidence that cats lived near humans well over 10,000 years ago.
It wasn’t until recently, with the invention of cat litter in the 1940s, that so many cats began to live only indoors.
Community cats are truly at home outdoors, as have countless cats for thousands of years.
2) Community cats are healthy: Community cats thrive in their outdoor homes. They are used to living outdoors and are naturally adept at finding shelter and food on their own.
Studies show that community cats are just as healthy as domestic cats, with equally low disease rates. Contrary to popular belief, community cats can live just as long as domestic cats.
3) Community cats are safe in our community: Community cats do not pose a public health hazard. Because most community cats are not people-friendly and avoid contact, it is almost impossible for them to transmit disease. They do not transmit diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis, and cats rarely carry pathogens.
4) Community cats have a natural place in our environment: Cats have lived outdoors with wildlife for thousands of years. They are part of our natural ecosystem and have no significant impact on wildlife populations.
5) Community cats cannot live indoors: Community cats are generally not socialized or people friendly. That said, it is not a good idea for them to live inside with us. This makes them unsuitable as pets.
So when you bring a community cat from its natural home in your neighborhood to a shelter, it’s like dropping a human who was born and raised in a city in the middle of the rainforest and expecting them to find out. It’s just not a good idea.
Are you a cat lover and want to learn how to improve the lives of kittens and community cats? Well I have great news for you! We’re hosting a spectacular event on Saturday October 2nd where you can learn everything, have fun and find out how to save all the cats!
We call it Catoberfest. The name was my idea, thank you very much (he says while tossing his hair).
We’re partnering with our good friend Hannah Shaw, the Kitten Lady, the Cat Man of West Oakland, and shelter experts for a personal event that includes a panel discussion on behavior and care, two virtual workshops with the Kitten Lady, and ends with Cat Man Bingo.
Guests can browse a variety of vendors and food trucks, and visit an interactive booth from our favorite cat podcast, the Purrrcast. And because we love you, all ticket holders also receive a voucher for a free cat adoption.
I see you there!
If you go: Register here in advance: bit.ly/39k2fs4. The event, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, October 2nd. Entry Fees: $ 25 for bingo; $ 50 for workshops and bingo. Pasadena Humane, 361 S. Raymond Ave. pasadenahumane.org.
Jack Hagerman is Vice President of Community Engagement at the Pasadena Humane Society.