Every morning after the city’s gridlock has peaked, Dolores Smith loads up her old Volvo with kibble and canned cat food and starts driving through Washington, D.C. By lunchtime she’ll have visited three neighborhoods where hungry feral cats anticipate the sound of her car.
National Feral Cat Day is Oct. 16, and our theme this year is Changing Communities for Cats. Washington, D.C. has proven that you can turn around the places where we live, even communities as vast as our nation’s capital.
Washington D.C. embraces Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), the humane approach to treating feral cats. In 2004, Alley Cat Allies, Washington Animal Rescue League, Washington Humane Society and the District of Columbia Department of Health launched a pilot TNR program. Under the program, animal control officers and shelter officials referred calls about feral cats to Alley Cat Allies, which then worked with residents and volunteers like Dolores to humanely trap cats and bring them to local clinics for subsidized spay/neuter and other veterinary services. In 2008, the situation in D.C. got even better for the cats and their caregivers: The District passed a law requiring Animal Care and Control to practice TNR in managing the feral cat population.
Consider the program in Wake County, N.C. When the local government undermined existing support for TNR, Alley Cat Allies collaborated with grassroots groups Operation Catnip and SPCA of Wake County to push back. Today, Wake County has a new TNR ordinance, and Alley Cat Allies is assisting with the launch of an entirely new animal control and shelter philosophy and practice. The friends of feral cats there can all celebrate this victory.
You — who care for animals, who carry out hands-on work, who conduct spay/neuter clinics, and who talk to neighbors about TNR — are the people we assist. And this year, just for you, we created the Guide for Community Change. This booklet includes guidance about everything from starting a pilot TNR program to raising money to sustain your efforts.
And no effort to help cats is too small. We’re here to support you: Participate in National Feral Cat Day on October 16th. Register your event here.
The two gorgeous cats featured on our National Feral Cat Day poster this year are in Dolores’ care. Their Washington, D.C. colony has thrived for almost a decade. These cats are proof that the dream for a safe place for cats can be a reality. This is what National Feral Cat Day is all about — building humane communities for all cats.