By: Jessica Hoien, Felius Café Manager & Deb Lowe, Felius Advisory Board of Directors
Felius is more than a cat café and coffee shop. It’s also a place where like-minded strangers meet and build connections, and that’s exactly what happened to me a few months ago. A guest came to visit our adoptable kittens and we ended up chatting about the feral and stray cats living on her property. She and a neighbor were feeding them and they started to worry about the cat’s health and just how quickly they were multiplying.
I visited the property and could tell immediately that they were in need of help. I counted twelve cats and kittens that visit, but knew there were many more. Thanks to some amazing volunteers, I gathered eight live traps and got to work trapping cats. On the first night, we caught four animals.
I drove the cats to the Nebraska Humane Society where they were examined, spayed/neutered, and given rabies vaccinations. The following night I set four more traps, catching another four cats. And this went on for about two weeks.
In the end, we trapped over 24 cats and kittens. The adults were transferred to a farm where they are living an amazing life of freedom, no longer stuck in a cycle of reproduction, illness, and fighting. All of the kittens found loving homes where they no longer need to fend for themselves. All of this happened at one single house. And it all started because of one single cat. It’s amazing how quickly a ‘cute’ situation can turn harmful, fatal, and stressful.
“All of this happened at one single house. And it all started because of one single cat. It’s amazing how quickly a ‘cute’ situation can turn harmful, fatal, and stressful.”
If that guest never visited Felius, who knows what the outcome would have been. Awful, sad, and desperate, no doubt. This was a small glimpse into what happens on a daily basis, all over the world. But we can control this human-made problem humanely with trap-neuter-return programs. TNR works.
So what are Feral/Community Cats?
Community cats, also known as feral cats, are undomesticated and unsocialized cats that live with their feline families in outdoor colonies. These cat communities thrive in their outdoor homes. They are accustomed to living outside and are skilled at finding adequate shelter and food on their own. Cats have lived near human populations and wildlife for thousands of years. But they are not native to North America, making them an invasive species. Annually, feral cats kill more native animals than car collisions and pesticides combined. That’s up to 4 billion birds and over 22 billion mammals in the U.S alone. They have a huge impact on local ecologies.
Due to the unfriendly nature of feral community cats, unfortunately they are not good candidates for traditional adoption. In general, feral cats taken to any shelter nationwide have a 70% change of being euthanized. For community cats that are not eligible for traditional adoption, a trip to the shelter is almost a guarantee that they will be euthanized. So what is the best, most humane solution?
TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) is part of the answer. As our story above illustrated, TNR calls for humanely trapping feral cats and taking them to a veterinarian to be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and ear tipped (a visible sign that a cat has been a part of a TNR program). Then, the cats are returned to where they were found. TNR reduces the number of cats able to reproduce, thereby reducing the number of kittens born each year. Unfortunately, not all community cats can be returned to their current colony. Those cats are the perfect candidates to become working cats doing rodent patrol for business and barns.
So how can you help? Felius always needs volunteers in the following areas:
Become a community cat colony caretaker
Learn how to humanely set traps for community cat TNR
Transport community cats to vet appointments