By Jenny German, TNR Advocate
Just after turning 40, the idea of helping feral cats was something I had never entertained as I truly didn’t know much about these felines, nor had I ever heard of the acronym TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return).
That all changed in 2003 when I learned of a large colony of cats in my community and how out of control the situation was getting. Being an animal lover, I decided to check out the area in person and from that day forward, my life changed forever.
When I saw more than 50 hungry cats/kittens scattered across a wooded area and field with intact males, kittens, and starving pregnant females hiding behind trees and tall grass, a new passion was created … the desire to improve the lives of feral cats.
The real challenge began as I had no idea just how to do this, but the vision in my head of these cats needing assistance was the driving force that gave me the courage to start a new chapter in my life. I promised them their lives were going to change for the better starting that day.
Times were different 19 years ago. TNR was not the movement that it is today, so most of my feral education came from scarce internet articles and observing and interacting with feral cats in person. My daily caretaker duties began with this large colony and that meant feeding/watering, sheltering and figuring out how to get them trapped for spay/neuter purposes.
I began having yard sales and the pocketed money went into an account for their surgeries. At first, finding a veterinarian was no easy task since many were not equipped to handle these specific cats for fear of liability. When I found a low-cost clinic in Battle Creek that was knowledgeable and had the expertise to fix feral cats, I was then able to accelerate the spay/neuter surgeries.
Since I did not own any live traps, I heard our city had a loaner one so I went to check it out. When the official placed the trap on the desk, rust flakes by the dozen fell off the trap, so I kindly declined and purchased some traps myself.
The night before my first trapping experience, I think I slept perhaps 20 minutes. I was excited, yet a bit nervous. With each trapping experience, I gained more confidence and, soon enough, I was on my way to stopping their reproduction.
It was exhilarating to see the lives of the feral cats greatly improve with each and every spay/neuter. These cats were happier, healthier, coexisted more peacefully and their numbers were stabilizing. To see a fixed feral cat do a half-somersault with joy because the caretaker was on the path to the feeding station is a vision I will treasure for the rest of my life. I wonder how many others experienced this bond and feelings of fulfillment. The rewards of what I was witnessing each day were phenomenal.
Trap-Neuter-Return was really not familiar terminology in the United States until the 1990s. As a society, we have come a long way since then, but we still have a great deal of work to do. Millions of feral cats are in need of spay/neuter assistance. These cats are in this predicament through no fault of their own.
I now practice TNR on a regular basis in my community in order to help other felines. TNR is the most humane and effective means of reducing the feral cat population and makes for a kinder, more compassionate community.
Across our nation, we currently have veterinarians and low-cost spay/neuter clinics fixing feral cats on a routine basis. There are now better traps, tools/dividers, sheltering ideas, workshops, and tips on how to help ferals, now known as community cats.
For that person wanting to get involved, but who is slightly apprehensive, please reach out for help by calling clinics or searching for TNR volunteers who you can shadow or use as a reference. E
very community cat who is spayed/neutered is a victory. Nineteen years later, I still oversee my colony due to occasional drop-offs. The numbers have greatly decreased over these years, but the passion is still there. One person can make positive changes in the lives of community cats … will you be that next individual?