The feral cats Frisco Kid, Spike, Thom, and the house-cats, The Beast, Abe and Amber come and go as they please; all have twenty-four hour access via the cat door. Indoors, they explore the scene and move about freely as cats do. Outdoors, they perch in their favorite spot. They can climb on the stairs, inside or out or on top of the Cat Habitat.
Becky Robinson, Alley Cat Allies President and Co-founder, and her husband Ed Lytwak have been caring for the seven members of the feral cat colony, all approximately eight-years-old, for several years. Ed built the Cat Habitat. “They have their own ramps leading to cat-decks and platforms to sleep on during the day. In inclement weather,” Becky says, “they have all kinds of different shelters we’ve created and built for them.” Most important, “They are all spayed or neutered, eartipped and vaccinated. They have had regular veterinary check-ups and revaccinations.”
“Feral cats,” Becky emphasizes, “are the same species as pet cats. They’re just not socialized to humans, but they live healthy lives outdoors.” Feral, stray, and companion cats are all domestic cats. Stray cats, having previous socialization, and feral kittens, who before a certain age can be socialized, mark the difference from adult feral cats. “Building a correct understanding of feral cats in your community is the first step towards protecting them.”
Furthermore, Becky notes, “Feral cats do not pose a public health risk. They can have the same lifespan as pet cats and are just as healthy.” Becky confirms, “The large majority of colonies can remain where they have been their whole lives. With simple management they can have a shelter and feeding stations created and maintained with a single caregiver or a group of neighbors who share the duties.”
“Twenty years ago, there were no materials, no protocols or procedures or organizations for humane cat care in this country – only killing. Caring for outdoor cats was an underground movement.” In 1990, Alley Cat Allies became the first national organization in the United States to develop proven life-saving programs to protect feral cats and promote humane care.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is compassionate, proactive, and improves the lives of feral cats. “TNR stabilizes the population humanely and allows cats to live out their lives in their outdoor home – their colony.” Becky explains, “Trap-Neuter-Return is a comprehensive community program. It helps organize, mobilize, and unite communities and neighborhoods. It is not just a hollow policy or a quick-fix. It’s a long term commitment to social change, and it brings people together to support a solution that benefits everyone and improves the entire community’s quality of life.”
“My vision,” Becky declares, “is that inside of the next decade our nation’s animal shelters and city facilities have policies that truly protect cats instead of killing them. Since adult feral cats are not adoptable, not socialized to people, they are killed in pounds and shelters.”
Aggressively educating and lobbying that feral cats do not belong in shelters, Alley Cat Allies works with caregivers in communities across the country, defending rights to care for cats, assisting in organizing spay and neuter resources, and rallying to fight ineffective policies. Implementing TNR programs nationwide will end decades of failed Catch and Kill policies and stop the well-documented natural phenomenon, known as the Vacuum Effect, a never-ending, high-priced cycle of trapping and killing.
On their 10th anniversary in 2001, Alley Cat Allies introduced National Feral Cat Day to raise awareness about feral and stray cats, endorse Trap-Neuter-Return, and commend the humane efforts of rescue groups, shelters, and individuals across the country. Now, coast to coast, in all fifty states, hundreds of supporters have been inspired to sponsor events on October 16, National Feral Cat Day 2011.
This year, in support of innovative and effective events, Alley Cat Allies awarded five, $1,000 prizes to: Ohio Alleycat Resource and Spay/Neuter Clinic (OAR), Humane Society of Austin & Travis County, Animal Coalition of Tampa (ACT), Humane Ohio, and Humane Society of Yuma.
In addition to United States’ events, there are six National Feral Cat Day events in Canada sponsored by Craig Street Cats, Project C.A.R.E. (Cat Advocacy Rescue & Education), Feline Friends Network, Welland Feral Cats, Kitty Cat P.A.L. Society, and the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition in cooperation with the Toronto Humane Society. Two International events are planned by Gatitos TNR in Puerto Rico and Kneading Paws Animal Rescue in South Africa.
What began with Becky improving the lives of fifty-four beautiful tuxedo feral cats in an Adams Morgan alley has transformed into the authoritative and most humane feline advocacy movement in America. Now spreading through Canada, one day, Alley Cat Allies will unite the world.