They are in the alleys, roaming in the local parks and possibly holed up in your garage. There is an estimated 500,000 to 750,000 feral and stray cats on the prowl in Chicago and several area animal rights organizations are working to humanely tackle the issue. Until new legislation regulating the managed care of feral cats came into effect in Cook County in 2007, feral cats that were trapped ended up being euthanized by animal control. Tree House Humane Society, the Anti-Cruelty Society and other organizations are now working to stabilize the feral cat population, rescuing many strays along the way.
“The biggest problem we run into everyday is awareness,” says Kari Johnson, the Feral Friends Targeted TNR Project Coordinator at Tree House Humane Society. “Even when people are aware of the stray and feral cats in their neighborhood, they are not aware of the services that we provide or how we are able to help. We work very hard to educate the members of the community so they know to come to us to help.”
Tree House and other organizations do several things to help stabilize the cat colonies through their Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) programs. First of all, they are trapping the stray and feral cats. Stray cats are friendly, often abandoned cats, that once had a home and feral cats have had little human contact and are wild. After the cats are trapped, the feral cats are sterilized and returned to the colony and the strays are spayed and neutered and then put up for adoption through Tree House and other local rescue organizations.
Helping out feral colonies and caretakers
Tree House offers many services to help to help those working to stabilize the feral and stray cat population in their community. The organization offers low-cost spay/neuter packages, vaccinations, parasite treatment, ear tipping and wound treatment. The organization also offers a trap bank, post-surgery recovery space, a food pantry and workshops.
“If people are actually caring for the colonies, we offer any amount of information on nutrition and supplementing the cats’ diets,” adds Johnson. “We also give them information on how to build shelters. We bring them shelters or offer them shelters for pick up from Tree House. We are able to remediate the situation with their neighbors by walking them through how to handle issues or complaints.”
If you suspect there are feral and/or stray cats in your neighborhood and would like her organization to investigate, Johnson recommends calling Tree House for assistance at 773-784-5488, ext. 234, or email@example.com.The organization can set up traps for the neighborhood, transport and offer support where cats have been trapped and work with colony caretakers on shelters and maintaining the colony.
West side project
One area where Tree House is looking for help is in the Humboldt Park neighborhood (60651). Through a grant from PetSmart Charities, Tree House is working on trapping and sterilizing the stray and feral cats in that area with a goal of 1,500 cats over a year period. Along with the feral and stray cats, the free services are also available to pet cats in the neighborhood that may need spay or neuter services.
“We have had a hard time getting the word out about our services in this neighborhood and need volunteers to help us canvas the area with fliers about the program,” says Johnson. “This is one way that people can get involved and make a difference in their community without taking on full responsibility of managing a colony.”
Volunteers may go to either the Bucktown or Uptown Tree House locations and pick up fliers advertising the free spay/neuter services along with a map that will take them door-to-door in Humboldt Park. Johnson said it’s important to build awareness a much as possible before winter sets in. To volunteer, you may email Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feral Cat Day
In order to build awareness of feral cats and to promote TNR programs nationally, Sunday, October 16 has been declared National Feral Cat Day. Tree House will be celebrating on Saturday, October 15 by hosting a Feral Cat Colony Caretaker fest from 1 to 4 p.m. at shelter headquarters at 1212 W. Carmen Avenue in Chicago. Registered colony caretakers will be able to collect free and low-cost winterization supplies such as outdoor shelters, insulation materials (Styrofoam sheets and straw), heated water bowls, food and more. Refreshments will be served at the event and representatives of Tree House’s TNR program will be on hand to answer questions about the programs available.
“So many people feel that they don’t need to tackle the problems of the world because they can’t make a difference,” says Johnson. “If the cat is under your porch or seeking shelter in your garage, you can take responsibility and work with us to make a difference. I love it when people come to me and say ‘I want to take control of a project in my neighborhood.’ That small gesture makes a world of difference.”
Feral cats make up the largest percentage of animals euthanized at shelters; so successful TNR programs are the key to reducing euthanasia and becoming closer to a no-kill city and a no-kill nation. Learn more visit Tree House’s sister website or contact the TNR counselors at 773-784-5488, ext. 234, or email@example.com.
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