Sunshine’s story starts out in a way that is only too familiar to people in animal rescue: Someone dies and the people they entrusted with their beloved animals’ care instead dump their furbabies at a shelter. In the case of Sunshine, this meant almost certain death, as she is diabetic.
Bella was adopted as a kitten from a shelter in Maine, and around 6 months of age she became increasingly lethargic but also increasingly hungry. No matter how much she ate, she was still losing weight. After a variety of tests that gave no answers, the veterinarian decided to “cast a wide net” and ordered a blood panel and urine test normally done for senior (older) cats to see if Bella had problems that standard testing might not catch.
Owl is a gorgeous Egyptian Mau who came to the United States from Abu Dhabi, which has a terrible stray cat overpopulation issue. Owl was rescued from the streets in May, 2015, after being hit by a car. Due to nerve damage from the accident, his front leg needed to be amputated. Owl adjusted very well to living with just 3 legs, though he remained semi-feral. Then he became sick over the summer and was diagnosed with Feline Diabetes. The wonderful woman in Abu Dhabi who rescued him knew that Owl needed a home in the U.S. to be safe and reached out to Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN).
Diabetic Cats in Need (DCIN) is fully run by volunteers who believe passionately in the group’s mission: to keep diabetic cats in their original, loving homes, regardless of the income level of their caregivers. DCIN supports diabetic cats in their original, adoptive, shelter, and rescue homes; helps to rehome unwanted diabetic cats; and helps to educate caregivers on the appropriate treatment of diabetic cats.
Michael arrived at Simply Cats Adoption Center with 26 other very sick cats who were rescued from a horrible hoarding situation. A passerby spotted cat carriers stacked to the ceiling and cats everywhere inside a parked shuttle bus. Thankfully, he reported it to authorities right away and they took action. The conditions in the bus were unimaginable. Some cats had died on the bus; others were too ill to survive.
A Payette sheriff called Simply Cats for help in May when she discovered a hoarding situation. Two people and 16 cats were living in a single-wide trailer infested with fleas and cockroaches. It was filthy and reeked of insecticides, and the cats needed medical attention. Fortunately, Simply Cats had the space and the ability to rescue all 16 cats.
Cindy Lou and her two brothers were discovered outdoors by one of Simply Cats’ volunteers. This volunteer had noticed them before on her neighbor’s property and was concerned about their welfare. They were only 12 to 16 weeks old. It was winter in Idaho, and the kittens were dirty, skinny, and injured.
Cat Town is sometimes asked what they mean when they say their mission is to help the “hardest-to-place” cats. Twiggy is a perfect example. This 13-year-old black cat needs daily medicine for a thyroid condition and tries to disappear whenever a stranger comes by. Add that all up and you’ll find that there aren’t many people who would give her a chance. Oh, and it didn’t help that she was scheduled to be euthanized by her caretakers because she wasn’t using her litter box.
Even though Lowell was abandoned outside the Oakland animal shelter, he still seemed like one of the lucky ones. He tested positive for FIV, but was pretty easy going and affectionate, so he was quickly moved into adoption at the shelter. For the most part, cats in the adoption room at the shelter fall of Cat Town’s radar unless they start to become stressed there. Lowell had all the signs of a cat who’d sail through and be adopted quickly, so they were pleased to see him move into the adoption room.
Sunday arrived at Oakland Animal Services (OAS), the city’s municipal shelter, in a trap. Estimated to be one-year-old, and with a clipped ear, staff at Cat Town knew she had likely lived her young life outdoors. Nothing about her behavior in the shelter suggested that she was accustomed to being around people, and, in truth, we were a little afraid to interact with her, as she would hiss and growl at anyone who came close.
NYC’s Community Cats Provide Non Toxic Pest Deterrent
Recently, four feral cats that we helped relocate to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center have caught the attention of journalists. Their stories and headlines have focused on how these cats are providing the service of driving rats away from the Javits Center’s loading docks. While this is true, many of these articles missed the point that these cats were not simply turned loose to hunt rats. Their original territory was destroyed by construction and, with the help of the non-profit NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI) of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the Javits Center gave them a home where they could live out their feral lives under the care of sympathetic humans. The mission of the NYCFCI, which receives no government funding, is outlined below, including attention to the discrepancies found in recent media coverage.
In New York City, more than 6,000 trained volunteers practice the humane Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) colony management technique to sterilize, vaccinate, feed, and monitor already existing, self-formed cat colonies until they completely disappear through gradual attrition. The NYCFCI provides free TNR certification training workshops throughout the five boroughs. Those who complete the workshop become eligible for free spay/neuter and other free services provided by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the ASPCA, and other area organizations to support their volunteer work to help community cats.
It is true that neighborhoods and areas hosting spayed/neutered community cat colonies managed through TNR do enjoy the collateral benefit of a non-toxic rodent deterrent. The scent established by hosting and feeding cats regularly in one place is what keeps the rodents away. Breeding female rats will move away from an area inhabited by resident cats that would clearly be a danger to their litters. When the breeding females move out, the male rats follow. Cats will remain in place with the daily food, water, and shelter provided by a colony caretaker, and will not just follow the rodents for survival.
The NYCFCI would never place a cat on the street for the purpose of providing rodent control. Our express mission is to have as few cats living on the streets as possible. The very rare person who offers to adopt a feral cat or colony in need of relocation must pass an application process showing they wish to provide compassionate daily care to the cat or colony at-risk, and are not merely looking for “mousers.”
It was by coincidence that the Javits Center offered to host a colony of cats, and shortly thereafter an already existing group of street cats needed relocation from an area that had become too dangerous for them to continue to be cared for safely. The NYCFCI knew that several cats had already lived safely at the north end of the Javits Center for more than ten years.
Relocating cats is not easy, and it requires careful planning and time. These new cats were successfully relocated from danger to safety and released at the Javits Center after a three-week period of confinement onsite for habituation after confirming their comfort level in an area with heavy traffic and loud noise. As it turned out, the new cats have helped to control the rodent population at the south end’s loading docks, but that would not have been sufficient reason for our placing them there.
They had been offered a permanent home, not conditional to their performance as rodent deterrents. It worked out marvelously to mutual benefit at the Javits Center, but providing “mousers” is not a feature of the NYCFCI program.
Cats have lived near human dwellings for thousands of years because we need each other. Even the most feral community cats rely on humans for food and shelter, either directly or indirectly. Both humans who are cat lovers and those who are not can agree: a well managed, TNR-ed cat colony can provide a mutually beneficial addition to most communities. Cats who become a part of a managed colony are saved, and humans reap the benefits of non-toxic rodent deterrent.
The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals is supported entirely by donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals and receives no government funding. You can help them continue to save the lives of New York City’s feral and stray community cats and humanely reduce the number of kittens being born on the streets by supporting the efforts of October’s Monthly Mojo, the NYC Feral Cat Initiative by donating to their Gift That Gives More Campaign.
Visit NYCferalCat.org for more information
Forgotten Feline: Pinky
Last month, Marie, a concerned Bronx resident, contacted the New York City Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI) to request help for Pinky, a young, feral, gray tabby from a local colony, who was in trouble. Marie had spotted her wandering the streets with a rusty, broken can on her head. Unable to eat or drink in the extreme heat of the summer, Pinky was in dire need of assistance.
Marie had tried to get help for Pinky for almost a week, but to no avail. She reached out to the Alliance just in time. Within a matter of hours, Pinky was trapped and brought to a local, feral-friendly veterinarian.
First, Pinky was sedated so that the can could be removed and she could be examined. Due to the amount of time she spent in the can, she was severely dehydrated, and had sustained some injuries from the metal cutting her skin. The vet administered fluids, antibiotics, and treatment for her wounds. After some TLC, Pinky was ready to be returned to her colony. Because of donor support, the NYCFCI is able to care for New York City's forgotten felines, and cats like Pinky can receive the care they so critically need.
"Thank you for helping Pinky... when no one else would! We are very grateful to the Mayor's Alliance. We tried to get help for a week and then called you. She's doing great today!"
-- Marie, Bronx
Supporting the NYC Feral Cat Initiative strengthens our life-saving efforts… one cat at a time! To support the efforts of October’s Monthly Mojo, the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, and help them continue the work they do to help animals like Pinky, please donate to their Gift That Gives More Campaign.
The Jackson Galaxy Foundation #MonthlyMojo beneficiary
for October 2016 is
NYC Feral Cat Initiative
A program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals
Of NYC, NY
The Big Apple
Tens of thousands of street cats live in alleyways, backyards, and outdoor spaces of New York City. Because these cats are not socialized to humans, they are not candidates for adoption, and most adult feral cats taken in at city shelters are euthanized. In addition, the breeding of these street cats’ results in more kittens entering the shelters taking away homes that would otherwise go to the adult cats already there.
The New York City Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI) is a program of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals. The program is committed to solving NYC’s feral and stray community cat overpopulation crisis through the humane, non-lethal method of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). NYCFCI helps to reach The Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals goal of ensuring that no dog or cat of reasonable health and temperament is killed merely because he or she does not have a home.
What is TNR?
Stray and feral cats are humanely trapped, evaluated, given a rabies vaccination, left-ear tipped, spayed or neutered by a veterinarian, and then returned to the familiar habitat of their original colony. Tame cats and kittens young enough to be socialized are removed for adoption placement in permanent indoor homes. NYCFCI provides free services and resources to TNR caretakers and community cats.
How can you help? Just $5 supports the NYC Feral Cat Initiative allowing them to continue educating and training New Yorkers about TNR, and to provide critical resources and services to NYC's community cats to continue to save lives. See how else your donations help.
Not everyone can go out and participate in the TNR program but you can help in other ways. By purchasing this Feral Cat Buddy catnip toy for your favorite kitty, $5 of your purchase goes directly to New York City Feral Cat Initiative. So in your small way, you are doing your part to help the overpopulation crisis of NYC’s street kitties.
Thanks to the successful community collaboration of partner groups and shelters, NYCFCI has made dramatic progress toward their goals over the last 13 years. Today, 9 out of every 10 lives are saved, as compared to 1 out of 4 when the Alliance began. Since 2003, euthanasia at Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) shelters has been reduced by over 83 percent. What a wonderful success rate.
Each Sunday, a heartwarming story about another successful TNR or re-homing of a community cat will be posted here. Check back to read a story that will renew your faith in human kind and the animals they save.
Connecting with children in underserved neighborhoods
The children in the neighborhoods where Charm City Companions works inspire our team. When we pull onto the block, sometimes dozens of children of all ages, flock to the spay/neuter transport van bombarding us with all kinds of stories and propositions. “I’ll give you $5 for that cat…with the cage.” or “I’m gonna have 12 dogs and 17 cats when I have my own house.” Many of the kids just want to see the animals and ask questions, giving us a stage for sharing information about the importance of vaccinations and spaying or neutering pets. It’s through these children that we’ve been able to build long-term relationships with many pet families.
One of our favorite, young pet advocates is Harmony. She is eight and believes she’s in charge of her grandmom’s dogs. Harmony is precocious and at times ‘tests’ all the grown-ups around her, but she has extended our reach into her grandmom’s home. Our relationship started with a series of phone calls from Harmony, telling us to call her now! She left 13 messages one day, each no less than 60 seconds.
When we spoke to Harmony’s grandmother, Ms. Lisa, we found out one of her four dogs was pregnant. We were able to help by neutering her three male dogs and planned to have Snowball spayed after she had the litter and was finished nursing. Sadly, Snowball died two days after delivering three puppies. Ms. Lisa had no idea what to do with the puppies and was feeding them cow’s milk. After two of the puppies died, Harmony told her grandmom she wanted to call Charm City Companions. Harmony left another series of messages telling us the full story, and again, commanding us to call her immediately. Since then we’ve been able to support Ms. Lisa and Harmony by providing in-home veterinary care and guidance, food for them to nurse their orphaned puppy, puppy shots and four months later, Harmony has called to remind us she needs to get her puppy, Ruffy, neutered.
We’ve also had other calls from people who’ve said Harmony told them to call. We hope when she’s older she’ll officially volunteer for Charm City Companions, although Harmony is already doing an admirable job for animals in her neighborhood.
Extending Our Reach Through Community Ambassadors
Our outreach volunteers all agree that, in addition to the animals they are attending to, meeting the people in our community is especially gratifying. We are taken by the extraordinary compassion displayed towards the animals in the neighborhood by not only their pet guardians, but by all members of the community. During door-to-door canvassing we are greeted with welcoming conversation from those who are caring for a pet and those who are simply pet and/or people advocates. Often an advocate is willing to work with us on the care and feeding of animals.
Brother Reggie, for example, doesn’t have a pet of his own, but he is well connected in his community and is keenly aware of who does. We met Reggie one day while doing outreach following transporting pets to and from the spay/neuter clinic. We first saw Reggie in the morning when we picked up a pet from his neighbor across the street. He was out feeding the pigeons. We noticed that he had his eye on us but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to engage. Later in the afternoon, after we dropped off the pet and started canvassing on the block, we ended up at Reggie’s stoop. We told him who we were and he said he had seen us earlier on his block. We chatted and learned that Brother Reggie runs the outreach ministry for the church next to his house. He’s deeply embedded in the neighborhood and includes outreach to the community as part of his daily routine.
Reggie invited Charm City Companions (CCC) to speak at his church. We were introduced by the pastor who gave us the opportunity to speak to the congregation. We shared our work and the mission of CCC, which was well received by the members of the church and proved to be a very meaningful and productive experience for us. We also learned that Reggie provides people in the community spay/neuter vouchers whenever he finds someone with a pet they want to have altered. Since January 2016 we have had over 30 pet guardians contact us saying, “Brother Reggie told me to call you.”
Brother Reggie's pet guardian story is only one of dozens of other stories. Through these guardian relationships we are able to not only extend Charm City Companions' reach, but in Reggie's case we have helped to extend an important mission of this special neighborhood church. We now meet regularly to talk about ways we can continue to work side by side to meet the needs of the neighborhood and its pet community. Whether our meetings take place on the side of the street, or on Reggie’s stoop, they are as productive as any formal meeting around a table in a boardroom.
All Charm City Companions' volunteers have their own special four-legged companion. We are all devoted to our furry friends and are drawn to this work because of the time we are able to spend with them. While engaging with other pet guardians in underserved communities, we have learned that so many have never had a pet before and that often leads us to reflect on our own personal journey as a pet guardian. How did we learn what to do? Who told us about spay and neuter and how did we know our pets needed access to water 24/7? Basic but critical information to the well being of our pets.
We also found out that these new pet guardians are not necessarily people who opted in. They are often guardians who have opened their heart and their home to another pet guardians in need. There is a significant number of people having to surrender pets for a variety of reasons, often because they simply cannot afford it. But in underserved communities, surrendering to a shelter is not the norm. Instead, people turn to their friends, neighbors, or family members for help in caring for their animal.
One of my favorite stories is of Juanita, our new Charm City companion and client and her three pets that she lovingly rescued from around her neighborhood. Juanita’s new found dog, Pup Pup, brought challenges to Juanita's family, but Juanita met the challenges head on! Pup Pup was free roaming in the neighborhood and when Juanita saw that the poor, defenseless 10 lb. Jack Russell Terrier was being teased, she picked her up and took her home. Fortunately, Juanita found her way to Charm City Companions through her own thoughtful research. We learned during our initial consultation with Juanita that Pup Pup had a growth the size of a walnut. To accommodate Juanita’s busy schedule, that included a full-time job and school, we picked Pup Pup up for her spay appointment. When we returned Pup Pup she was spayed and no longer had the growth. Our local spay/neuter clinic, MD SPCA, removed the growth, at no charge, during the spay surgery for Pup Pup. This was over a year ago and today Pup Pup is doing great! We applaud all new pet guardians, especially those in underserved communities who generously provide for animals in need of care and shelter. These care givers play a pivotal role in preventing hundreds of animals from entering the shelter.