Feral cat caretakers speak out

Published 10:02 pm Monday, January 11, 2016

One voice was noticeably absent from a story I wrote Sunday about feral cat colonies: the caretakers.

Believe me, it was not for lack of trying to track down the good-hearted people who have committed themselves to caring for felines that might otherwise go without food, warm beds of straw or adequate medical care.

For two weeks before writing the story, I visited daily a few places where I’d noticed someone feeding swarms of cats in the past. Several people with the Suffolk Humane Society sidestepped the question when I asked about names and phone numbers of caretakers.

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Apparently, caretakers end up getting harassed for taking care of multiple cats. That is part of the reason people were reluctant to share caretakers’ contact information.

On Monday, I had two emails from people saying I had missed their sides of the story. So, while I’m not using their names out of respect for their privacy, I do want them to be heard. So, from the letters themselves:

“As a caregiver to several feral cat colonies, I feel compelled to speak up on their behalf. They (cats) didn’t ask for the life they have been given. You can best believe that most feral colonies got their start from someone’s unaltered housecat that was turned out and left to roam.

“…Show me a lab report that supports claims that cat excrement is polluting the Nansemond River, along with the deer poop, raccoon poop, possum poop, squirrel poop, bird poop and let’s not forget the waterfowl poop.”

The article also referenced alleged negative impact cat colonies have on the environment, including leftover trash — feeding containers and bins with straw where cats can sleep or give birth — found at the sites.

“I understand disdain for trash that has been accumulating in neighborhood, but … feral cats don’t create these environments, careless and ignorant people do this and just because the cats may be gone isn’t going to stop the people from dumping their unwanted trash.”

Most volunteers practice “TNVR,” the practice known as Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return, to deal with the overpopulation of stray and feral cats, a second writer said.

“Animal lovers like myself are asked to pick up the cats and take them to a veterinarian’s at their own expense to be sterilized and vaccinated against rabies. The cats are then returned to where they were picked up and are fed by a caretaker. Supporters of the practice say it’s a humane alternative to simply trapping and killing the cats after they’ve been taken to a shelter. You don’t need to be a cat lover to support TNVR, you simply need to share the goal of fewer cats on our streets, it helps control the cat population.

“I realize there are other problems the residents have with the colony including the trash left behind. However, we try not to leave anything behind when feeding. There has been many incidents of people leaving trash cans, sofas, dressers, etc. to shelter the cats when colder weather is upon us.

“We have successfully adopted out many cats to loving homes.”