I’ve been mulling over how to write this post, a ‘report out’ from our recent cat trapping and pet food distribution event. So let me jump ahead to yesterday, July 6. I was going through the invoices and feedback forms to compile some solid information. I checked Facebook and saw that a neighbor on the Northside has posted about finding three friendly kittens in the park. My antennae went up and I reached out to her, thinking that I had to get these babies out from the heat even if they were parked in the entryway to our home. Fortunately, staff from the National Aviary had responded and were able to transport the three kittens to Animal Friends. Whew.
Then another neighbor from that same neck of the woods reached out about a kitten in her garage. After figuring out this was not a wee baby, I suggested she put out food and water – she doesn’t have a cat so she didn’t have kitten food. Laura and I jumped in our car with our last bag of kitten food and some assorted canned foods. I took a trap, but that was wildly optimistic. So we worked out a plan for her to coax the kitten to stick around and then we’ll go trap it.
Then a cat lady also on the Northside reached out to me with a report of three generations of unaltered cats (unfixed) in the Woods Run neighborhood and could someone track down the feeder. I don’t know who that will be.
Then two different people reached out to me about donating the belongings of their recently deceased pets. And someone put a cat tree on our stoop.
Finally, we ended the evening reviewing our trail cam footage from our own colony and discovered a new-to-us probably pregnant cat that is not ear tipped. The house where they live is slated for demolition in late July so we are urgently trying to trap her, but I have medical tests this week.
That was Tuesday. It never ends. The need never ends. The people willing to help never ends. I’m still a total neophyte and it never ends.
Thank you for supporting our first #ManchesterCatTrap event in late June. Our goals were:
- Trap, Neter/Spay, Vaccinate, and Release 50 community cats
- Distribute pet food to Manchester and Nothside neighbors in need
- Offer a TNVR training for neighbors
I am please to report that thanks to a tremendous effort from a group of mighty volunteers, we accomplished quite a bit – so much that our fundraising fell a little short. Good problem to have, right? Well, that depends if you are willing to help us ‘level up’ to cover all of the expenses.
- 52 cats were treated at the clinic
- 1 adult and 6 kittens are being trapped in Manchester with a commitment to cover their procedures when they are ready
That’s a total of 59 cats
30 community cats (ferals) – 21 females, 9 males’
22 foster cats – 11 females, 11 males
1 adult female and 6 kittens yet to be seen
All cats/kittens were spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and dewormed. Ferals were ear tipped. One cat was already neutered, but not ear tipped so his Manchester owner was tracked down through the microchip. He tested positive for FIV so was relinquished by his owner to one of the rescues working with us.
Some cats needed a bit more – treatment for skin infections, testing for FIV/FLeV, microchips, dosage of Revolution (flea control)
So what impact does this have? Spaying 32 females is huge. Females average 6 kittens per 12 months so that’s 192 homeless kittens that will not be born into this rough existence. That’s 32 female cats that are no longer focused solely on reproduction and can be cats whatever that looks like.
20 males could create an unknown amount of kittens in a years time, but let’s just use 6 as an example. That’s another 120 homeless kittens that won’t be born into this existence. Plus, these males will not constantly try to reproduce, won’t fight other cats, won’t be desperate for food.
So that’s 312 additional kittens who won’t be homeless this year. And each year thereafter.
All of the community cats have caretakers and feeders.
Not all were from the Northside. We didn’t have enough local volunteers to trap and manage a full frontal sweep of Manchester or nearby neighborhoods BUT almost half of the cats are Northsiders. So we gave the additional spots to Homeless Cat Management Team because kitten season is brutal and stopping reproduction anywhere is a win/win.
The kittens and one adult were placed with rescue groups to be fostered. Several adults were friendly enough to be considered for placement, but there is simply no room. Two of the friendlies are at one of my colonies and another friendly at my second colony. But we have no capacity to bring them inside.
The sad news is that some of the cats did not survive. I don’t want to downplay those losses because they matter. The clinical partners are discussing each situation. We haven’t personally had that experience except for when one feral mama brought us her dying kitten several years ago. We rushed to the ER vet and spent $400 for it to be euthanized. The vet told us the kitten had neurological problems. Mama cat and one of her other kittens are now spayed and living with us so that won’t happen again. And another time a person hit a cat with their car and left it to die – we were able to get it into a carrier and take to a different vet to be euthanized but this time for $25. Both were very sad learning experiences for us.
The region has lost at least one major veterinary resource.
This is brutal work.
Food was donated by Animal Friends and private donors. Our goal was to give back to Manchester by distributing something to the pet owners rather than just taking their time and energy to the TNVR work.
We distributed hundreds of bags of food to at least 45 households. I say “at least” because several people took food to share with neighbors and low-income neighbors without transportation. Some went to colony caretakers and we loaded them up! A very special thank you to Sarah P. and my wife Laura who delivered the vast majority of the food when realized we were short of volunteers due to last minute cancellations.
Because we did not have great storage choices, some food was claimed by groundhogs and some went into compost piles. Storage is a HUGE need. I’m searching for a gently used or donated sturdy shed that my wife has agreed to put in our backyard to store the cat stuff. I’m also working with the URA to find a suitable Manchester property to lease.
We distribute pet food through The Dr. John R. Ruffing VMD Pet Projects so we’d love your help to continue supporting neighbors. Right now we definitely need kitten food (dry and canned) as well as treats.
A community hyper-local TNVR project has a lot of benefits for that community. The cats here and finding a way to coexist peacefully requires investing our time and money. At my colony, several cats were TNVRd in addition to the ones I already took care of and I notice the benefits already. Everyone is much more chill, they hang out together, they aren’t pacing looking for food (they always have food) and because the cats hang out more, the raccoons do not. Three of my cats were trapped on site and two others were trapped nearby. We also trapped a few on nearby blocks so collectively we’ve done pretty well in a small area.
We did not trap enough cats in Manchester. We needed more volunteer trappers so that’s something to consider moving ahead. There are at least four nearby blocks and entire clusters on the other side of the neighborhood that could have been trapped if we had more volunteers.
I did not take enough time to build neighborhood investment in the project. I was counting on more participation than we received and more donations. So that’s on me – I need to do a better job going door-to-door and sharing information. I am making a list of neighbors who complain about the cats or the cat food or so forth and inviting them to be part of the solution next time. Honestly, I think they perceived a bunch of cat ladies swooping in to Manchester and that may be my fault, too. Managing community cats requires community members taking an active role.
The pet food was very well received, but a hardship to manage. I was shocked that we received almost no donations in the honor of Dr. John Ruffing. We had no storage, so relied on a combo of a tent and three tarps. That was not a great idea. So a shed or pod for storage would be necessary as would having more volunteers to deliver food. The recipients have genuine needs, but most don’t have cars. I think distributing food on an ongoing basis is a better choice. Sadly our business partner that received and held donations has to relocate out of the City so this is a project on hold.
I also think we need more year round trainings on how to trap. It is intimidating I say with experience from being new myself. And I’m no great master now.
We helped a lot of cats, dogs, and neighbors in Manchester. Here are some suggestions on how you can help, too
- If you see stray/feral/community cats, offer them food and water. Reach out for information on what else you can do but don’t underestimate the value of food, water, shelter, and a spay/neuter – but you aren’t doing those things alone.
- Remember that the cats didn’t choose to live here. They aren’t wild animals. They are homeless and abandoned animals. And yes they can be disruptive, but that the fault of humans. If the cats annoy you or make you uncomfortable, you can help in other ways – perhaps contributing cat food or donating a spay/neuter package.
- Keep your pet cats inside. No they don’t want to be outside. They want stimulation, attention, and activity. If you do let them outside, make sure they are vaccinated, microchipped (that you register), and wearing a breakaway collar. And don’t complain about other outside animals if you choose to put yours outside.
- Join the Pittsburgh Northside Cat Ladies Facebook Group. It is a space to learn, share, get help, and just enjoy being with other cat ladies.
- If you have gently used or extra cat supplies, donate
Unfinished Business …
We need $1,000 in additional donations to cover all of the expenses including the mama and six Manchester kittens, some unexpected veterinary needs that exceeded the $70 package, and some post operative expenses. We are really in a tight spot and urgently need help. I hope Manchester neighbors can step up and contribute any amount.
Thank you to our sponsors
State Senator Wayne Fontana * State Representative Emily Kinkead * Humane Animal Rescue * Animal Friends * Dravosburg Veterinary Hospital * and our individual donors
Scroll through to see photos from the day …
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