When I was growing up, as the self-proclaimed neighborhood zookeeper, I took it upon myself to feed the neighborhood feral cats. I felt bad that they didn’t have homes of their own, so I wanted to help them out by at least making sure they were well fed. My intentions were good, albeit a little naïve in hindsight.
What I didn’t know at the time was that I was actually contributing to the growing number of homeless cats in my neighborhood by giving them a plentiful food source. Because cats’ interest in procreating is proportionate to the amount of food resources available to them, keeping them well fed was like an open invitation to have more kittens that would then need more food.
And then those kittens would grow up to make more kittens who would need more food … and so on and so on.
I’m a little older and wiser now, and I’ve come to know that while I wasn’t wrong to want to make sure our neighborhood cats were cared for, there was an important step in the process that I didn’t know about: Trap-Neuter-Return-Monitor (or TNRM).
I obviously had the “monitor part” down pretty well as a kid. But the TNR part of the equation is equally important with regard to making sure the population of cats didn’t get out of control.
No matter where you are, community cats probably live among you. Community cats (what people often refer to as “feral”) are un-owned cats who live outdoors in virtually every landscape on every continent where people live.
Like pet cats, they belong to the domestic cat species (Felis catus). However, community cats are generally not socialized — or friendly — to people. They live full, healthy lives with their feline families (called colonies) in their outdoor homes. TNRM is the only humane, effective approach to community cats, and it helps them and the communities where they live.
If you’re new to the world of community cats, here are few interesting facts you should know and talk about at dinner parties:
1) Community cats are actually very comfortable living outdoors: Cats living outdoors is nothing new. For most of their natural history, cats have lived outside alongside people. Evidence supports cats began living near people well over 10,000 years ago.
It wasn’t until very recently, with the invention of kitty litter in the 1940s, that so many cats began living indoors only.
Community cats are truly at home outdoors, just as countless cats have been for thousands of years.
2) Community cats are healthy: Community cats thrive in their outdoor homes. They are used to living outdoors and are naturally skilled at finding shelter and food all on their own.
Studies show community cats are just as healthy as pet cats, with equally low disease rates. Contrary to common belief, community cats can also live just as long as pet cats.
3) Community Cats are safe to have in our community: Community cats are not a threat to public health. Because most community cats aren’t friendly to people and avoid contact, it is almost impossible for them to transmit diseases. They don’t spread diseases like rabies and toxoplasmosis, and cats rarely carry germs that make people sick.
4) Community cats have a natural place in our environment: Cats have coexisted outdoors with wildlife for thousands of years. They are part of our natural ecosystem and do not significantly impact wildlife populations.
5) Community cats cannot live indoors: Community cats are generally not socialized or friendly to people. That means it’s not a good idea for them to live indoors with us. This makes them not adoptable as house pets.
So to take a community cat out of its natural home in your neighborhood and into a shelter is like taking a human being born and raised in a city and dropping them in the middle of a rainforest and expecting them to figure it out. It’s just not a good idea.
Are you a cat lover who wants to learn how to make a difference in the lives of kittens and community cats? Well, I’ve got great news for you! We’re hosting a spectacular event on Saturday, Oct. 2 where you can learn all the things, have all the fun and find out how to save all the cats!
We’re calling it Catoberfest. The name was my idea, thank you very much (he says as he flips his hair).
We’re teaming up with our good friend Hannah Shaw, the Kitten Lady, the Cat Man of West Oakland and shelter experts for an in-person event that will feature a panel discussion on behavior and fostering, two virtual workshops featuring the Kitten Lady, and wraps up with Cat Man Bingo.
Guests can browse a variety of vendors and food trucks and visit an interactive booth from our favorite cat podcast, the Purrrcast. And because we love you, all ticket holders will also receive a voucher for a free cat adoption.
I’ll see you there!
If you go: Register in advance here: bit.ly/39k2fs4. The event, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2. Admission fees: $25 for Bingo; $50 for workshops and Bingo. Pasadena Humane, 361 S. Raymond Ave. pasadenahumane.org.
Jack Hagerman is vice president of community engagement at Pasadena Humane Society.