Happy National Feral Cat Day!

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/16/14)

Happy National Feral Cat Day!

Did you even know there was such a thing? I didn’t, until this year when I suddenly became involved with the plight of the feral cat. I didn’t ask for three strays to show up on my front porch one day last March, but once they were there, my little ol’ heart couldn’t turn them away. These three cuties were still young and were much friendlier than a typical stray cat, but they were clearly the product of an unchecked neighborhood cat community that would continue to multiply unless someone stepped in to do something. That someone turned out to be me.

Did you know that feral cats who have already been fixed can  be identified by their ear tip, like this cutie I met in Virginia?
Did you know that feral cats who have already been fixed can be identified by their ear tip, like this cutie I met in Virginia?

Thus began my trip down the rabbit hole. I wanted to get these three little squirts, whom I named The Lull Street Stray Cats, spayed and neutered so that they wouldn’t multiply. My original intent was to release them back into the neighborhood. I did quite a bit of research and discovered that Trap/Neuter/Return programs, or TNR, have proven to be the most successful in managing feral cat populations. The most recent statistics provided by theAmerican Humane Association show that in the United States, over 70% of cats turned into shelters are euthanized. Instead of turning these cats into animal control where they would most likely die, I found an organization called FixNation here in Los Angeles that provides free spay/neuter/vaccinations to homeless strays and feral cats in the region, as part of their TNR program. What they’re doing for homeless cats in Los Angeles is truly amazing. They have sterilized over 100,000 cats and are on the front lines of helping to reduce and control the homeless cat population in the area, and educating the public on how to treat these cat colonies humanely.

I ain’t gonna lie to you, suddenly finding myself responsible for these three little lives was a little overwhelming. It’s not as simple as putting the cats in a box and whisking them off for their appointments. You have to take a class on how to trap them correctly, there’s paperwork to fill out, there are decisions to be made and it is time-consuming. On top of that, I soon began to think that The Lull Street Stray Cats were just too friendly to condemn to a life on the streets. I realized that they were so well-socialized they deserved to have homes. Luckily, FixNation also provides low-cost spay/neuter/vaccinations as well as free microchips for those cats who will ultimately find homes. Considering the average cost of fixing one cat can range between $60-$200, I was grateful that I found a place that caters to bleeding hearts like mine and offers services that cost well below what a private vet would charge. In addition, I discovered that the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services offers free $30 vouchers to help with the cost of sterilizing a pet. They are given out first-come, first-served at several local shelters, and there are no income restrictions to qualify.

Even with all these financial incentives, it was still going to be a bit daunting to pay for all this, so I decided to run a crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo. I am lucky to have wonderful friends with generous hearts, and through donations was able to pay for all the services the kitties needed.

The Lull Street Stray Cats had their visit to FixNation and took up residence in my house for about a month until I could find them all homes (that’s a story for another day). I’m happy to say that one of the little furry nuggets wiggled his way into our hearts and has found his forever home with us. His name is Murray, and quite frankly we couldn’t imagine life without him now.

There are still feral cats in my neighborhood that need to be spayed and neutered, and I am committing myself to the task of taking them to FixNation and releasing them back into the neighborhood. It seems the best way to keep the neighborhood cat population low and to give these cats a fighting chance at a decent life.

I hope you’ll consider being an ally for stray cats in your neighborhood. If you’d like more information about how to care for feral cats in your neck of the woods, please visit Alley Cat Allies.