It has been one exhausting week, but gratifying.
As some of you know, I’m part of a group working to spay/neuter the cats of Derry Township (in Pennsylvania, not Ireland!). We trap, neuter (and vaccinate) the cats, and return them (TNR) to their original locations. We are fortunate enough to have a great group of first-time volunteers working with us this week. One of them was feeling very sorry for the cats, and there’s plenty of reasons to do so. But the cats we’ve been working with are, in many ways, the lucky ones.
Lucky? The life of an outdoor community cat is tough. There’s no question about it. But the good thing for these cats is that they have people who care about them. The live in yards and neighborhoods where kind people – the colony caretakers – put out food and water for them. They often have shelters for the cruel winter months, and the sweltering summer ones. It’s not a lot, but it is a whole lot more than many outdoor cats have.
And these cats are all getting neutered (that’s a gender-neutral term, in case you’re wondering), and that means that their colonies will be relatively stable. Neutering takes care of a great deal of the disruptive behaviors associated with mating, like the fighting over females, and the nightly yowling concerts. Less fighting means fewer injuries, and healthier cats in general. Plus we give them their vaccines as added protection. The benefit for the community is that colonies don’t keep growing, and eventually they shrink. Not having batches and batches of kittens every year does wonders all around.
Many TNR programs stop there, but we never return a cat sick. So if they have an infection of some sort, or need any kind of medical care, they get that from us before they go home. If they are so sick that they can’t be helped, we have hospice care for them too.
So that’s been my week, as well as the week for many others. Morning and evening we clean the cats’ traps and feed, give meds where needed. Others drive all around the township each evening picking up more trapped cats, or take groups of them to the vet for their surgeries. After the surgery they stay with us two – five days for recovery time. Lots of hands are required, and we are so grateful that so much help has been offered by so many this week. We are blessed.
And yes, these cats do have a tough life. We’d love them to all be indoors sleeping on pillows in the sunny window, but that will never be the lot of these particular cats. They would never be able to transition inside even if there were enough homes for them. But we are doing what we can to make things better for them, and to prevent the birth of thousands of kittens who will either die young, or go on to live a tough life, only to make more kittens…and the cycle goes on.
It has been a long and busy week, but the work is worthwhile, and these cats will be the better for our efforts, and the colony caretakers will not be overwhelmed by even more cats who need resources that cost the caretakers dearly. All of the cats will be back at their homes in a couple days, and then we’ll have a few days off, and start all over again, doing out best to keep kitten season from being kitten season where ever possible.