Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Gratitude Attitude

FROM CAT CHAT WITH CAREN AND CODY:This is a guest post by Nancy Peterson, Cat Programs Manager for The Humane Society of the United States. We thank Nancy as always for her superb contributions to our blog!

What comes to mind when you think about Thanksgiving – food, football, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Black Friday? I think of Samantha, a cat I’ve cared for since 2010. She’s usually waiting when I arrive with food and fresh water. In the four years I have  cared for Samantha, she’s never come closer than about ten feet. That’s because Samantha is a feral cat who is too afraid of people to be handled or adopted into a home. When I first learned about Samantha, she was living on scraps in a busy parking lot. Although many lost cats find their way home on their own, I concluded after several days that Samantha didn’t have a home and needed a helping hand.

Photo Courtesy of Nancy Peterson

In order not to draw attention to either of us, I started to feed her every day in a discrete location. I also provided fresh water and a shelter to protect her from the weather. One morning, after about two weeks, instead of bringing food, I brought a trap. I knew she would have to be hungry to overcome her fear of going in, so I put some yummy treats in the far end of the trap and set it. I then went to my car and waited. It wasn’t long before I heard the trap door shut. I quickly approached and covered the trap with a sheet to help calm Samantha.

Photo Courtesy of
Kathy Milani

I was glad I caught her in the morning so I could bring her directly to a veterinary clinic where she was spayed, vaccinated against rabies and distemper, dewormed, treated for fleas, and ear tipped. If I had trapped her in the evening when the clinic was closed, I would have had to keep her in a safe, warm place, such as my bathroom or garage until the clinic opened the next morning.

Photo Courtesy of  Erin Parker

Samantha was alert when I picked her up from the clinic at the end of the day, but I kept her overnight in her covered trap in my garage to be sure she had no problems after her surgery, like bleeding. When I returned Samantha to her outdoor home the next morning, she dashed out of her trap and disappeared. She appeared after a few days and we resumed our feeding routine. Like hundreds of thousands of dedicated individuals, I am a feral cat caretaker who practices Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

As a cat owner, I am thankful for veterinarians, organizations, and agencies that provide low-cost spay/neuter services for pets. As a feral cat caretaker, I am thankful for veterinarians, organizations, and agencies that help community (feral and stray) cats, municipal leaders who support TNR in their communities, and other community cat caretakers.

If you’re feeding a community cat who only approaches you when he or she is extremely hungry, will only eat once you have moved away or he or she is still unapproachable and cannot be touched after several days of feeding, the cat is probably feral. If the cat is friendly and approaches you for attention, meows, or eats the food you put down right away, the cat is probably not feral by temperament, but rather a stray cat. Stray cats have usually had contact with people. Some may be able to be reunited with their family. Others with no known owner may be able to be adopted into homes. There are an estimated 30 to 40 million community cats in the United States and approximately two percent of them are spayed or neutered. Related females and their offspring usually live together in a group called a colony, and they share a common food source – a trash can, a dumpster behind a restaurant, or trash. Sometimes cats are solitary, such as Samantha.
Many caring people who see hungry cats begin to feed them. Unfortunately, some people who feed cats don’t realize there will soon be too many mouths to feed unless the cats are spayed or neutered. Access to TNR helps prevent the birth and death of unwanted kittens and reduces the number of community cats.

Photo Courtesy of
Krista Rakovan

If you or someone you know is feeding community cats, thank you. The next step is to find an organization that helps community cats and get them sterilized, vaccinated, and ear tipped as soon as possible. This will help prevent diseases that are transmitted from mother to kittens and between fighting and mating, resulting in healthier cats.. In addition, nuisance behaviors like yowling, fighting, and spraying stinky urine will be decreased or eliminated, making you and the cats better neighbors. This will also please officials and property owners because they’ll have fewer nuisance complaints to deal with. There are also humane deterrents that can be used to discourage cats from entering places they’re not wanted and since there will be fewer cats, there will be less predation on wildlife. Feeding strategies are also a way to avoid attracting wildlife and keep birds safe at feeders.
If you see an outdoor cat, look to see if the tip of one ear has been surgically removed or notched – this means that cat has been sterilized and vaccinated. If not, look for a local TNR group, organization, or agency that provides sterilization, vaccination, and ear tipping by using our online map of community cat service providers. If you have cats at home, you can help reduce the number of outdoor cats by spaying or neutering your own cats before they can reproduce at four months of age. If cost is an issue, look for a low-cost spay/neuter provider.

Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate all the good things in our lives. To caretakers, Thanksgiving means a reduction in the number of community cats. To animal shelters and rescue groups, it means decreased intake and euthanasia of cats. To fortunate cats, it means a full tummy and a place to rest. Thank you for helping animals, especially community cats, and Happy Thanksgiving from Samantha and me!


  1. I am thankful there are so many nice humans, like Nancy, who look after feral and stray kitties and make their lives better.

  2. I feed all the community kitties that wish to come by here. I wish I could do more. I really wish we had some kind of organization that would help. Maybe some day, I'm so glad you are the wonderful soul that you are :-). Hugs and much love to you.

  3. I take care of a feral colony, and I talk to many people who opine about community cats, but then they expect 'others' to do the work. If I, the biggest scaredy-cat on the planet!, can trap feral cats, then anyone can! Go to Alley Cat Allies website, or do a search, and learn how to TNR yourself, then DO IT! Put your money where your mouth is, and step up to the plate. There are many, MANY low cost spay and neuter clinics around, and many have transports that pick up in different areas. It takes scheduling and commitment, but you can do it! And think of the lives you are saving, and the cats who aren't starving or dying from diseases. You CAN Do IT! Thanks for the post, Caren and Nancy!

  4. Paws up for helping feral and stray kitties, and taking so good care of them ! Purrs

  5. Oh what a wonderful post. So many things to be thankful for!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  6. We wish more peoples would be more responsible and help kitties
    Lily & Edward

  7. We have the Alley Cats organization doing great TNR work here. I have seen them in 'action', helping a lady who had so many kitties they were becoming a colony of semi ferals.

  8. Great info! We are always thankful for this wisdom.

  9. Hi Paws for doing the good work. Granny is a volunteer cat-sitter for a Dutch organization who take care of strays and TNR or find a home for semi-strays and kittens. Extra Pawkisses :) Granny and Little Binky

  10. Oh what a great post. Thank you to Nancy for doing the TNR Samantha. I am so thankful for all those that do the feral cats. They really are wonderful cats and are NOT mean, they are just afraid. They do turn into great pets. Thanks for talking about this.

  11. What a wonderful post. We are so thankful for Kathy, and all the other folks, who care for community cats.

  12. Super duper post!

    Noodle and crew

  13. Pawsum posty. And many many fanks to you fur takin' such good care of Samantha.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Lexi

  14. What a great post. I am glad there are caring people.
    Sue B

  15. Thanks to everyone for your positive feedback on the article. Please spread the word near and far that community cats need our care. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your furry friends! Nancy and Samantha

  16. I always enjoy articles by Nancy - she is a great writer and I love her inspiring message. A thank you to her and to all that take care of the outdoor community cats!

  17. I really do like this post.
    The earth is a better place with people like Nancy.
    Douce soirée
    Nat à Chat

  18. Very inspirational post, what a special lady Nancy is for caring for these kitties.


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