Feral cat colonies are made up of cats that were born in the wild as well as lost or stray felines who find their way into a colony. Some of the cats are friendly, some are semi-feral, and some are feral with a distrust of humans. These kitties are accustomed to life on the streets, but it’s a challenge for them to find adequate food, water and shelter. Kindhearted humans who tend to colonies try to provide the necessities of life to a population of cats that lives in the shadows. An animal rescue and advocacy group has found a way to help feral cats and give them a chance for a home with The Working Cats Program.
The Voice for the Animals Foundation (VFTA) is a non-profit 501c3 organization in the San Francisco, California area. Their mission is to “create respect and empathy for animals through education, rescue, legislation and advocacy.” Melya Kaplan founded the VFTA in 1999 after witnessing far too many homeless cats and dogs wandering the streets of Venice. It motivated her to create a different kind of animal protection organization, one that helps feral cats find safe surroundings while also providing an important service to the community. Read More »
Mozart, one of my cats, loves Dozer, a foster dog we’ve been caring for. Mozart follows Dozer around, giving him love bites, rubbing against him and standing on his hind legs to give him hugs. It’s not uncommon for animals to form close bonds with different species. In 1998, a dog named Ginny was honored as “Cat of the Year” by the Westchester Feline Club, sponsor of the annual Westchester Cat Show, because of an extraordinary desire she had to rescue stray cats in desperate need of help.
Ginny and her three pups were discovered locked inside the closet of an abandoned apartment. She and her pups were taken to a shelter, but when vets saw her, they were afraid she was too far gone to be saved. They concluded it would be kinder to put her down. But something made them change their mind, and they decided she should be given a chance to recover, and did what they could to help her. Ginny did recover, and she and her pups were put up for adoption.
Philip Gonzalez had been wrestling with depression after he was injured on the job while working as a steamfitter in Manhattan. His right arm had been severely injured in the accident and he could barely use it. A determined neighbor told Gonzalez he should adopt a dog from the local shelter. He finally gave in and agreed. As they looked over the dogs at the shelter, a purebred Doberman caught Gonzalez’s eye. But instead of pulling the Doberman out for Gonzalez to take out for a walk, a shelter employee handed him a leash attached to Ginny, a two year old Siberian Husky/Schnauzer mix, and invited him to walk her first.
Gonzalez wasn’t happy; he wanted the Doberman, not some scruffy looking mixed breed, but he did what the worker asked. He tried to hurry Ginny along so he could get back to the Doberman. Now, you can call it fate or something else, but Ginny wasn’t going to be rushed. She sat down in front of Gonzalez and refused to move. Sometimes it’s the dog that picks us. As he stood looking down into her eyes, something tugged at his heart and he forgot about the Doberman. He walked out of the shelter with Ginny. Gonzalez didn’t know at the time how that little dog would change his life, and the lives of countless homeless cats.
As a cat lover, I have my fair share of kitty figurines on display in my home and garden. Mine are adorable or I wouldn’t keep them. However, there have been times I’ve spied one in a thrift shop and thought, What were they thinking when they made this ugly thing? It never occurred to me that the tacky ceramic figurines I saw could actually be transformed into a cool-looking cat, and that they could then be sold to kitty lovers like me to help cat rescue groups all across the United States. Thankfully, someone else did have the ability to envision a way to not only give those outdated tchotchkes a much needed makeover, but to use the funds raised to support various cat charities in America. That someone is Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who founded The Teal Cat Project a few years ago.
The Teal Cat Project takes vintage ceramic kitty statues, paints them a beautiful teal color and gives each “newly born” cat a numbered tag for authenticity. The kitties are then ready for adoption by cat lovers, who scoop them up so fast that each “litter” (between 100 to 150 cats) is sold out in just a few days! The teal cats come in three sizes and sell for $25 to $35. The Teal Cat Project also recently started selling T-shirts.
The Teal Cat Project is a win-win for cat lovers and cat rescue groups alike. Cat lovers get a unique collectible, and cat rescue groups get help with their Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs aimed at controlling feral cat population growth. Each Teal Cat campaign supports a different TNR group in a new city, so the money raised can help feral kitties all across America. The Teal Cat Project is also planning to branch out to other animals (think bunny and doggie tchotchkes!) who will each have their own special color and cause.
I caught up with The Teal Cat Project’s founder recently, to learn a little more about this unique charity. (If you want to get one of the kitties from the next litter, follow them on Facebook!).
How and why did you decide on the color teal for the cat makeovers?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I just liked the color and it felt like something that would look great in homes. As it turns out, teal is also the color of National Feral Cat Day, so it worked out well.
The area where I live doesn’t have a lot of options for stray dogs or cats. We have one no-kill shelter that’s full, and one vet clinic that will only hold a stray for three days before euthanizing them. Other than that, a lost pet’s only hope is from people who open up their homes to a stray. If I find a pet in need, I will rescue them. There’s no way I can turn a blind eye. If you do decide to help a stray, however, you need to make sure that the pet is really a stray and not an outside cat patrolling his territory or a dog enjoying an off leash run.
A stray dog or cat doesn’t understand you’re trying to help them, and a pet that’s been lost for a long time may be wary of humans or have aggressive tendencies resulting from their experience on the street. But when you find a stray that’s malnourished or injured, they need your help. And if you can’t help them, it doesn’t take long to make a few phone calls to a shelter, rescue organization or animal control official to make sure the pet gets the help they need.
I’ve always had a sympathetic heart for stray pets. As a kid, I wanted Dad to stop the car every time I saw a cat wandering along a country ditch. Of course he didn’t, and assured me the cat most likely lived at some farmhouse close by. As I got older I knew some of the cats I saw were lost, but I also understood picking up every cat wasn’t right either because the cat could belong to a family nearby.
Having lived in the country my entire life, feral cats have always been a way of life. They are everywhere, and they multiply at the rate of two or three litters per year. Each litter averages four to six kittens that can begin reproducing at around five months of age. It’s easy to see how feral cat populations grow out of control.
It’s estimated that there are more than 10 million feral cats in the United States. The only difference between stray cats and feral cats is that strays were once someone’s pet. They became lost or abandoned and live wild, scavenging as they are able. Cats later born to these strays have not had close human contact and become feral cats. Feral cats generally stay far away from humans, presenting another tricky issue: how do we cut down on the population?
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