The other day, I was watching a local morning news show in Chicago. The news anchor was reporting about a poor pit bull that was found wandering on the highway. The dog looked healthy and they asked the public to help find the dog’s owners. Upon hearing the story, a couple of thoughts occurred to me. First, the poor dog. Was his original home a good home? Was anyone looking for him? And then it occurred to me that I’ve never heard a story on the news about a cat that was found wandering anywhere… that’s because for some reason, seeing an outdoor cat is acceptable, or at least not something out of the ordinary. I think that’s sad.
The homeless cat population in the United States is thought to be equal to the number of cats that have homes or are in shelters. Cats with homes number approximately 80 million, while homeless cat population estimates vary widely between 60-100 million cats.
The thinking about homeless cats, spay/neuter, Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return (TNvR) and attitudes about allowing cats to roam freely outdoors needs to change if we ever expect to change this sad situation.
Please read about the upcoming documentary, Catnip Nation, which details the incredibly rough lives of feral cats and the heroic efforts that feral cat colony caretakers make in order to help these cats and to ultimately reduce the homeless cat population through TNR/TNVR programs.
The feral cat population is enormous.
While millions of cats live in loving homes, there are millions of homeless cats, who are fighting for survival. Unfixed, these cats reproduce at an alarming rate, adding exponentially to the cat overpopulation problem. Catnip Nation is a film that is being produced to raise awareness for the feral cat population and to share the stories from a mere handful of the unsung and unseen heroes who take care of feral cats.
Catnip Nation has been a work-in-progress for more than a year. Tina Traster and Lennon Nersesian are the producers/filmmakers behind this important film. The two have produced other, unrelated films, but when they got to thinking and talking about their love for cats and the strange dichotomy between the millions of cats we love and spoil, and the equal number of homeless feral cats living on the street, they decided to make a new film: Catnip Nation.
Early on, they recognized the need for advocacy in this area, but thought that in order to be effective, the story should be told through the human experience. It’s the human element or point of view that makes this film different from other films about feral cat colonies. Says Traster, “In essence our film is about people. People who do something extraordinary.”
“In essence our film is about people. People who do something extraordinary.”
Several heroes are featured including Ken Salerno, Bobbi Jo Forte, “Stephanie,” and “Andrea.”
- Ken Salerno singlehandedly relocated 74 cats from the beach in Seaside Heights, NJ, after the town abruptly changed its views on community cats. The town went from having a model program sanctioned by Alley Cat Allies to completely banning cats from the beach.
- Bobbi Jo Forte is a brain tumor survivor who, after a long legacy of rescue, opened up a cat cafe, which she sees as a legacy for her young daughter.
- Stephanie feeds the beach cats at Jones Beach. She’s done if for years. Now all of her efforts and the cats are threatened by a lawsuit filed by the American Bird Conservancy, which wants the cats gone.
- Andrea, like so many, is a one-woman powerhouse – she has been feeding three colonies in the Hudson Valley for 12 years without having taken a vacation in that time.
Why do these caretakers do it?
All of them are hoping for legislators to recognize the validity and importance of a Trap, Neuter, (Vaccinate), Return program (TNvR). Colony caretakers need solid laws in place in order to manage colonies effectively.
Tears of Joy, Tears of Sadness
As a first step toward raising funds for this project, a film trailer and short was created, called “Andrea’s Colony.” The response from viewers has elicited a mixture of joy and sadness. Nearly everyone having seen the trailer has encouraged the film-duo to stay strong and focused in order to see this project through. Ultimately, the hope is to raise awareness in those who are apathetic or uneducated about the subject – and particularly with lawmakers, because they want to bring about meaningful change.
Every interview conducted has brought about very strong emotions. Understanding the human condition that motivates these people to care for feral cat colonies has been revealing and rewarding for Traster. Many of those caring for these cats are dealing with deep emotional wounds, many times from childhood. Helping these cats is helping these people to heal their own souls and emotional scars.
This movie will be widely appealing and most who see it will be deeply moved. Traster hopes that this movie will inspire people to:
- Become more aware of the plight of feral cats,
- Be more amenable to helping rescue groups, and
- Join grassroots efforts to lobby legislators to make TNR the law.
How Can You Help and Why?
Cat lovers everywhere can help with the plight of homeless cats. With millions of homeless cats in the US and even more worldwide, this problem feels like an insurmountable challenge. Everyone wants to save homeless cats, but with so many cats and limited homes and resources, people often feel they can never do enough. Traster encourages people to recognize that all cats matter and all actions geared toward helping them, really helps! If you’re ready to support homeless cats, you can:
- Push for TNR legislation in your community
- Support petitions for TNR legislation
- Support the film through their “Seed & Spark” campaign
- Talk to local rescue groups about TNR programs in your area
- Find out if you can donate food or money to animal shelters who are caring for millions of cats through the kindness of public donations
- Spread the word. Just share this article through social media to help raise awareness.
While this feral cat population seems overwhelming, big changes can be made when people are working together and not standing idly by. Take action today.