If you don’t know, April is National Volunteer Month, which got us thinking about how we could volunteer to help animals. The first thing that popped into mind was the wonderful work being done by people who volunteer to help feral cats in New York City.
It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of feral cats living in the five boroughs, and more than 70 million living in the United States in general. Most feral cats have not been spayed or neutered, which allows them to reproduce quickly. Although they are fairly hearty, feral cats are also subject to extreme cold, heat, illness, lack of food, and injuries from fights with other cats.
You may have noticed that in your neighborhood, there is a secret someone who leaves out food for feral cats —an act that, by the way, is totally legal. Or, maybe there's even a neighbor who provides them with shelter and a heat lamp in the winter so that they don’t freeze to death. You may not know that volunteers who help feral cats also trap them so that they can receive medical treatment, and bring them to shelters so that they can find forever homes. They often work with the NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI), a program related to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.
Some people find feral cats to be nuisances, but as animal lovers, we know that they are the opposite. They are a vital part of the fabric of life on earth. Below, we outline some of the ways that you can help, and even save, the feral cats near in your neighborhood.
1. Attend a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) workshop.
The NYCFCI offers free Trap-Neuter-Return workshops in the five boroughs that teach the basics about feral cats and their behavior. Volunteers learn how to care for a colony of cats; how to build good relationships with neighbors around feral cats; and how to humanely capture a feral cat so that he or she can be neutered or spayed. The workshops are generally three hours long, and occur all around the borough. (Here's how to register for one.)
Even if you can’t go to a workshop in person, you can enroll in an online course that will earn you certification for caring for feral cats. (To enroll, visit ASPCApro.org.)
2. Learn how to bottle feed and care for orphaned kittens.
Kittens! Oh my goodness, is there anything cuter? Ok, maybe puppies are equally as cute, but still. Wouldn’t you die to find a litter of orphaned kittens, and be able to nurse them all to kitten toddlerhood? Then you can make your friends call you “Kitten Mama,” or something equally adorable?
Fortunately, the NYCFCI also offers free workshops on how to successfully bottle-feed, and care for orphaned kittens, with the end goal of finding forever homes. If this sounds right up your alley, here's how to register for a workshop.
3. Learn how to tame a feral cat.
Not all cats can be tamed — and neither can all humans. But some cats are better off indoors, and actually thrive when they are given a comfortable home. Not only does the NYCFCI offer free training for taming kittens, and even older cats, but it also provides free loans of traps and cages so that you can safely transport a feral cat indoors.
Additionally, both the ASPCA and Wheels of Hope provide free transport to veterinary clinics and shelters.
4. Join an already formed TNR group.
We get it. Jumping from cooing at feral cats you encounter on the street to taking care of an entire colony of them is sort of drastic. Which is why it might make sense to volunteer for a TNR group that is already organized. Perhaps you just want to donate money or food; or perhaps you want to learn from someone with a lot of experience. Here's where you can find a list of TNR organizations in your neighborhood.
5. Adopt a feral cat through the New York City Feral Cat Initiative.
Taking a feral cat into your home may be the most daring step of all — but given that you’ll be getting a loyal companion and a personal heat warmer, you’re the one winning in the end. Through the New York City Feral Cat Initiative, TNR certified caretakers can offer up feral cats they have tamed and fostered through Petfinder. To adopt one of these cats — or even just to look at their adorable faces — check 'em out here.
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