While October 16 may be recognized nationally as a feral cat day, Best Friends celebrates community cats (and the individuals dedicated to helping them) every single day. One of the first outreach programs from Best Friends was a trap/neuter/return (TNR) program in Salt Lake City. Best Friends Animal Society-Utah has been helping support community cats by providing a “free trap depot” (where folks can borrow humane traps to safely catch and transport cats to and from their surgeries) and no-cost spay/neuter for community cats since 2000. In the past few years, the work has been buoyed by the addition of the new Best Friends Spay/Neuter Clinic in Orem. And last year, Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Sugar House added a Pet Food Pantry to help feed hungry cats.
“The overall goal of our TNR program is to reduce the number of community cats from being taken to shelters, where historically, they have been euthanized,” says Ashley Farmer, Best Friends Animal Society-Utah’s spay/neuter manager. “It’s important to understand, when folks deem community cats as a ‘nuisance,’ they are often not educated about how the cats become free-roaming in the first place. Community cat colonies can become so big and get ‘out of hand’ because those cats have been abandoned by their families. They are typically abandoned because they’ve had many litters of kittens and their caregivers become overwhelmed. In addition to providing TNR resources, engaging the community and providing education is a big part of what we do.”
Four Directions, one goal
Best Friends Animal Society-Utah is committed to saving community cats of northern Utah, while the cats of southern Utah and the Arizona border get assistance from another Best Friends’ program, the Four Directions Community Cat Program, which began in 2008, and is supported by 20 regular volunteers. In addition to supporting the day-to-day operations of maintaining community cat colonies around the area, the program also provides TNR services as needed. The program, which is supported by the Best Friends Animal Clinic and participating veterinarians, has spayed or neutered nearly 2,500 cats in the area’s 10 counties from January to September of this year alone.
“The cats served by Four Directions are in our own backyard,” says Janice Dankert, community cat program supervisor. “From rural communities to urban environments, the program helps not only local cats from coming to the Sanctuary, but prevents countless cats from entering already overburdened municipal shelters. Our TNR work is a crucial component to increasing the save rate (the percentage of animals entering a shelter and are not killed) in many communities.”
For the past two years, Four Directions has been supported by a community cat coordinator working out of the St. George Animal Shelter. “We are seeing huge progress in the shelters in Washington County, where we currently focus about 40 percent of our resources,” says Janice. “Our program is changing the way people view community cats and it has had a huge lifesaving impact for homeless pets.”
Assistance across the state
From city cats to country cats, and all the municipalities in between, Best Friends is committed to helping save more cats by supplying every kind of TNR resource available. “Utah’s community cat caregivers are on the frontlines of helping to save them all, and they need our support — from helping with spay/neuter to providing cat food, humane traps, and beyond. We’re with them every step of the way,” says Ashley.
Learn more about helping community cats at http://bestfriends.org/What-We-Do/Our-Work/Initiatives/Cat-Initiatives/