a white ear tipped cat in the woods
Photo by Krista Rakovan

Sixteen years ago, Alley Cat Allies launched National Feral Cat Day to promote trap-neuter-return and recognize the myriad people who were caring for feral cats across the country. That was also the year I did my first trap-neuter-return (TNR), of a mom cat who lived in the backyards on my block. Although I wasn’t feeding her, she was clearly content, well-fed and reproducing.

I’d already taken in one of her litters, but with the second litter, I was running out of friends and co-workers willing to adopt cute-but-unsocial kittens. However, I was lucky enough to have access to a low-cost clinic that served both feral and friendly cats, to get “Buster” (as the neighbors called her), and her kittens sterilized and vaccinated. Buster got an ear-tip and returned to the backyard without fanfare.

TNR wasn’t widely practiced at the time, but the folks who were doing it were doing more than just TNR. They were organizing a community of cat caretakers, developing networks that not only would help individual cats but change how the animal welfare field thought about these animals. Antiquated notions that euthanasia was more kind than living outdoors and that removing some cats would diminish the overall population were eroding, as was the idea that a cat must be friendly to be loved. Many demonstrated this change one cat at a time.

This army of volunteers has grown, not just in my community but across the country—we estimate at least 10 percent of US households feed cats they don’t consider their own. Earlier this month I spent a week traveling across the Great Plains with a convoy of colleagues to put on a series of workshops we call Rethinking the Cat. We shared tools and tactics with amazing communities of cat advocates—including animal control officers and leaders of city-run shelters—that continue to lead the charge for kinder and more effective cat policies. They are not just rethinking the cat, but reshaping our relationship with cats in our communities.

The TNR approach has resulted in so much progress that our friends at Alley Cat Allies have rechristened their annual holiday Global Cat Day. We all know cats have won the internet, so this should be no surprise. The transformation that’s happened during this time is pretty phenomenal.

Global Cat Day is the purrfect time to celebrate all the people who got us where we are today—from those who feed and care for colonies of cats every single day, to those who devote countless hours to ensuring all the cats are trapped, to the veterinarians who provide a vital skill set for saving lives, to the folks that crunch the numbers to make sure all our efforts are funded. These are the folks who put “community” into “community cats.” Make sure to say thank you! And give yourself a big pat on the back for all the amazing work you do!

With so much happening in the world of community cats, there are always new ideas and things we can learn and share with our cat army. View a selection of our articles, webinars and online courses here and check back with us as new content is added regularly.

About the Author

Danielle Bays

As the senior analyst for cat protection and policy, Danielle Jo Bays works to clear policy pathways, broaden support and increase the impact of community cat management efforts nationwide as part of the Humane Society of the United States companion animal policy team. Formerly a member of the HSUS’s wildlife protection team, Danielle has spent her 20+ year career in animal welfare advocating for the humane treatment of animals both wild and domestic and promoting the human-animal bond. Originally from Western New York, Danielle holds a B.S. in Animal Science from Cornell University and a M.S. in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts University. Just prior to rejoining the HSUS in 2016, she managed the community cat program in Washington DC. Danielle has TNRd more cats than she can count. She lives with four formerly feral cats and a catio in Washington DC.

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