Give & Take: Supporting the Local Community…of Cats (and Dogs!)
When I moved into a new home last year, I was excited to meet my neighbors—but I had no clue they would include a street cat with a mean mug named “Babka.”
That first night, Babka sauntered right up to our dining room window and proceeded to spend an hour exchanging hisses and swats with my own cats through the glass. After spending a few days asking around, we learned that Babka was the beloved yet spicy neighborhood cat who liked to hang around the block.
We began to feed Babka once a day, which became twice a day…and eventually three times that he showed up at our window expecting a meal. Babka also started bringing around a few of his friends, most commonly a black and white softie named Chip, another boy named Cookie who looks like a mix between the two, and at least five others (and we’ve named them all—Cookie’s lookalike Cream, Latke and his twin Streudel, and two black cats named Oreo and Truffle.) As the weather got colder, we built winter shelters that we insulated and filled with straw to keep them warm and dry, and we’ve been working with local TNR (trap-neuter-release) organizations to get each cat healthcare.
Along the way, I’ve learned a huge amount about animal rescue and colony care. I’ve written before about my two adopted cats and my support for the organization that rescued them, but I’m even more in awe of these groups after seeing how much goes into this work.
And they need our help!
Shelters and rescue organizations are completely overwhelmed with the number of stray animals to support—6.5 million animals enter shelters in the U.S. annually, of the estimated 70 million stray cats and dogs. Rescues simply can’t keep up with the number of animals in need. And I saw it first-hand too—each of the local TNR groups I spoke with were completely at capacity with demand.
There are so many ways you can help, big and small, to fit every lifestyle and capacity. And with National Pet Day and Celebrate Shelter Pet Day this month, now is the perfect time to lend a hand. Here are a few ways to start:
1. Adopt Don’t Shop: We’ve all heard this one, but if you’re thinking about bringing home a pet, please do consider adopting from a rescue! There are many reputable organizations locally that can help you find the right furry family member (or two).
2. Foster a Friend: Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility, and if you’re not looking for a long-term commitment, another great option is to volunteer as a foster. Fosters are crucial parts of animal rescue—organizations often need temporary homes for animals when looking for their forever families, due to overcrowding and/or if there’s a pet who is happier and feels more secure in quieter environments. Start with your local ASPCA chapter or rescue organization to ask about getting involved.
3. Care for a Colony: You never know when, like me, you’ll stumble upon a colony of animals in need of some TLC. Helping them stay healthy can be as simple as putting out some daily food and even setting up some warm, dry spaces for them in poor weather. Bideawee has some great resources that explain how to get started and set up feeding stations and winter shelters.
4. Learn to TNR: TNR is an essential part of animal rescue that helps stabilize outdoor colonies, limit population growth and provide vaccinations and healthcare. Anyone can get TNR certified and start partnering with local groups to start rescuing cats. Alley Cat Allies is a great place to start. You can also start by reaching out to a nearby rescue organization for specific trainings they offer for new rescuers.
5. Donate!: Many organizations are looking for additional resources to help support their efforts. Check out their websites for ways to provide financial support, or many have online wish lists for food and supplies they need to sustain their work.