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“Catnip Nation”: Cats Need Our Help

by Tina Traster
Every day, no matter the weather, no matter what, Stony Point resident Andrea LeResche climbs into a tangled copse to feed a colony of cats. And Drazen Cackovic, a Nyack architect, steals time away from his blue prints, to care for a group of felines he keeps in his office. Ken Salerno, a one-man cat whisperer, makes frequent visits to a New Jersey sanctuary, where he has relocated more than 60 beach cats who would have been rounded up from under the boardwalk in Seaside Heights and taken to shelters, or killed.
These are just some of the people who are behind the inspiration for Catnip Nation, a documentary that I am working on with my film partner, Lennon Nersesian. In the best-case scenarios, the colonies are “managed,” which means there are designated caretakers who feed the cats, and who work with groups that “Trap, Neuter, and Return” the cats to their locations. This kind of colony management, which has been around since the 1970s, is proven to be the most effective way to winnow down populations, and to stop the cycle of kitten births. We are following these humanitarians for our film because we admire their work and because too often these folks are under siege from unfriendly neighbors, animal control officers, unsympathetic public officials and developers.
Not everyone loves, or even likes, cats. But we still have a societal responsibility to find humane solutions for cats on the streets. Bringing them to the county’s only shelter is unsustainable. When feral cats land in shelters, they are euthanized. Euthanizing cats makes no sense financially for taxpayers, and it is no longer a moral solution for evolved societies. TNR needs to be understood. It requires the cooperation of neighbors, help from veterinarians, but most importantly, political support. Too many colony caretakers operate under the cover of darkness, at their own peril, and often in isolation.
We know there are a lot of feline fans out there. Look at our obsession with cat videos, and all things cat. They hold a special place in many of our hearts but the ferals, which really should be called “community cats because they belong to all of us” are hidden. By their nature, most feral cats are unsocialized and are not good candidates for adoption. But they are still cats! They are a species many of us adore, and that’s why so many people take it upon themselves to do their best to feed and care for these elusive creatures.
In many enlightened communities, TNR is a sanctioned, acceptable and government-funded program. That’s what needs to happen in Rockland County, where there are estimated to be about 50,000 community cats. A recently formed group, Community Cats Initiative, is planning to educate the community on TNR, and to work to get politicians on board.The group has its work cut out for it because most this is not a problem that many people see during the course of their daily routine. But if you have a cat, go hug him. (if he lets you). And take a moment to think about another cat, just like yours, who ekes out his existence on the street, and is very grateful to the loving soul who doles out reliable food and clean water.
Please visit our website: www.catnipnation.com. We are accepting donations to help with the production costs of the documentary.
Tina Traster is the author of Rescuing Julia Twice and the director of the documentary, This House Matters.

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