Being a work-at-home artist give me the flexibility to do volunteer work I’m passionate about. For over a decade, I was very involved with a local shelter. It was fulfilling to watch cats and dogs get a second chance at a great new life with a new family. Over time, I began to learn more about the great, complex problem of cat overpopulation. Our small shelter had enough room for only 18 cats at one time, so I dedicated myself to creating a kitten foster program so we could help more cats. Successful though we were, it became clear that no shelter or foster program could make a dent in the problem. Many cats are born outside, living as wild animals. Other cats living outside had at one time been pets, but have traded their pet-like behavior for a new focus on survival instincts. The vast majority of these cats have not been spayed and neutered. In a short time, a few cats become many.
Now, I volunteer for an organization dedicated to the spay and neuter of “community cats”; cats who are living outside. This was a banner year for our small organization. With just a handful of volunteers, we are well on our way to fulfilling our goal of fixing 500 cats in Pittsfield, MA. PetSmart Charities® gave us a grant to fund it, and Berkshire Humane Society, the most established shelter in the county, supported us in many tangible ways.
My volunteer work is to oversee TNR (Trap Neuter Return) projects. I get the calls about community cats, and work through the puzzle of figuring out if someone is feeding them, how many there are, and where they live. These cats are amazing, clever creatures! Some have several caretakers, each who think they are the only ones watching out for them. Coordinating the trapping of a colony to fix and return them takes the dedication of lots of people who care about these cats…. volunteers, veterinarians, members of the community.
My favorite thing about this volunteer work is hearing how much happier the cats in a colony are after they have been fixed; they don’t have to deal with the stress of raising kittens, and male cats don’t fight for territories any longer. People in the community are happy about that too.
My next favorite thing, is returning cats who have been fixed. Boy do they hate it when we trap them; They’re so scared. When I bring them back to their stomping ground, they dash off as fast as they can. Then, often, they stop and look around, and I imagine that they can’t believe their good fortune that they are home again. These “clients” are never grateful for the service we provide to them, but nonetheless, they live happier lives for our efforts…. and we are preventing a great deal of suffering.