Free-Roamer Spotlight is our ongoing photo competition! To enter, please send us a photo of your TNR-d free-roaming feline friend along with a brief story about him/her and your colony.
Winners will receive the following prizes:
Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share your stories and help us spread the good word of TNR!
Ash and Yoda
Ash and Yoda started out as wary strangers in their Shippensburg colony. A territorial fellow, Ash hissed and swatted when Yoda attempted to approach their feeding station, but this did not deter Yoda from getting his breakfast every morning. Patience is a virtue. He bided his time at the edge of the woods, perched on a fallen tree trunk, and watched as the caretaker provided Ash's breakfast. Somehow, though, he convinced Ash that a friend is a good thing. Recently, the caretaker witnessed both crawl out of the same winter shelter! This trail cam photo tells it all about these two brothers from another mother and the power of TNR to transform competitors into pals.
The Farm Market Crew
A colony of 40 cats at an eastern Adams County farm has members who have been around as long as 15 years! With numerous feeding stations, each cat can choose his or her favorite location to enjoy dry and canned food every day, with more of course during the colder months. When the farm owners first moved into their property in 1991, there were no cats, but over the years cats began appearing as individuals migrated from nearby properties along with the occasional drop-off. With imaginative names lovingly applied including Bill Murray, Stripes, Space Ghost, Skitz, and Linus, this colony enjoys the ongoing support and maintenance so critical to their health and well being.
Located near a fast food restaurant in suburban Dauphin County, this managed colony stays managed and small thanks to TNR! Spayed and neutered so no kittens in four years. Fresh food and all-weather shelters. A regular census to ensure there are no newcomers. These core tactics of TNR not only keep a colony from expanding, they keep it healthy and happy!
Little Momma, the last cat to have kittens in a Brownstown, Lancaster County colony -- over a year ago. Since then, thanks to a group of compassionate individuals who joined forces to implement TNR and share the load, no new kittens! Each plays a different role in the process -- some trap, some transport, some help with pre- and post-operative care.The colony, once considered a "nuisance," now generates food donations from customers of nearby fast food restaurants.
Dahrkie, Spookie, Boots and Goldilocks
This managed colony in Adams County started out with Dahrkie in early spring of 2012, followed by Spookie a year later, and Boots the following year. This year, Goldilocks appeared (so named because she moved right in and began eating out of the bowls). Because the caretakers immediately altered every animal as it appeared, they've not been inundated with kittens each spring, and their colony remains small and managed. In addition to receiving the spay/neuter surgery and vaccines so critical to their ongoing wellness, Goldilocks and the three boys enjoy wonderful accommodations tailor-made by their caretaker!
The Little Barn Crew
When the owner of a farmette passed away last year, the property's new owner assumed a virtual zoo, including 16 barn cats. When the cats began moving throughout the nearby properties looking for food, the new owner and two neighbors became their champions.
Together they've rehomed many kittens, TNRd the adults, and improved conditions and care for the colony. Working closely with Linda Corson from Angel Pet Services, who provided her special blend of help, guidance and moral support throughout the process, these caretakers (including one self-described "dog guy") have turned a potential tragedy into a heartwarming success story.
The Lucky Ones
One of the saddest realities we must face every day is the fact of pets and free roamers discarded on rural properties, including farms and stables. Most already have an abundance of cats -- keeping up with spaying/neutering and other care becomes an ongoing, expensive and overwhelming challenge. Only one cat in a million discarded in such a way is lucky enough to find him or herself at this and similar sanctuaries!
This refuge includes a barn dedicated to the needs of all cat residents, with a special area for confining new arrivals, a free-roaming area for the second step of acclimation, and a confined area for special needs cats with outdoor catwalks. Residents enjoy a large indoor area with plenty of beds and food and water, and access to safe outdoor catwalks or the greater outdoors. Many of the cats choose to hang out near the farmhouse or the stables. Others never leave the barn.
The love and care given to these cats may seem unique but in fact it's equal to the love and care provided by all of our dedicated colony caretakers. Much creativity, time and energy goes into making a comfortable, safe environment for the cats in all kinds of settings.
Other caretakers would love to see how you care for your colony; send pictures and some details about your colony for next month's Free Roamer of the Month.
OG, the Pool Guy
OG and his buds live behind a local pool supply company in a colony that has been supported and monitored by a small crew of dedicated caretakers for a number of years. Familiar cars, voices, and schedules create a bond of trust. When a new person comes along to help feed or learn more about TNR from these mentors, the colony cats are cautious and keep their distance. OG's on guard here until he's sure it's safe. It's this innate intelligence about unfamiliar people and activities that fall outside of the routine that helps to keep colony cats safe from harm.
No Ears aka Garfield aka Romeo
Lots of names because he's got a large territory and is well known in the neighborhood! No Ears has roamed for many years and apparently had severe ear mites and/or ear infections or some other condition that destroyed his external ear tissue. A prime example of the painful, chronic medical issues that can plague free roamers when no one takes "ownership" of their well being.
No Ears fathered many kittens in his territory until TNR was implemented (when his ears also were cleaned and treated to prevent further issues). He is so large and muscular, he bent the trap door! No Ears is a mentor and guardian of many of the younger free roamers, often seen following him.
These pictures were taken at one of the neighborhood feeding stations by a motion-activated camera. We use these cameras to keep track of health of the colony members and to quickly identify and act to trap any newcomers.
Free Roamer of the Month for January: Dumpster 2 CrewA feeding station at a mobile home community in northern York County hosts not only the 16 free roamers pictured here. Another eight camera-shy community cats wait for the humans to make themselves scarce before appearing for their daily meal.
Free Roamer of the Month for December: Stray BeautyThe last official cat of 2014 at our clinic, a 5-month-old female from a 100-cat colony in a small rural community bordering state game lands in Adams County. More than 80 of the colony members have been TNRd by local advocates -- a perfect example of how a small group of dedicated people working together can prevent the birth of hundreds of kittens and manage the free roamers humanely.
Free Roamer of the Month for November: Spooky
Volunteers with the New Cumberland TNR Program trapped Spooky and her litter of three kittens this fall at the same time they trapped Lady and her litter of four kittens. When Lady discovered a breach in her temporary staging area, she escaped with her runt Hoodini. Hoodini was immediately recaptured but Lady remained elusive and the need to care for her kittens became critical.
Although not fond of humans, as evidenced by her use of the "evil eye," tolerant Spooky seemed to know those kittens needed her. Asked for her help out of this bind, Spooky accepted Lady's brood, allowing each new kitten to come close and nurse as it was placed in the crate. Within two days, the crew re-captured Lady but again she escaped, leaving her kittens behind. Once again, the program volunteer discussed the situation with Spooky, who sighed as she placed Spooky's adoptive family with her for the second time.
After weaning the kittens, Spooky received a congratulatory meal of freshly cooked chicken and burger from her grateful friends and then returned to her outdoor home and her very happy caretakers.
Free Roamers of the Month for October: Blackie, Sweetie, and Hector.
Two highly socialized adults and one kitten with litter still on his paws -- discarded pets, two at the same business center in Cumberland County and one at a caretaker's home in Lancaster County, all within the past 30 days. And they are but a few of the abandoned pets who became free-roaming cats in the past few weeks. Abandoning pets is against the law, creates untold suffering, and increases the burden on caretakers who must compensate for the immorality and irresponsibility of others. It's a fact of life that angers and frustrates us -- spread the word that there is no excuse for abandoning pets!
All around our region, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of free roamers live on the margins. No one cares about them. They eat out of dumpsters or struggle for scraps. They squeeze through holes in abandoned buildings or huddle beneath shrubs for shelter. They live under the constant threat of human cruelty and in the shadow of human indifference. Their predicament is testament to our failure in fulfilling our obligation as caretakers of our planet. When just an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so many of us turn away and do nothing. This month, we hope that given any opportunity you will do what you can to nurture a culture of ownership in our community and give a name to the nameless ones. If each of us does what we can, together we can make the world a better place for them and ourselves.
Originally TNRd three years ago, Gus and Grey Boy were enjoying the benefits of caretakers
who provided food, fresh water, shelter, and (of course) lots of love. When the caretakers moved a
year ago, they could not leave their two highly dependent free roamers behind.
Detailed research and guidance from an experienced mentor helped them relocate Gus and Grey Boy to their new home. Confined in the garage for two weeks, the two adjusted as they became confident and comfortable with all the routines, sights and sounds, and other particulars of their new environment.
Obviously, based on this photo, Gus and Grey Boy are happy in their new home! Relocating free roamers isn't always appropriate or easy, but sometimes this is the only choice. And with the right information and a little patience, caretakers and free roamers can learn together to love their new home.
Scruffy was living the good life in a home with a family and three other cats, until one day when the family brought home a dog...no more indoor life. All four cats were abandoned outside to fend for themselves. Scruffy was especially frantic because he had some chronic health issues, constantly weepy eyes and a stuffy nose.
A neighbor with five cats of his own (obviously an animal lover) accepted the discarded cats, feeding and providing shelter on his porch, but discovered that none had been spayed or neutered. A TNR project became active in his community, providing Scruffy and his pals with life-saving services. When a pet like Scruffy is discarded, the kindness and compassion of such neighbors is a matter of life or death.
Why does Scruffy wear a collar AND have a tipped ear? Because his new caretaker loves him and considers him everybody's neighborhood cat.
Free Roamer of the Month for June is Handsome. A senior free-roamer and the last member of a
colony in York County that once numbered more than 50 individuals, Handsome has benefited from
the loving and long-term dedication of his caretaker.
Along with two others, she started managing the colony 10 years ago. By tag teaming the responsibilities of feeding, trapping, transporting and recovering the cats after spay/neuter appointments, these dedicated souls prevented untold suffering.
Along with many other special personal touches, Handsome's caretaker has constructed board paths to help him navigate though his territory, which becomes wet and muddy when it rains heavily. Handsome has been without other feline companions for a few years now but his loving and faithful human friend continues to provide the care he needs through thick and thin.
Time and again, we are inspired by those who demonstrate the utmost compassion and loyalty in a world where apathy and indifference characterize so many others.
Free Roamer of the Month for May is Neelix. Neelix belongs to a small colony behind a retail establishment in Lower Allen Township and, as with many long-haired free roamers, had his share of challenges this past winter.
On the morning of February 4, Neelix's caretaker discovered him completely encased in a frozen layer of ice. She immediately took him inside and after six hours of warming, he was moved to another caretaker's heated garage for more recuperation.
Within a week he was completely recovered and made it clear that he wanted to return to his outdoor home. With several new all-weather shelters added in the territory, Neelix and his fellow colony members had more options for keeping warm the rest of the hard winter and their feeding station has been migrated to a more accessible location.
Visited each day by his caretaker, Neelix has returned to his happy self -- purring, hopping, and rolling on the ground, as seen in this photo. Caretakers save lives in so many ways -- providing food and shelter, spaying and neutering, vaccinating, and stepping in when action is a matter of life or death.
Thanks to all those caretakers out there whose day-to-day dedication saves lives and prevents suffering.
Free Roamer of the Month for April is Specs. Trapped as a wary kitten over a year ago, Specs was
just a little fellow who touched the hearts of his caretakers.
Given his unique appearance, everyone hoped he might find a permanent indoor home, but as is so often the case, all the rescues were overwhelmed and he wasn't comfortable dealing with humans up close and personal. So Specs returned home to his colony, where he's been running, jumping, playing, and sleeping in the sun ever since.
With caretakers who provide food and shelter and keep an eye out for him, Specs has matured into a healthy and happy colony cat -- who isn't making kittens all around the area.
Kittens can begin breeding as young as 4-5 months of age and litters are appearing every day around our area. Kittens can be altered and vaccinated safely as early as 13 weeks so if there are kittens in your colony, make sure to have them TNRd as soon as possible!
Free Roamer of the Month for March is Cowboy. Cowboy, along with his two brothers and other
colony members, lives behind a restaurant on a busy Cumberland County thoroughfare.
As part of the TNR strategy, the colony's caretakers maintained vigilance, with the feeding station in sight allowing them to keep track on a day to day basis. It became clear that Cowboy had suffered a severe leg injury and, after several unsuccessful attempts with a standard box trap, his caretakers caught him using a drop trap.
Sedated and treated by a local vet, he then spent several weeks in a large cage recovering. At last, he returned to his colony and was immediately accepted back into the fold. He has remained healthy and happy at "home" ever since -- another example of how implementing the comprehensive TNR strategy humanely manages a colony while preventing its expansion.
Free Roamers of the Month for February: The Farmhouse Gang. These three were members of a
colony fed by an elderly caretaker at an old farmstead in Cumberland County.
After the caretaker
died, a group of volunteers stepped in. Over time, with expanding development in the area, the
farmhouse, first, and then the barn were torn down but, undaunted, these caretakers created
shelter under a nearby bridge, continue to provide daily food, and monitor the cats' well being.
All over our area, compassionate caretakers such as these support colonies of "nobody's cats," who would otherwise suffer (while continuing to reproduce!). THANKS to them for going above and beyond the call of duty -- and to the handful of volunteer trappers and transporters who regularly step in to prevent suffering and save lives when others will not.
The hold-out in a 12-member colony in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, Miss Piggy "showed her intuitive powers early on," according to one of her caretakers. After two trap mishaps and
escapes, Miss Piggy became "Miss Houdini" and although it took weeks of reconditioning and
patience to catch this special girl, her caretaker persisted until, as pictured, the day finally came to
find her inside the trap instead of outside the trap!
Her story highlights the many ways in which caretakers demonstrate compassion and commitment. Although they were feeding, Miss Piggy's founding caretakers did not respond to a neighbor's repeated recommendations to implement TNR, so she took matters into her own hands and became a caretaker too! "I couldn't allow another season go by with more litters and more cats, and unnecessary suffering," she says. "So little by little and over time I was able to catch them all and get them help." Our thanks to her and those like her throughout our area who get involved and do the right thing!
Purrs to Free Roamer of the Month for December: Katniss. Discovered last winter licking frozen peanut butter from a suet cake in a tree, Katniss chose the right tree in the right yard! Her loving
caretakers not only opened their garage to her for food and shelter.
We discovered she was lactating during treatment through our clinic in September and her caretakers kept an eye out for her kittens. Just when it seemed they might not have survived, Katniss brought each to the safety zone in her own time. Two have been integrated into an indoor life, while the third keeps Katniss company for now.
November's winner: Amber. Named for her beautiful eyes, a member of a colony in New Cumberland Borough. She is only 2 yrs old but had already produced at least 10 kittens before the the New Cumberland TNR Program helped her caretaker trap her for TNR surgery and services. She now enjoys a healthier and safer life, including access to an all-weather shelter provided by the foundation. And no more kittens!
October's winner: Orange Crush. Crush was living on the edge in Northern York County when he
wandered onto the property of his caretakers in Northern York County. Experienced in
implementing TNR after helping with a project at a local flea market, the caretakers opened their
hearts to him and arranged for a trap and services through our surgery clinic.
Complete with sporty ear tip, Crush now enjoys safety and sustenance on their deck with an NCF-supplied feeding station and shelter. He still keeps his distance -- that is, until feeding time, when he makes his presence known through the living room window.