There are, in fact, some things about Tabby’s Place that are undeniably el Stinko.
Actually, they all boil down to one: we can’t rescue every single cat.
Everyone knows and empathizes with the heartbreak of saying goodbye to one of our residents. But there’s a daily, low-grade heartache that takes its toll as well. Aside from the Guardian Angel and Exceptional Circumstances Programs, we typically can only take cats from shelters where they are on the list to be euthanized. And so each day our hearts ache from saying “no” to the numberless folks who call, begging us to take 23 cats, spay 80 cats, do something.
We are doing something, I know. Heck, we’re doing a Big Giant Something, to the tune of nearly 1,000 saved, loved cats now. Something isn’t everything - but it’s the something to which we are called, and it’s our something. We are not in this labor of love alone. There are many, many, many heroes doing big somethings for the many, many, many cats in need.
But, still, it hurts to say no. It hurts to know there are cats that we can’t take.
So when the opportunity presented itself to do something more, we pounced.
The amazing Shelly Kotter, of the amazing Best Friends Animal Society, journeyed out to Tabby’s Place late last month. Over the course of a few hours, Shelly delivered a TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) Boot Camp that was, all at once, delightful, funny, moving and compelling. Armed with Shelly’s wisdom and a bigger-than-Jupiter love, Tabby’s Place staff and volunteers then embarked on a brave mission.
I don’t use the word “brave” lightly; this was not for the faint of heart. Their quest: to trap orange ferals.
Yes, orange ferals. Not tabby, not calico, not Siamese…it’s all orange, all the time, in this particular feral colony. Scan any crew of cats, and you’ll see a rainbow of colors…except for this colony.
Through members of the community, we’d known about Team Orange for some time, and had been especially worried when caring folks noted that their numbers were dwindling in this brutal winter. So, led by Danielle, Tabby’s Place sent a brave team to trap orange wildcats; bring them to Tabby’s Place; get them spayed, neutered and treated for any medical issues; then release them back into their wild home.
I can imagine the obvious question here: why not keep them at Tabby’s Place? Isn’t that safer and better and kinder than putting them back into the wild world?
Safer? Probably. Better and kinder? Depends who you ask. According to these wild orange souls, that would be a resounding, horrified no. True ferals (and, as you can tell from these photos, these guys are true ferals) do not want to be indoors. They loathe the very thought of human affection, and will rapidly become depressed if forced to live a domesticated life. We’ve encountered this tough call before, with Phoebe and Marischka. Ultimately it came down to the decision: do we love them enough to let them truly live, or are we so rigidly clinging to our own system that we’ll force them to live a “safe” but soul-killing life? Will we accept them as individuals, loving them in the way that respects their wild hearts?
That’s the wisdom behind the “R” of TNR.
Danielle and the team painstakingly captured nearly a dozen orange beauties, bringing them back to the sanctuary to be…well, snipped and tipped. With their kitten-making components snipped, all that was left was for Dr. C, Denise, and the other veterinary professionals volunteering their time to “tip” the cats’ ears. Notching their ears this way lets folks know that the cats are altered, and that they’re under the watchful care of someone who loves them.
That’s the most important piece of the TNR puzzle: ensuring that, untouchable though they are, these feral angels will be loved long-term. I don’t mean merely “looked at with affection” or “cared about.” It’s crucial that ferals, like all cats, have a love that acts. And so, we worked with the community to ensure that the orange cats’ neighbors would gladly feed and look after them over the years.
This was a first-time outing for us at Tabby’s Place, but it won’t be the last. We hope to have a second TNR Boot Camp sometime in the future, and ultimately to do TNR on other feral colonies as we are able.
While we can’t be all things to all cats, we’re grateful that we were able to do a life-changing, life-blessing something for these wild oranges. To Danielle, Dr. C., Denise, and all who so selflessly made this happen, I tip my orange taffeta hat to you in awe.
PS: Special thanks to Danielle for these stellar photos of the whole TNR process - and especially for making this all happen.