Many years ago while living in Toronto, I noticed a couple of cats behind my building. Not long after, I saw a woman behind the next building (they were separated by a small park) feeding them. I went over to meet her and found out she had been caring for a small group for about a year. At that time I knew nothing about feral cats or TNR, so I started researching. I trapped the cats, had them fixed, then helped the woman feed them. In the winter I made a shelter.
What I found the most difficult to deal with were the “nasty neighbours” as I always referred to them. One man in particular would hang off his balcony and swear at us. Naturally I would do the same back. Not the right approach, but I only cared about helping those poor homeless cats, and I felt nothing but disgust towards those who didn’t share my compassion. Keep in mind this was all new to me!!
I was scared and felt threatened, so I decided it made the most sense to feed them in as camouflaged a place as I could. As I mentioned there was a park separating our buildings, so I started feeding them there. It was the perfect spot, hidden from view of the guy on the balcony by bushes and trees. I felt perfectly comfortable, especially in the winter months when it was dark so early.
Another guy who lived in the building came to speak to me one day, to let me know his girlfriend was very angry about the cats being fed. I was calm (yes I was learning!!) and did my best to explain what we were doing and the benefits to everyone. He was very nice, understanding, sympathetic, and admitted his girlfriend was unreasonable. I think he let slip a bit about the state of their relationship…but I digress. I offered to have a chat with her but she declined. I guess she was happier staying angry, and quite frankly I couldn’t care. I kept doing what I was doing, in stealth mode, and wasn’t bothered again.
As you know yelling in response to yelling isn’t going to gain you supporters. Here’s a better way to handle neighbours who hate feral cats.
First, stop thinking of them as people who hate the cats and start realising –
- They may have been listening to cats screaming and fighting for weeks or months
- The cats may be pooping in their gardens and/or ruining flower beds
- Well meaning people could be feeding them, but leaving garbage behind
- Perhaps they’ve tried to approach others about their concerns, or sought help and didn’t find any
Know the law regarding feral cats where you live
Before you talk to anyone about your TNR efforts, even better before starting to care for a colony, know laws regarding feral cat care in your area.
These articles “Is Feeding Feral Cats Against the Law” and “Cats and the Law: Finding and Understanding Your Laws” will help you gather that information.
Have a conversation
The way you approach that will depend on whether you’re dealing with one person who’s having trouble with cats in their garden, an apartment building full of tenants, or even a retail or business park.
Whatever the scenario the first step is to have a conversation, which can be a simple one on one informal chat or an “information evening” so residents/employees/business owners can learn about TNR.
Everyone wants to feel they’re being heard, so if you start your chat by asking what their concerns are, you’re off to a great start.
What to bring to an information evening
If you’ve decided to host a meeting, bring someone with you for moral support. Better yet reach out to other caretakers in your area and ask if someone would like to host it with you. Having them see this is something being done in other areas can lend credibility. If you’re the first, highlight the benefits of being trail blazers!!
Prepare handouts so participants can refer back at a later time. Include –
- The definition of TNR
- Step by step of how the process works
- How you will manage the colony -where to feed, put shelter…
- Studies that prove TNR works and why “catch and kill” doesn’t
- What the law says
- Information on how they can get involved
- Information on keeping cats out of their garden/off their property
“How to Stop Cats from Using Your Garden as a Litterbox.” https://animalrescueisrael.org/how-to-stop-cats-from-using-your-garden-as-a-litterbox/
Has anything been resolved?
In an ideal world everyone will listen to the concerns of all sides, be understanding, and work together or at least have tolerance. If you’re in an ideal world I’m thrilled your efforts will be welcomed, or at least tolerated. Now you should consider putting something down in writing. What about a list of what you will be doing, the other side can list their expectations. Both representatives will sign and date the documents and each retain a copy.
You never know what might arise in the future, so having “permission” in writing can be beneficial for everyone involved. Especially if local authorities receive complaints, you want proof you’re doing things above board.
What happens if you didn’t get through?
It is possible, despite your best efforts, some people will continue making your life a misery. What happens if things escalate and there is a threat of violence? What if the police or animal control have gotten involved?
Personal safety is paramount
You’re amazing for wanting to care for these animals, and I feel that anyone actively trying to hamper your efforts to the point of threats is disgusting. Having said that, your safety must be your number one priority. I know of two women who were threatened, both physically harmed, one so seriously she ended up in the hospital.
I realise those were extreme cases, but still worth noting.
Knowing the laws concerning feeding and caring for cats will help you understand your rights, and what steps to take in the event you are concerned for your safety.
You cannot put your life at risk, no matter how much you want to help. If you are in a dangerous situation, perhaps you should focus your efforts on advocating on behalf of the cats, helping to bring in protection laws and promoting the benefits of TNR. Believe me, you will still be helping these cats more than you may even realise.
Read this – “How to Advocate for Feral Cats in Your Community.”
Even if you don’t have opposition, gathering together like minded people to create a community wide initiative is worth considering.
Were you ever yelled at or threatened while caring for feral cats? Did you feel threatened? How did you handle it? Did you have the law on your side offering protection? I would love to hear about your experiences, I know it will help others so please leave your comments below.
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