Networking to Find Help in Caring for Community Cats

A permanent cat feeding station can be a great location to provide contact information and strike up conversations with neighbors about your TNR project. Photo by Kathleen O'Malley)

A permanent cat feeding station can be a great location to provide contact information and strike up conversations with neighbors about your TNR project. (Photo by Kathleen O’Malley)

Through its various workshops and other communications, the NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI), a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, encourages its Certified Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Caretakers to obtain neighborhood support and help with the ongoing care of their community cat colonies.

As the NYCFCI’s Director of Education, Kathleen O’Malley states, “The basic rule of thumb is that if you are doing everything for your colony by yourself, you are doing too much.” According to the NYCFCI, “You need to create a ‘deep bench’ of helpers,” so that you do not burn out taking care of a colony (or colonies) of cats on your own and so you and the cats are covered for whatever reasons you might need to be away for a day or longer. “In the best case scenario,” says Kathleen, “it takes a village.”

Kathleen points out that there are different roles in caring for community cats, ranging from TNR work to donating food to feeding the cats to ongoing maintenance of colony sites and more. It is important, she says, to recognize your limits and to seek out helpers who live in your community.

The NYCFCI is aware that many caretakers feel as if they have to do everything themselves because they believe that everyone in their communities is against the cats and, as a result, against the cats’ caretakers. Kathleen guarantees that this is not the case. “I wish something in life were 100%,” she says, repeating a statement originally made by long-term Certified TNR Caretaker Sheila Massey, “but nothing is, and luckily, that includes the statement that everyone in my neighborhood hates the cats.”

It is important to let neighbors know that you are working as part of a larger effort to help both cats and communities. (Photo by Kathleen O'Malley)

It is important to let neighbors know that you are working as part of a larger effort to help both cats and communities. (Photo by Kathleen O’Malley)

So, how does a neighborhood-wary caretaker go about finding supporters? By talking to people. As Mike Phillips of the NYCFCI and a long-term caretaker points out, “Because you are out there 365 days a year, you meet a lot of other people while you are taking care of the cats.” This is your opportunity to find and make allies.

Following a practice that he credits Sheila with initiating, Mike strongly recommends that you not hide what you are doing, but feed the cats out in the open, unless there is a clear sign of danger to the cats if you do so. This will provide you with an opportunity to create an awareness of and interest in what is happening with the cats.

Sheila recommends that you prepare a concise explanation about what you are doing that you are ready to share with anyone who stops to talk to you. It is important, Sheila cautions, that you weave the information into your casual conversation and not deliver it formally or as an educational lecture. The goal is to get people to realize that by taking care of community cats, you are really providing a benefit to people and to the community.

Shelia, who took care of at least one cat colony in upper Manhattan for six years, has a four-point message that she worked into her friendly exchanges with her neighbors. The main talking points are as follows:

  1. What I am doing is a program supported by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.
  2. We trap cats and get them vaccinated so they are healthy and neutered in order to stop them from breeding.
  3. Then we put them back and feed them every day so that they will stay put.
  4. This way, we will not have any rats.

Sheila says you want people to understand that you are not a “crazy cat person,” but that you are part of something larger and working as a “we” for the good of all concerned. She also stresses that you don’t have to convince everyone to like the cats, that the goal is to get people to like and trust you.

Feeding your colony cats out in the open will provide you with an opportunity to create an awareness of and interest in what is happening with the cats in a neighborhood. (Photo by Maggie O'Neill)

Feeding your colony cats out in the open will provide you with an opportunity to create an awareness of and interest in what is happening with the cats in a neighborhood. (Photo by Maggie O’Neill)

What both Mike and Sheila have discovered is that the majority of people you talk to will be relieved that something is being done to help the cats and control their numbers and, as a result, to control the rat population. Some people will remain indifferent, and only a small minority will be “cat haters.”

Once you’ve identified people who are supportive of your efforts, you should establish an ongoing friendly dialogue and don’t immediately ask for help. First make sure someone is comfortable with the idea of helping out, and then start small. Perhaps ask them to pick up a bag of food for you one day if you’re stuck at work. Gradually work up to asking for what you need help with in an ongoing way. Sheila says it took her about three years of constantly talking to people on her block to get her “deep bench.” Before she left the neighborhood in 2014, she had dedicated colony feeders for six days of the week.

Networking within your community to find help in caring for your cat colony should be ongoing. It is, says Sheila, an essential, if sometimes overlooked part of being a caretaker. “Even when you are tired,” she says, “you still need to be upbeat and friendly.” In addition to talking to people as if they were all allies, Sheila also, early on, put flyers under her neighbors’ doors that explained the benefits of TNR. According to Kathleen, caretakers in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, recently sent a flyer around their community that featured cute photos of the cats in their care, adorned with hearts.

Another way to reach people who might be interested in helping out, suggests Kathleen, is to put up a sign near the cats’ feeding station with a dedicated e-mail address where you can be contacted.

The NYCFCI website provides a variety of free printed materials that you can use to educate and engage with your cat colony's neighbors. (Photo by Marc Birnbach)

The NYCFCI website provides a variety of free printed materials that you can use to educate and engage with your cat colony’s neighbors. (Photo by Marc Birnbach)

Mike recalls a huge project he was involved in on the Upper West Side that involved about 75 cats living in the same inner courtyard. “Every two feet there was another cat lounging in the sun,” he says. Mike enlisted a number of caretakers on the block, but realized that more help was needed. So, using flyers, he invited people to a block meeting. Only twelve people showed up for the first meeting, he remembers, a few of whom complained about the cats or where skeptical about them. However, seven of the twelve people volunteered, on the spot, to each feed the cats one day of the week.

It is obviously easiest, say Mike and Kathleen, to get people to help out once you’ve completed TNR of an entire colony. Then people will have had a chance to see for themselves that the cats are no longer yowling, spraying, fighting, and increasing in numbers, but are, importantly, continuing to control the rat population.

“People like to see good things happening in their communities,” says Shelia. That’s another reason to share success stories, such as the completion of a TNR project with your neighbors. Sheila was even able to tell her neighbors that two of her colony’s cats, Mr. McGee and Sampson, were going to appear in an episode of Animal Planet’s TV series Must Love Cats about working cats in NYC. The cats reportedly remained unaffected by their brush with fame, but the national publicity was undoubtedly a great networking boon for community cat caretakers everywhere.

Learn More View TNR Literature

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NYCFCI Caretakers Receive Free Halo Cat Food from KittyKind

Certified TNR Caretakers and rescue group representatives picked up the bags of Halo Spot's Stew so generiously shared by KittyKind. (Photo by KittyKind)

Certified TNR Caretakers and rescue group representatives picked up the bags of Halo Spot’s Stew so generiously shared by KittyKind. (Photo by KittyKind)

When KittyKind, a non-profit, all-volunteer cat rescue group and Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals Participating Organization (APO), recently became the recipient of 10,000 Halo cat food meals, they decided to give those meals away to as many community cat Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) caretakers as they could. So they turned to the NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI), a key program of the Alliance, for recommendations of deserving recipients. The NYCFCI, according to its Director of Education Kathleen O’Malley, was all too happy to provide KittyKind with a list of some its Certified TNR Caretakers.

On April 9, at its adoption center inside Petco – Union Square, KittyKind distributed 136 bags of Halo Spot’s Stew for Cats to more than 20 Certified TNR Caretakers, as well as to several other local cat rescue groups, including APOs Bronx Tails Cat Rescue and Friendly Ferals. According to KittyKind’s Meredith Ferguson, “This distribution is helping to feed over 1,000 community cats!” She described the food giveaway as “one of the most rewarding opportunities KittyKind has ever had the pleasure of taking part in, and we could not have done it without the help of the Alliance.”

Certified TNR Caretakers and animal rescue groups will use KittyKind's generous cat food donation to feed cats in need. (Photo by KittyKind)

Certified TNR Caretakers and animal rescue groups will use KittyKind’s generous cat food donation to feed cats in need. (Photo by KittyKind)

How exactly did KittyKind find itself on the receiving end of so much cat food? Emily Abrahamson, one of the founders of KittyKind, is the sister of Lenny Abrahamson, who received a 2016 Best Director Oscar nomination for Room. This year’s Oscar nominees in the top five categories received a gift bag that included a gift certificate from Halo, Freekibble, and GreaterGood for 10,000 bowls of Halo pet food to be donated to the shelter or rescue group of their choice. And, Lenny chose KittyKind, which generously decided to share the windfall.

And the winner is…homeless and community cats across New York City!

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Fashion & Animal Welfare Collide as Paws N Claws Eyewear Partners with Alliance

Alliance Spokesperson Stephanie Mattera has been named the new Brand Ambassador for Paws N Claws Eyewear. (Photo by Heidi Curran Photography)

Alliance Spokesperson Stephanie Mattera has been named the new Brand Ambassador for Paws N Claws Eyewear. (Photo by Heidi Curran Photography)

Paws N Claws Eyewear is pleased to announce their new partnership with Brand Ambassador Stephanie Mattera and the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, taking animal rescue efforts to new heights.

Thursday, May 5, 2016 – Pittsburgh, PA – Paws N Claws Eyewear steps out of the ‘Burgh, helping animals around the country in partnership with the ASPCA and the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals (the Alliance) in Manhattan.

Since its inception, Paws N Claws Eyewear, based in Pittsburgh, has been one of the ASPCA’s strategic cause partner companies. Paws N Claws Eyewear currently donates 5% of the purchase price of each pair of optical frames or sunglasses sold to the ASPCA animal welfare organization. This optical brand that combines a love for fashion and animals is always keeping an eye out for new ways to help animals in need, even in addition to its existing charity partnership with the ASPCA.

So meeting Stephanie Mattera, a well-known animal activist and socialite, was a stroke of luck for all involved. Her ongoing involvement with the Alliance and her love for fashion and social media made her a perfect fit to be Paws N Claws Eyewear’s inaugural Brand Ambassador. Stephanie is the perfect woman to assist with furthering our introduction of several new Boutique frames into the marketplace, and has added an extra layer of philanthropy to our “wearing and caring” initiative and our “giving-back fashion” business model.

Stephanie’s background is vast and varied. She is passionate about community outreach, creating positive change, and setting socially conscious style trends. As a Lifestyle Correspondent for Celebrity Catwalk TV, Stephanie is responsible for covering socially conscious fashion and beauty trends, interviewing tastemakers and authors, social entrepreneurs, humanitarians, animal advocates, and non-profit founders from around the world. Stephanie has always been an animal-lover and grew up in a house full of rescued pets that were all considered members of her family. In 2010 after completing a M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication at New York University, she began channeling her life-long passion for animals into strategic focus as the Spokesperson for the Alliance. Stephanie advocates for spaying and neutering pets, rescue and adoption, and the responsibilities of being a pet parent at community events and on local news segments. Stephanie is mom to four beloved rescue pets of her own: Japanese Chins, Keiko and Romeo; Zoom Zoom, a mixed breed; and a calico kitty, Sophie.

Starting on May 5, 2016, Paws N Claws will donate 5% to the Alliance and 5% to the ASPCA from sales using code SAM5.

Starting on May 5, 2016, Paws N Claws will donate 5% to the Alliance and 5% to the ASPCA from sales using code SAM5.

So, in honor of welcoming the lovely Stephanie Mattera into the Paws N Claws Eyewear family, Paws N Claws will be donating an additional 5% to the Alliance from sales using code SAM5, starting on May 5, 2016. This is on top of the 5% from each sale that Paws N Claws already donates — and will continue to donate — to the ASPCA.

“The use of the code SAM5 is two-fold. The letters SAM are Stephanie’s initials, but it is also the name of our founder, Sam. The 5 stands for 5% being donated to the ASPCA, 5% being donated to the Alliance, and is also relevant because Paws N Claws Eyewear will soon be turning 5 years old! So it’s easy for shoppers to remember: use code SAM5, starting on May 5!” said Ashley Boynes-Shuck, social media coordinator for Paws N Claws Eyewear.

Explaining his choice of courting Stephanie Mattera as Paws N Claws Brand Ambassador, President and CEO Sam Shapiro said, “Stephanie was an amazing choice because she is positively beautiful inside and out. She has a heart for animals and is very involved in animal causes — something that is of utmost importance to us here at Paws N Claws Eyewear. Her background speaks for itself, and we are thrilled and excited to have her on board. We couldn’t be happier to appoint her as Brand Ambassador.”

The Alliance is thrilled that its spokesperson, Stephanie Mattera, was selected as Paws N Claws’ inaugural Brand Ambassador and is glad to begin a new partnership with Paws N Claws. President Jane Hoffman states, “We are extremely grateful to Paws N Claws and Stephanie Mattera for their support of our mission and programs to save the lives of homeless animals in New York City.”

Stephanie herself cannot wait to begin representing Paws N Claws. She said, “Having the opportunity to blend my passion for fashion and promoting social good is a dream come true! I am honored that Sam Shapiro has entrusted me to be the face of his brand and has provided a platform for me to raise awareness and funds in support of animal welfare. As the Spokesperson for the Alliance for the past six years, I have seen the difference we make in the lives of NYC’s homeless animals, and Paws N Claws will be an integral part of helping us continue that mission.”

The influence of this potential partnership could mean big growth for Paws N Claws Eyewear, benefitting not only animals through the Alliance and the ASPCA, but also benefiting those who get to share their commitment to animal welfare by wearing their beautiful and stylish sunglasses and frames.

To learn more about Paws N Claws Eyewear and how they proudly support a mission to save the lives of animals, please visit www.pawsnclawseyewear.com, and follow Paws N Claws Eyewear on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You can also follow hashtags #PawsAllianceNYC, #PawsASPCA, and #WearingAndCaring to keep up with the brand.

Shop Now
To place an order call toll free 1-800-223-0167 or e-mail info@pawsnclawseyewear.com. Mention code SAM5.


Media Contacts

Sam Shapiro, Paws N Claws
E-mail: sam@pawsnclawseyewear.com

Ashley Boynes-Shuck, Paws N Claws
E-mail: ashley@pawsnclawseyewear.com

Posted in Events & Campaigns, Fundraising, Press Release | Leave a comment

Alliance, Bideawee & Triumph Books Celebrate National Tabby Day

National Tabby Day featured Bideawee cats and kittens for adoption. (Photo by Carol Zytnik)

National Tabby Day featured Bideawee cats and kittens for adoption. (Photo by Carol Zytnik)

The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, Bideawee, and Triumph Books celebrated the first National Tabby Day on April 30 with a cat adoption and book signing event.

Saturday, April 30, 2016 – New York, NY – Adorable cats and kittens were in search of forever families today at a special cat adoption event in honor of the first National Tabby Day. The event, hosted by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, Bideawee, and Triumph Books, took place at Bideawee in Manhattan.

The event featured a book launch, sale, and signing by author Sandy Robins and photographer Paul Smulson in celebration of their new book, Making the Most of All Nine Lives: The Extraordinary Life of Buffy the Cat (Triumph Books), a series of adorable photographs and captions detailing the life of the famous feline Buffy. The book documents Buffy as he trades hairballs for golf balls, scratching posts for the Evening Post and meowing a yawn for mowing the lawn. A portion of the book sales will benefit Bideawee. Anyone who adopted a cat or kitten from Bideawee today received a signed copy of the book, a photo op with their new furry family member taken by Paul Smulson, and a cat-owner starter kit provided by the event’s sponsors.

Author Sandy Robins, Triumph Books Marketing Manager Andrea Baird, and photographer Paul Smulson debuted their new book, 'Making the Most of All Nine Lives: The Extraordinary Life of Buffy the Cat,' and gave away signed copies to new adopters. (Photo by Carol Zytnik)

Author Sandy Robins, Triumph Books Marketing Manager Andrea Baird, and photographer Paul Smulson debuted their new book, Making the Most of All Nine Lives: The Extraordinary Life of Buffy the Cat, and gave away signed copies to new adopters. (Photo by Carol Zytnik)

“We are thrilled to be celebrating National Tabby Day, the adoption of homeless cats and kittens, and a book that brings to life a four-legged friend. We thank our partners Bideawee, Triumph Books, Sandy Robins, and Paul Smulson, as well as those who came out to adopt, for making this important and fun day a success,” said Jane Hoffman, President of the Alliance.

Dolores Swirin-Yao, President of Bideawee, added, “Promoting the adoption of homeless animals in NYC is so important to us, and we are proud to be celebrating National Tabby Day.”

Robins said, “I hope that our book brings to life cats in a way that encourages New Yorkers to find homes for homeless cats and kittens.”

National Tabby Day is sponsored by the industry’s finest feline staples. Gold-level event sponsors included Worldwise’s SmartyKat and Petlinks lines; Lucy Pet Foundation; Merrick Pet Care’s Purrfect Bistro line; Loving Pets’ Bella line; Petmate; and the Algonquin Hotel. Silver-level event sponsors include Clean Healthy Bowls; PetSafe; Wellness Pet Food; and Perrigo Animal Health.

View Event Photos


Mayor's Alliance for NYC's AnimalsAbout the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals®
The Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals® is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity that works with more than 150 partner rescue groups and shelters to offer important programs and services that save the lives of NYC’s homeless animals. We are supported entirely by donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals and receive no government funding. Since our founding in 2003, we have remained committed to transforming New York City into a community where no dogs or cats of reasonable health and temperament will be killed merely because they do not have homes. www.AnimalAllianceNYC.org

BideaweeAbout Bideawee
Bideawee, which means “stay awhile,” in Scottish, is one of the country’s oldest and most respected animal welfare and pet adoption organizations. Founded in 1903, Bideawee has been cultivating and supporting the lifelong relationships between pets and the people that love them for more than 100 years. Bideawee provides an array of high touch services including adoption centers, animal hospitals, pet therapy programs, and pet memorial parks that serve pets and pet lovers on their lifelong journey together. Bideawee is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 humane animal organization and 100% of Bideawee’s funding comes from private sources. Bideawee operates one facility in New York City and two on Long Island, one in Wantagh, and one in Westhampton. www.bideawee.org

Media Contacts

Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals
Blaine Bilal, LAK Public Relations, Inc.
Phone: (212) 575-4545
E-mail: bbilal@lakpr.com

Bideawee
Melissa Treuman
Phone: 1-866-262-8133
E-mail: melissa.treuman@bideawee.org

Posted in Alliance Participating Organizations, Cats, Events & Campaigns, Pet Adoption, Press Release | Leave a comment

Red Hook Community Cats TNR’ed, Thanks to NYCFCI

The NYCFCI worked with organizations, elected officials, and volunteers to pursue a humane solution for the cats living near a new park at the PANYNJ Marine Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Photo by Kathleen O'Malley)

The NYCFCI worked with organizations, elected officials, and volunteers to pursue a humane solution for the cats living near a new park at the PANYNJ Marine Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Photo by Kathleen O’Malley)

The New York City Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI), a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, is working with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander’s office, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI), and volunteer Certified TNR Caretakers to Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) the community cats who live by the PANYNJ Marine Terminal at the waterfront port in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

With development of a park next to the Terminal underway, concerned representatives of BGI, which is spearheading the park project, contacted Lander’s office about the cats, who roam freely between the Terminal and the park’s construction site. In turn, Lander’s office contacted the NYCFCI. According to the NYCFCI’s Kathleen O’Malley, “BGI will allow the cats to stay as long as they are TNR’ed.”

This past November, Milton Puryear, the Director of Project Development for BGI, introduced Kathleen and her NYCFCI colleague Mike Phillips to the PANYNJ contact they needed to approach to obtain permission for Certified TNR Caretakers to be able to TNR cats at the Terminal. The PANYNJ supported the TNR plan that was presented to them. As Kathleen explains, “They want a humane solution for the cats. And they recognize that the cats are non-toxic rodent control. The cats perform a service for the port which, with all the cargo coming in, attracts an abundance of rats.”

Mike Phillips from the NYCFCI made well-insulated winter shelters for the PANYNJ Marine Terminal cats out of 150-quart coolers. (Photo by Kathleen O'Malley)

Mike Phillips from the NYCFCI made well-insulated winter shelters for the PANYNJ Marine Terminal cats out of 150-quart coolers. (Photo by Kathleen O’Malley)

The PANYNJ not only approved of the plan, they also allowed NYCFCI to put out winter shelters for the cats. Mike made well-insulated shelters for the cats out of Coleman 150-quart Marine Coolers by drilling a hole into the side of each one.

The NYCFCI does not, as an organization, do TNR, but acts as a resource for education, materials, and advice for those who do. For this project, the NYCFCI turned to its network to find Certified TNR Caretakers willing to trap the cats.

Approximately half the cats congregate at the north end of the facility near the administration building, where one of the cats’ main caretakers works. The other half are mostly found near the container building at the south end of the property. However, Kathleen points out that more cats visit the Terminal from other area parks.

One Certified TNR Caretaker who lives in Brooklyn has offered her basement as a holding area for the cats before and after their spay/neuter procedures at the ASPCA clinic. Her basement is large enough to accommodate up to seven cats at a time.

Red Hook cat, Doodle, awaits spay/neuter surgery in a trap. (Photo by Kathleen O'Malley)

Red Hook cat, Doodle, awaits spay/neuter surgery in a trap. (Photo by Kathleen O’Malley)

TNR, which is being done in stages, began shortly after the New Year. The trapping of cats at the north end is nearing completion. Cats and kittens deemed friendly are being put up for foster/adoption mostly by Infinite Hope, a Brooklyn-based cat rescue organization.

Once the north end trapping is completed, the process will begin at the south end. Cats also frequent a secure area of the port. The NYCFCI is working on getting permission to set traps in that area, and will need to arrange for TNR to take place when a PANYNJ employee is able to be on hand to escort Certified TNR Caretakers.

While the exact number of cats in the area is not known, Kathleen estimates that at least 60–70 cats will be spayed/neutered by the time the project is completed, which will be well before the park opens.

Tallulah returns to her home at the PANYNJ Marine Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn, after being spayed, vaccinated, and eartipped. (Photo by Kathleen O'Malley)

Tallulah returns to her home at the PANYNJ Marine Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn, after being spayed, vaccinated, and eartipped. (Photo by Kathleen O’Malley)

In addition to the TNR work, BGI has requested that the NYCFCI coordinate the delivery of “purpose-built” cat shelters to the park area to replace the tumbledown ones currently in place. An “unobtrusive feeding station” sanctioned by BGI and built by Mike has already been delivered to the area.

Kathleen says the project is “a good model for working with organizations and rallying volunteers.” She calls the experience a positive one, “which is not often what you get when you are dealing with different people and organizations. But the common thread is that everyone is keeping the cats’ best interests in mind.”

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Posted in Cats, Feral Cats & TNR, Spay/Neuter | Leave a comment