In Community Cats: A Journey Into the World of Feral Cats, Anne E. Beall engagingly narrates her introduction to becoming the new caretaker of three TNRed feral cats — Eloise, Allie, and Duke — who she dubbed “The Rat Pack.” The trio came to live in her back yard in urban Chicago as part of the Cats at Work program created by Tree House Humane Society as an effective solution to the serious rodent problem typical in most densely populated cities.
What began as a progressive and creative solution to a rat problem lead Beall to write a fascinating, in-depth, and insightful book describing every step of her journey into the world of feral cats and their bonds with each other and their caretakers. Her descriptions of the human-feline bonds which we, as caretakers, have experienced ourselves are beautifully chronicled. She recounts the rewarding experiences and major challenges that comprise a caretaker’s work, which she perceptively describes as “a cross between social worker, animal trapper, and community organizer.”
Beall’s engaging writing style, range of knowledge, and significant scientific research work in tandem to create an intelligent and thoughtful argument supporting Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) as the most humane and effective solution to improving the lives of feral cats and the communities in which they live. Her discussion of her findings on prevailing public perceptions and attitudes underscore the importance of educating others in our communities about TNR, citing 70 percent of her survey respondents as being unfamiliar with issues around feral and stray community cats. On a promising note, she reports that the majority of those respondents expressed support for TNR as spay/neuter programs after being informed about them.
Beall treats her readers to a fascinating look at the complex nature of cats and their close relationships with each other and the humans (and neighboring dogs) with whom they bond. She describes the challenges of outdoor colony care through harsh Chicago winters, the time and effort that goes into completing a successful and safe relocation, neighbor relations in a range of communities, the vacuum effect that results when cats are removed from an area, and many other topics that arise when working with community cats.
Whether you are a veteran caretaker or a novice, or simply someone who cares about the cats who share your community, Community Cats can be an enjoyable and enlightening read.
About the Reviewer
Evon Handras, a former music business professional, joined the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals as Director of Administrative Services in 2007. She currently works with the Alliance’s NYC Feral Cat Initiative program, and also is active in Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) of the community cats in her home borough of Queens. In addition to her work on behalf of the animals, she still engages her passion for music by occasionally moonlighting as a DJ specializing in classic soul music.