In preparation for the event, the Alliance worked with Cat Camp organizers to secure the attendance of local adoption organizations with their cats and kittens. The Alliance’s Wheels of Hope program delivered most of the crates needed for adoptees and Steve Gruber, the Alliance’s Director of Communications, who was instrumental in those endeavors, also ensured that Alliance volunteers were available throughout the event to help wherever needed, which included manning the NYC Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI) table.The NYCFCI’s Director of TNR Education, Kathleen O’Malley, says she brought about five times the amount of literature she usually brings to events and happily reports that she did not have anything left at the end of the conference. “In my two years of working for NYCFCI,” she says, ” I’ve never had such a cat-focused audience. It was really gratifying.”
She remembers having a very high-level of engagement with attendees, which extended to her presentation entitled “Let’s Talk Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).” Kathleen’s talk featured clips from the upcoming documentary film, The Cat Rescuers, produced by Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence, and for Q&A Kathleen was joined onstage by Brooklyn-based TNR practitioners Latonya “Sassee” Walker and Stuart Siet, who are featured in the documentary. The team addressed a packed room with an audience of about 225 people.
Despite the size of the audience (which included people from all over the country), Kathleen recalls that the session was very personal and interactive. She began the talk — which focused more on how TNR is the proven, humane way to control feral and community cat populations than it did on actual TNR techniques — by discussing the cat colony she cares for. She also encouraged audience participation and remembers that the very first question was from someone who wanted advice on how to persuade her town to adopt TNR ordnances. Kathleen was impressed by “the number of seasoned TNR practitioners who came to the talk and enjoyed it.”Kathleen was also pleased that a number of local people signed up for NYCFCI’s TNR certification workshop as a result of attending the presentation, which will result in more Certified TNR Caretakers being prepared to help New York’s feral and stray community cats and reduce the numbers of kittens being born on the streets as we enter “kitten season.”
“There was never an event like Cat Camp in New York City before,” Kathleen says, and describes the conference as a “safe place for cat lovers to be themselves and to be understood. It was a positively reinforcing experience.”