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Community Cats

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On All Fours [Facebook]
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Feral cats become almost invisible, living in the shadows.

By capturing stunning images of some of Tuscaloosa's most elusive residents - feral cats - students managed to put faces to many of them, highlighting both the scope of the problem and efforts to stem their population growth through TNR.

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Five years ago this week, folks were digging out from the rubble left by a monster tornado that plowed across the state of Alabama. Countless survivors were left homeless, among them pets who were lost and frightened. Volunteers searched for weeks and were able to locate hundreds of dogs and cats and bring them to a shelter where they could receive clean water, food, medical attention if needed and lots of loving care. Some were able to be reunited with their owners, in many cases because the animals either were microchipped or were wearing tags. Others had no identification; their collars and tags may have been ripped off in the violence of the storm, or their owners had never gotten around to having the tiny high-tech microchips inserted in their pets.

Today there are some animals that would be pets, but have no home, no owner to love and care for them. In Tuscaloosa alone it is estimated there are seven thousand homeless and feral cats. Group like TSNIP – Tuscaloosa Spay Neuter Incentive Program – are working to trap these cats, spay or neuter them and then return them to the area where they were found.

The process is called “Trap-Neuter-Return” or “T-N-R”. The animals will become better neighbors because there will be less fighting, they will not have more litters of homeless cats, and their continued presence in that area will keep other cats from moving in to take their place.

This week, the group “On All Fours” joined TSNIP in hosting a Gala titled “Feral Cats of Tuscaloosa: A City Underground”. It was a celebration through art and photography by college, high school and middle school students as they captured images of the plight, fight and resilience of the city’s 7,000 voiceless and vulnerable residents that live in the shadows of our lives. You can see many of the haunting photographs on their Facebook page; just search “On All Fours”.

I am just one of many who are greatly encouraged by the efforts of students from middle school up to college level who are committed to making life better for animals. It should give us all hope for the future, when we’re speaking of pets.

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Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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