When I was a little girl, my mother told me not to feed the stray cats because they would keep coming back for food. I grew up in Canarsie and while things sometimes got a bit wild, it was far from jungle terrain and certainly not a natural habitat for cats. What I could not understand was how the cats were supposed to eat if no one fed them.
I have rescued many cats and am certified in Trap Neuter Return (TNR). TNR is a process where cats that live on the street are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered. This decreases the stray and feral cat populations without harming the cats. When cats are neutered, they yowl, fight and mark their territory less. This can eliminate friction with their human neighbors. There are also health benefits to the cats. TNR has proven to be effective in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Over the years, I have had ambivalent feelings about TNR. In an ideal world, cats would roam freely in their natural environment and thrive untouched by human intervention. This is not the situation in Rockaway today. A month ago, I buried five kittens. One by one, I pulled them out from under debris in a neighbor’s basement. I have held many dying animals in my arms, but never before have had I felt so sick to my stomach. The size and condition of their bodies was almost too much for me to bear. It was then that I felt the plight of Rockaway cats and vowed to take action to alleviate their suffering.
I was relieved to hear that Zina Skachinsky, Executive Director of Allied Rockaway Foundation for Animal Recreation and Fitness (ARF-ARF), was organizing meetings at the library to discuss improving life in Rockaway for people and cats. Catherine Browne, a volunteer with the New York City Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI), presented. Residents expressed their concerns and the consensus was that we have a great opportunity to enhance the Rockaway experience through TNR.
Mahatma Gandhi said that “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” The street cats in our community are among our most powerless. Embracing TNR in Rockaway is one way to pay forward the generosity that was extended to us shortly after Hurricane Sandy, when we were vulnerable. It will take a colony of support for the Rockaway TNR Project to be successful. The local residents who are already engaged in the work cannot do it alone.
Ours is a universe of abundance. The idea that we must choose between people and cats arises out of fear and belief in scarcity. A wealth of resources and possibilities become available when we embrace all members of our community, both human and feline. We can coexist in peace and harmony.
I have faith in the people of Rockaway. We are as tough as the rock jetties and as passionate as the ocean. With the season of miracles approaching, I invite you to join me in creating Feline Magic for some of Rockaway’s neediest. This is how we rebuild Rockaway and how we can change the world.
Some of my most profound lessons have come to me through relationships with animals. After the death of my dog, Misty, I found myself drawn to cats. My experience of letting go opened me up to Feline Wisdom. Cats have taught me about independence, expressing my needs and setting boundaries. They have also shown me how to love without unhealthy attachment. I continue to evolve with the animals in my life and help others heal with their animal companions.
We are accepting contributions to the Rockaway TNR Project. Checks can be made out to ARF-ARF and mailed to Rockaway TNR Project, c/o ARF-ARF, P.O. Box 930272, Rockaway Beach, NY 11693. Please contact Jill@HealingWithAnimals.com for information about how you can help spread Feline Magic.
Jill Lauri, MBA, MSW is an Animal Intuitive & Healer