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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Mattfield

Inside... Our Lifeline for Caretakers

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

You may have applied for one of our very popular 50 Feral Fix vouchers and not heard from us as quickly as you expected, or even at all. Please don't think that you've been forgotten, but there is a reason for this!

The solution to New Jersey's outdoor cat crisis lies in making people responsible for fixing the cats they feed.

While it would be so convenient for many of us to simply "dial a trapper" and have someone else take care of trapping and fixing the cats, it has not and is never going to solve our state's massive problem of cats born to suffer outside. The reason is that placing the responsibility of trapping on anyone but the person feeding is highly ineffective, cost prohibitive, and above all, misplaces the responsibility for the care of the cats with someone who is not regularly monitoring them.

Make no mistake - there will always be a small number of people who truly are physically unable to lift or walk with traps. They may be elderly, injured, or simply physically limited, and they certainly need the full services of another group or individual. In decades of trapping for others, we at Whiskers have found this demographic to be pretty rare.

The majority of people we meet who desire trapping "services" are people who simply do not want to be inconvenienced or do the work required to trap the cats they feed. There are many excuses, but the root cause is that they genuinely do not feel that it is their responsibility to perform TNR themselves. They do not want to make arrangements to trap, transport, hold, or monitor the colony for newcomers, even as cats breed in front of them. There is an incorrect idea that "feeding is enough." Other things are more important, and they ultimately do not feel that their schedules should be interrupted as they would for any other appointment, chore, or responsibility.

Why should they, when there appears to be an infinite number of strangers on social media that are available to trap?

The "independent trapper" or "trapping service" models have been proven ineffective year after year, as colonies are allowed to breed by their feeders who are simply waiting for "someone to help."

The reality is that there are nowhere near enough third parties to perform trapping and transport services for the people feeding cats in New Jersey. Even if there were, those individuals and even most rescues do not have the funding, structure, veterinary support, or physical ability to keep up with even a fraction of the TNR that would be needed. Read more about why the "independent trapper model" doesn't work here.

Our voucher program is intended to encourage the "breeding" of a new trapper - the individual actually feeding and monitoring the cats every day. In other words: a true caretaker.

We have decades of experience and tens of thousands of cats trapped over countless weeks and weekends to defend our position that this problem will only be solved by individuals being responsible for the cats they feed. To that end, vouchers are only awarded to the following groups after we help individual caretakers in towns with no TNR resources:

  1. Independent "roaming" trappers. These are individuals who receive calls and provide "full service" TNR by setting, watching, transporting, and holding the cats, so the feeder simply allows them on the property (or sometimes not!) and has the work done for them. These trappers might be dispatched by a rescue, or simply individuals who enjoy trapping and would prefer to do the trapping for the feeder instead of assisting the feeder with instruction and support. This contradicts our business model and discourages the person feeding from trapping. Even worse, it paints trapping as a niche talent, that only certain individuals can do. This is so incredibly wrong - almost everyone can trap as long as they can follow directions and reach out when they have questions. Anyone who is a "pro trapper" started from scratch and had to learn. We even lend equipment! While it seems like a helpful thing to do, if you are trapping for anyone except a person completely physically unable to do it themselves, you are not empowering a caretaker; you are helping a feeder.

  2. Other rescues and their volunteers. Kathy and I spend many hours per day fundraising to sponsor vouchers and to run our rescue legitimately. The eBay store alone is a 12-14 hour/day job for Kathy, during which she is also fielding constant calls for help and issuing vouchers. All of my spare time outside of my full-time job is spent keeping our rescue legal, researching ordinances, organizing legal campaigns, maintaining equipment, the website, and doing quarterly mailings. It is an absolute pleasure to do this for people who want to be caretakers and need help. It's part of being a nonprofit, and we expect that other rescues would respect this and not assume our funding is not thanks to our massive efforts. We also expect that other rescues wishing to do TNR on their own will be working as hard as we are to raise the funds they need, not using vouchers intended for individual caretakers in need.

  3. Feeders who do not wish to maintain or finish trapping the entire colony. We do not support "cat gardening" where people select only certain cats to be "theirs" that come to eat. If the cat is eating from your bowls, the cat is your responsibility and needs not only food, but fixing and vetting. Part of feeding cats outside is dealing with newcomers and the only way to keep things under control is to fix every cat you see, communicating constantly with other people feeding so that the trapping gets done. There is a template for writing to neighbors and other tips for contacting feeders in Section #3 here.

  4. Feeders who do not wish to follow our directions. We have trapped literally tens of thousands of cats over decades in all areas of New Jersey. There is nothing more frustrating than setting someone up for success only to have them think they "know better" and will do it their way. Use our expertise if you are using our vouchers. And if you get stuck, call us. It is extremely rare that we cannot figure out why that last cat is not going in. In fact, I cannot think of one instance where we were stumped.

  5. Individuals who are breaking the law. It may be frustrating at times, but it does not help cats in the long run if you trespass to catch cats without getting the property owner's permission. This is a dangerous shortcut that can not only put you out of commission trapping--it may anger the property owner and dash all chances of those cats ever getting fixed. Always contact the owner of the property. This section of our website describes how to address the situation of seeing cats where you live or work but don't feed. If you come across animals on a property that are being refused veterinary care or victims of any other cruelty, your first call should be to the local police, followed by a call to the appropriate County Prosecutor.

I hope that this clears up our mission and objectives regarding the vouchers. Please note while we will try to help anyone who wishes to trap, priority will always be given to individual caretakers who are taking responsibility for the cats they feed.


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