Our voucher program started strong with an inundation of requests for vouchers as soon as Kathy posted the now famous 50 Feral Fix back in late August. Our original intention of the program was to keep fixing cats while our private veterinarian suspended rescue work due to her vet tech’s maternity leave. The plan was that come October, as promised and confirmed by the vet, we would resume trapping every weekend.
The vet shortage hit us hard when without notice, our private veterinarian stopped working with us to fix and treat cats we trapped three days a week. It was especially hard because we had been operating in accordance with the vet’s repeated promises that surgeries would resume in October. Imagine our panic and heartbreak when after not hearing from the vet for two weeks since our last confirmation, Kathy had to send multiple emails and phone messages before receiving the news from the vet that she no longer would be working with us.
The only bright light was that our 50 Feral Fix pilot program had already reached 50 and had broken 100 by October. Instead of spending our weeks and weekends cajoling feeders to grudgingly withhold food, allow access to the property, and do minimal preparation required for us to successfully trap, Kathy was able to now raise funds full time for vouchers.
Instead of fighting people physically and financially able to trap to cooperate with us, we were meeting a new type of cat feeder: those who wanted to do whatever it took to fix the cats they fed and just needed financial help to do it.
One of the first women I met was J*, who needed to borrow a higher quality trap from us to catch some elusive cats in her apartment complex. J does not speak English but communicates with us entirely using translator apps. She started trapping immediately upon receipt of her first voucher, and we made arrangements to meet and deliver the trap where she would be working on a Sunday. Through the translator, she told me she would go wherever was convenient at any time, even as early as 6am! When I pulled up, I realized that she did not even have her own car. Her husband drove her to this location and she would be cleaning all day until he picked her up later. It was a rather unsafe industrial area that I knew from previous trapping, but J was all smiles and excited to use the new trap, despite working exhausting hours and basically being a prisoner there for the next 8 hours. Her husband translated and echoed her same determination, unlike so many spouses I meet who are disgusted or rolling their eyes over the animals that mean so much to their spouses.
J only has one day a week to trap yet she has hustled and used our vouchers to fix nearly the entire colony and is still going strong. All she needed was help to cover the costs, so that she would not have to make the choice between paying her rent or getting cats fixed.
J is not the only voucher recipient who is empowered by our vouchers. K* is a senior citizen who before our vouchers, had no way of paying to fix her cats unless she missed a mortgage payment. N* is taking on a huge apartment complex’s colony and doing a ton of leg work that she would not be able to afford if we did not have this program.
Personally, I am accustomed to trapping, transporting, or holding cats for individuals who believe that the cats they are breeding are my problem, not theirs. I did not know that people like our voucher recipients existed! Moving forward, Kathy and I realized that while our vet’s departure was not ideal, it paved the way for a new program that ultimately gets more cats fixed, and most importantly, empowers feeders to become caretakers who could not otherwise do so. Every day we see how hard these peoples’ lives are and the decisions they have to make simply because they are working hard but not getting ahead fast enough to finance what their towns refuse to support.
These are not people giving up a latte or nail appointment to save money to fix cats – they are people trying to figure out how late the rent can be, how they can cut corners on a grocery bill, how long they can put off car repairs – with none of it adding up fast enough to pay for a surgery package.
Our voucher recipients have good intentions, but unlike many of their more financially stable cat feeding counterparts, they are pairing these intentions with actions and hard work to achieve their goal of no more cats born outside.
When you sponsor a voucher, you are not only sponsoring a surgery. You are a lifeline for a truly needy but determined person who lacks only the income to fix and reduce the number of cats that in many cases, were already there. Please, if you can, donate any amount to help us keep supporting these hardworking people all over the state. Without us, they have no other options. This program is the most effective way to empower caretakers and ultimately reduce the number of cats suffering outside.
*indicates name redacted for privacy