As anyone who has worked with or volunteered for a small nonprofit organization knows, it takes a lot of work to be successful! In our first eight years, our organization, Outcast Cat Help, Trapped-Neutered-Returned (TNR) over 1,500 cats in Contra Costa County. TNR is recognized internationally as the best solution for solving the problem of the overpopulation of cats.
Last November we decided to add another tool to help our community manage the free-roaming cat population – Return to Field (RTF). With RTF, we take the free-roaming cats turned in at the shelter, pull them, get them spayed/neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped, and return them to their neighborhood.
In cooperation with Contra Costa Animal Services, throughout the week as they intake cats, we determine which cats are eligible for the RTF program based on temperament, age and health.
We then research the cats’ neighborhoods via Google Earth and sometimes send people out to scout a neighborhood by talking to people regarding the problem and searching for caretaker(s).
By late in the week, we take a walk through the shelter to see if there are ear-tipped cats. Ear tips (1 mm of either the left or right ear is removed), performed while the cat is anesthetized for their spay/neuter surgery, are universally accepted as the best way to identify a sterilized cat even from a distance. The cats at the shelter that are already ear-tipped can just be pulled and returned to their neighborhood without taking them in for surgery.
On Saturdays we pull any RTF-designated cats who have completed their mandatory three-day stray hold, stage them at a local location overnight, and first thing on Sunday we head to Sacramento SPCA’s free-roaming cat clinic (also a volunteer-based operation). Often we take cats trapped by other volunteers and organizations too; the more the merrier and the quicker to solve the problem of cat overpopulation!
Needless to say, we carefully track each cat from their source to clinic and back to our staging area. We maintain a large database and electronic map of colonies throughout the county, along with the known caretakers who feed and care for those colonies.
Late Sunday afternoon we return from Sacramento to stage the cats for recuperation. Usually the male cats are ready to go home the next day (Monday), and by Tuesday the females are ready too. In just the past three months, we’ve returned 178 free-roaming cats to their neighborhoods, living out their lives happy, healthy and without producing more kittens!
We couldn’t do this important work without a legion of volunteers, caretakers, partnering organizations and generous donors. If you’d like to know more about volunteering or donating to OCH, please call or email us!
Outcast Cat Help