Editor‘s note: This post is a Care2 favorite. It was originally published on October 1, 2014. Enjoy!
In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 70 million stray cats living on the streets. Mysterious and misunderstood, one couple are on a mission to show the world that these animals deserve our compassion.
Using Photography to Change the World for Feral Cats
Husband and wife team Elizabeth and Jason Putsche have spent the last five years compiling a stunning collection of photographs documenting the unseen lives of outdoor cats. Founders of Photographers For Animals, a nonprofit organization which uses film and photography to inspire positive change for animals, the couple are dedicated to raising awareness of this pressing issue and sharing the stories of these individuals that have been often maligned by our society.
Vilified, scrutinized and grossly misunderstood, while there are many unsung heroes that feed, care and advocate for feral cats, the general consensus surrounding these felines is one filled with misconceptions.
“Many people draw a distinction between their pet cats and cats that live outside, but they are really the same,” says Elizabeth Putsche, founder and executive director of Photographers for Animals. “The care and compassion we give our animals at home should be extended to these cats, even if we can’t pet them. Each has a personality and individuality — and each has a story to tell.”
Through their captivating photographs, the Putsche team aim to bring feral cats into focus, showing their beauty and bonds with each other, as well as their chameleon-like abilities to acclimate to all types of surroundings, be it rural, suburban, urban or industrial.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about community cats,” says Putsche. “We want people to see them as they truly are — independent, healthy, loved, and thriving outdoors.”
Is There a Place for Feral Cats in Our Communities?
Many people argue that the street is no place for a cat, but those out there on the front lines working directly with these animals beg to differ.
Cities and shelters across America have experienced great success with Trap-Neuter-Return programs. This humane and effective approach works by trapping, neutering, vaccinating and eartipping (removing the tip of their left ear while under anesthesia so they can be identified) cats, before returning them to their outdoor home.
While catch and kill advocates cling to outdated thinking and hyped up stories, scientific evidence has proven that feral cats live healthy lives outdoors and don’t spread disease to people. Opponents to TNR also blame feral cats for wildlife decline, but humans are by far the biggest threat to species loss.
It‘s Time to Stop the Killing
Out of the 70 million stray cats that populate our streets, on average, only 6 to 8 million ever make it into the shelter system, and the majority of those that do rarely make it out alive.
Putsche says, “Nationally, over 70 percent of all cats that enter shelters are killed there — on top of that, feral cats are not socialized, so they can’t be adopted.”
Cats have been living outside on their own for 10,000 years, so why does that have to change now? Despite what critics say, with TNR programs and colony care, we can happily co-exist with the cat colonies that inhabit our neighborhoods.
We need to stop pointing the finger at feral cats, and instead take a hard look at our own actions and what we can do to change the way we impact the world and the animals with whom we share it.
To find out more about what you can do to help feral cats, check out Alley Cat Allies.
Photo Credit: Jason Putsche