Picture this …

In front of you is a big pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces, but you have no pretty picture on a box to give you a clue on how to put it together. As you are trying to sort through the pieces, your family says, “Hurry and put it together!”

This is how I see the world of animal welfare and rescue. You know there is a big problem – a big pile of puzzle pieces. But you don’t really know exactly how big or what the solution is going to look like, and meanwhile the community is hoping you will solve the problem quickly.

This month, we at Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue put together another corner section of that big puzzle.

We are very happy with the rescue and adoption corners of our puzzle; in just under eight years we’ve saved almost 1,100 homeless animals. But we’ve struggled with putting together the pieces for a segment of animal welfare we all believe is critical to controlling the population of homeless cats: TNR, or the Trap, Neuter and Return of feral and community cats. We tried doing the trapping ourselves, but with a small rescue, finding volunteers with the time to sit and wait out feral cats was difficult. We just weren’t getting a very good return on the time invested.

Then, one day, during a random conversation having nothing to do with TNR, inspiration struck.

I was talking with one of our volunteers who does double duty with us (KCZD) and North Brunswick Humane Association (NBHA). While talking about how blessed KCZD has been this year with receiving grant funds, both solicited and unsolicited, my fellow volunteer mentioned NBHA’s 50 Feral Fix program and how it would be great to get grant funding for it. Being the grant czar for KCZD, I told her it would be easy enough to write about their program and submit for several grant opportunities. That’s when the inspiration struck …

Since we haven’t been successful trapping, why don’t we sponsor those who are!

I sat down with the Boss Lady and explained my idea (gratefully borrowed from NBHA), and she said let’s do it and add microchipping to the deal. That is how the Snip & Chip event was born. We partnered with NBHA and People for Animals (PFA) to sponsor the fixing and ‘chipping of 60 feral cats in our community.

This was truly a collaboration by local animal welfare groups. People for Animals, a non-profit spay/neuter clinic in Robbinsville, arranged for two doctors and several staff members to come in on a Monday when they are normally closed. NBHA reached out to their contacts in the feral cat caretaker community to advertise the event, and KCZD provided the volunteers and paid the bills. We quickly “sold out” every one of the 60 spots reserved for the day. So many caretakers were interested in the chance to get their community cats fixed, vaccinated, ear-tipped and microchipped.

Are you wondering why we would bother microchipping a feral cat? So did I, so I asked the Boss.

Feral cats by nature can’t be adopted, and hence, rarely make it out of a shelter alive when brought in by Animal Control. But they not only survive, they thrive in a colony that is being cared for by members of the community. If a microchipped feral cat is brought to a shelter, the colony caretaker can be contacted to come in, pick up their cat and return it to the colony. This saves not only the cat’s life, but also municipal shelter time and money.

So we were all set! PFA had their doctors and staff ready, NBHA coordinated and organized the trapper information and reservations, and KCZD had the volunteers ready and the checkbook out. Then the first snowfall of the year came …

On Monday, December 11, animal welfare workers and volunteers got up early and arrived at People For Animals with eager anticipation and bearing coffee, donuts, donated linens, newspapers and feral cats. Because of the snowfall and individual extenuating circumstances, only 38 of our 60 reservations were able to check in. Traps, covered to make the scaredy cats a little calmer, lined the hallways and back room at PFA. It was time to begin!

This was my first experience with feral cats and the TNR process. I looked on with rapt attention at the process of fixing a feral cat. The vet tech first gives the cat a quick injection to sedate it. The cat is then removed from the trap, weighed, and placed on a prep table. Then it’s given vaccinations, microchipped, and shaved in preparation for surgery. Once it’s their turn, the cat is given further anesthesia, and with little pomp and circumstance, sterilized by removing the reproductive organs while the left ear is altered by removing the top quarter inch, letting anyone who encounters it know that it has been fixed. Once the doctor is finished, another tech brings the cat into the recovery area where the ear is cauterized, and then the cat is returned to their trap which has been lined with fresh paper.  Everything was done remarkably quick, but very professionally and with care.

All of the PFA staff were patient with me as I wandered around taking pictures and asking questions. It was while talking to one of the vets as he worked on pretty tabby female that I realized we’d found our niche. He told me this was his part of the puzzle—coming in on his day off to fix these feral cats. The elusive corner piece of the puzzle finally fell into place for KCZD.

Our TNR calling was not to trap, but to sponsor the trappers.

And it was an amazing success! Everyone there that day was excited to have participated in our newest event. We at KCZD are so thrilled at the response that we have decided to make this a quarterly event, and PFA has already agreed to help out each time! We will be soliciting grant funds to help pay for the (hopefully) 240 surgeries, vaccinations, microchips and ear tips. Additionally, prior to each event we will run donation drives for towels, food, and newspapers to be given to both PFA and the trappers. We are already planning our next event, even as the Boss Lady continues to update the microchip information for each cat. Stay tuned to our website and social media for updates on the next Snip & Chip.

Break it down! Snip & Chip by the numbers:

  • 1 Day
  • 3 Animal welfare organizations
  • 6 PFA staff members
  • 4 Animal rescue volunteers
  • 12 trappers/caretakers
  • 37 cats fixed, vaccinated & ‘chipped
  • 20 males
  • 17 females

Estimating that each feral pregnancy results in three kittens surviving to adulthood, we prevented at least 51 cats from being born—that’s just under half of the number of cats & kittens KCZD takes in each year.

Total cost to KCZD: $2,903.92 (not counting the $115 for coffee, donuts & lunch for staff and volunteers) That’s $78 per cat, and it’s worth every penny.

So, now we have three of the four corners of our puzzle filled out: we have animal rescue and adoption in the top left, the top right corner is our strong base of volunteers and supporters, and the bottom left is coming together for TNR with the Snip & Chip. Now all we need is the bottom right corner: a place we can call our own adoption center.


Wait, is that a corner piece I see over there …

~Rebecca, Development Director

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