There’s not much cuter than a mischievous kitten playing with a toy and nothing is better than having a cat curled up on your feet while you read a book. Unfortunately, not all cats are lucky enough to have a home. The ASPCA estimates that over three million cats enter the shelter system each year and according to the Citizens for a No Kill Philadelphia, there are as many as 390,000 cats living outside in Philadelphia; the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) reports taking in over 13,000 cats in 2016 alone.
The Stray Cat Relief Fund (SCRF) began over 20 years ago with volunteers managing a 200 cat colony in South Philadelphia along the Delaware River. Today, the SCRF network of volunteers provide Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) and Foster/Adoption Services to over 300 cats annually in Southeastern PA and NJ.
Trap-Neuter-Return is significant for cities moving toward a “no-kill” environment and is the only humane and effective approach for stray and feral cats. Scientific studies show that TNR improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people or retail establishments located near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time. Trap-Neuter-Return is now in practice in many cities in the U.S. after being proven in Europe. The first U.S. city to adopt TNR practices was Jacksonville, FL in 2008 who boasts that the program continues to save thousands of cats each year and frees up vital resources to be used on adoptable pets. In 2010, San Jose, CA replicated the program and decreased Animal Care Services intake by 29% after just four years, and decreased cats euthanized from 70% in 2009 to just 23% in 2014. In 2016, SCRF provided TNR services to 71 cats – in 2017 we estimate TNR for over 190 cats.
Although feral cats are neutered, given medical attention and then returned to an environment where they’re provided food and shelter, adoptable cats and kittens are moved into foster and adoption placement. The SCRF has a network of volunteers that provide foster homes to cats coming in from the outside and we partner with several adoption sites including Petsmart, The South Jersey Animal Hospital and the Mount Laurel Animal Hospital just to name a few. In 2017, SCRF helped over 250 cats and kittens move to foster or adoptive homes and another seven were transferred to other rescue organizations. In 2018, we estimate over 400 cats and kittens will be brought in from the outside and given loving homes.
It is SCRF’s vision that Philadelphia will become the next no-kill city for cats. To do this, we must work to engage our communities in improving the lives of displaced and homeless cats, as well as to continue providing on-call trapping, medical assistance, neuter and release, and foster-to- adoption services through this organization.