Join us as we discover Project Bay Cat and find out how effective TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) can be with a real visit to a successful venture.
We had a chance to visit the world’s first official managed feral cat colony on our USA trip in early July 2016. We were invited thanks to our friend Savannah, a San Francisco resident, and her mum Linda. Savvy reports regularly with her Mom L on their ‘Return to Field‘ work and local TNR on their blog.
Project Bay Cat – History
The Project Bay Cat colony was founded by Cimeron Morrissey, in association with the Homeless Cat Network and visionary local councilors, back in 2007. Here’s what happened…
A meeting was called for concerned people to exchange views on the problem of cats being dumped in the Bay Trail area at that time. At this meeting Cimeron heard talk of shooting and poisoning the cats, but, thankfully sense prevailed and Project Bay Cat was born out of a willingness of the Homeless Cat Network, volunteers, and the local authority to work together.
Showing How TNR Works with Project Bay Cat
A few things happened after this historic meeting :-
TNR was introduced as part of a long-term plan to humanely reduce the cat population; and
It was made illegal to dump cats – a statute that was vigorously enforced with the help of the local police and authorities.
Feeding stations were established to allow the cats to be well fed, and their health to be regularly monitored.
A local veterinary practice was heavily involved. In this case Crystal Springs Pet Hospital.
Our Own Visit to Project Bay Cat
We were here, in San Francisco, and on our way to visit Project Bay Cat! Our group consisted of Savannah’s Mom L and Dad P, and Mum representing the blog. We drove to meet with one of the volunteers who was going to tell us about the daily life and routine of the colony.
It was an exciting moment for us as we pulled up, eager to see the Project in action, and discover how it really had made TNR work on the San Francisco peninsula. Having read the history of the Bay colony, and followed posts on the lively and active Facebook Group, to actually stand looking out at the Bay in the sunshine, was a real thrill.
Our volunteer and guide Martha, unloaded a lot of food and fresh water which was put into a very practical pull-along trolley. This trolley was vital as carrying the heavy weight of food, water and cleaning materials to each of the feeding stations along the route would be impractical, and exhausting.
“The City, and Homeless Cat Network have teamed up to address the challenges
associated with homeless cats on the Bay Trail.”
Our small group set off, and, as we walked, Martha gave us a brief outline of the Project’s success along this part of the Bay, and also the next major challenge further up river. A development was proposed that would change the cats environment dramatically and moving the cats would take a lot of careful thought and effort – it was very much a work in progress.
We were told what the volunteers do, day in and day out to ensure the cats are safe and well fed. All the time, as we walked and talked, there were cyclists speeding by, enjoying the weather and the stunning views over the sunny Bay.
“Project Bay Cat is *a lot* of work. It takes quite a bit of effort to make sure we have enough volunteers and food to feed the cats every day, to catch the cats when they’re sick/injured and take them to the vet, to maintain their feeding stations and shelters, find and train new volunteers…the to-do list is endless.”
We visited a number of well constructed, waterproof shelters; and feeding stations along the side of the Bay Trail path. Each station is cleaned of debris, the food replaced and the cat dishes washed. Sometimes skunks come and steal food but this is not a serious issue, and the cats know the volunteers’ routine well enough to appear when ‘dinner is served’. The carefully sited shelters are set well back off the cycling trail and invisible from public view.
While Martha was tending one of the shelters, a golfer from the nearby range shouted to ask who she was, and what she was doing. Our volunteer identified herself as part of the Project Bay Cat team and explained she was tending to the feeding station today. This seemed to reassure the golfer and he returned to his practice. While we were not sure if he was a concerned cat lover, or a curious golfer; but he spoke up, which is a good thing – someone out to cause trouble would move on quickly when challenged.
Our Visit to Project Bay Cat Ends
As we left the area, our group were impressed by the dedication, commitment and long-term intentions of Project Bay Cat. The far-sighted judgement of the municipality has paid dividends. Working hand in hand with the Homeless Cats Network on the Project, this humane option of control has steadily reduced the number of cats from an original figure of 175 to a mere 30; and it continues to fall thanks to TNR, the adoption of friendly cats into homes, and natural attrition by illness.
Many other local authorities could – and should – follow the strong lead from Project Bay Cat and the City authorities, paying attention to the proven work done here. Every local council and authority can work with local groups, and shelters, to ensure cats all over the USA, and all over the world, are treated with care and respect. TNR does work, cat numbers do decrease and both cat lovers and their adversaries can work to improve the situation of feral cays in a pro-active and positive way.
Did we learn a lot on our visit? Yes we did. Running an organisation like this needs dedication and commitment. Most importantly we learned that it can de done. Trap-Neuter-Return does work. The cats rely on the volunteers – these people work for free with the interests of the cats at their very heart. The original stupidity of the people dumping cats is being sensitively tackled and reversed.
Thank you Martha, and all of the volunteers who help this trail blazing cause. It is a model for TNR worldwide with its compassion, its determination and the perceptive pro active municipal authorities.
Project Bay Cat Reporter
Reference sources :-
National Feral Cat Day 16th October
Official Project Bay Cat Introduction Brochure
Cat Fancy Magazine, 2007
Please share for our buddy #MommaKatsSearch Read about this heroic little cat here!!