Community Cat Management Triage during Pandemic Shut Downs
We’ve invested a lot of energy and resources into caring for community cats and getting them the vetting they need – what do we do now during this most difficult time? We’ve compiled a ‘triage’ guide to some of our primary concerns at this time.
Continue to feed as usual (on your own – maintain social distance!) and be sure to keep area clean as always – but perhaps take extra care to ensure everything is extra clean and tidy and as unobtrusive as possible.
More people home means more people who may pay attention to things they may not have noticed previously so use this opportunity to be sure to not attract any attention and to tighten up your feeding schedule.
People may be anxious about potential health risks of community cats more than before and be more likely to be proactive in their management or voice their concerns.
*AS ALWAYS – ensure cats you are feeding are sterilized and up to date on immunizations as soon as possible!
Lawyers in Defense of Animals (LIDA) here in New Jersey, states that LIDA is willing to provide representation to any caregiver who is otherwise following all mandates such as not being out after 8pm curfew and maintaining social distancing, who is issued a summons for feeding managed TNR cat colonies. Again – please note these mandates may be updated/changed over time and most current requirements must be followed. Find them here: www.njlida.org
IF YOU ARE SICK
Not generally relevant for feral cat colonies but FYI:
If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. This can help ensure both you and your animals stay healthy.
When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.
TNR PROJECTS – TO SPAY OR DELAY?
Executive orders* for NJ currently state that veterinary services are considered essential and may remain open.
However, is spay/neuter of community cats considered an essential service? And if it is – should you continue your work? That is up to you to decide and up to the service providers to decide at this point in time (until further mandates or specifications are issued).
We understand no-one wants to watch kittens being born outside and we share your dread for what we will face as a result, however the road of caution seems best for now.
If no service provider is available and/or you opt to delay TNR projects – use this time for careful observations and assessments of the colony.
- Take note of any pregnant cats. Assess options for holding/fostering these cats for birth and kitten weaning, by which time hopefully Mom can be vetted and returned.
- If no fostering options for pregnant moms – make careful notes of when they may have given birth and make an alarm for yourself for 6 weeks from that date to remind you to go and remove those kittens between 6-8 weeks. You will need a supply of KMR / kitten milk / goat milk powder to wean them. Place with rescues.
- Work on socializing any outside cats with potential and trying to remove them to rescue.
- Join social media groups for placing kittens and friendly adults
- Connect with local rescues for placement options of any kittens or friendly cats. Note – most will be strained – if you can foster it will be easier to network with rescues
- Promote fostering among your social media circles! Now more than ever we need more people willing to step up temporarily and do this!
Some State Veterinary Medical Boards have listed spay/neuter services for non-profit organizations as essential whereas owned pet spay/neuters can be postponed safely.
Rabies vaccinations are generally considered essential services (mandates are frequently updating).
Whether spay/neuter is considered essential for TNR purposes is something that is determined by individual service providers and depends on their ability to introduce new protocols to ensure maximum precautions are being taken and whether the individual trapper is satisfied sufficient precautions are being taken at this time (again – mandates frequently updating and this option may be clearly removed).
NJ Veterinary Medical Board (NJVMA) clarifies that no routine wellness exams or ‘elective’ surgeries should be provided at this time to limit exposure, risk and to conserve needed protective equipment. It is unlikely any NJ based provider will continue to provide spay/neuter services for the immediate future as per this recommendation.
All facilities with any PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), ventilator, aspirator or anesthesia machines have been required to submit inventory of these to the state by 5pm March 27th for potential requisition however these items have not been requisitioned at this time.
Where service is still offered if you wish to consider moving forward with your projects we suggest:
- Inquire about protocols in place for protecting clients and animals during this time. Most include waiting in car for individual check ins and not accompanying the animals into the building.
- Ask about their cleaning protocols and how staff and volunteers will remain protected as well as if you bring cats for spay/neuter services.
*Executive order 109 – current order of NJ Governor can be seen in full here: https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-109.pdf
EMERGENCY VET SERVICES
Medical practices to include veterinarians continue to offer services for emergencies and tele-medicine services as long as the service provided by phone can be considered an equal standard to what would be provided in person. For example, a prescription re-fill can be done by phone. A new prescription may not be as easily done by phone – but that would be up to individual providers to determine.
Please do not hesitate to call your local vet in cases of emergency or if any cat needs medical attention. We do advise calling first.
If you should need to bring a cat in to the vet – please check protocols being followed first and protect yourself. Likewise – if you have been sick at all or have traveled in the past 2 weeks, and absolutely must bring a cat for medical attention please notify staff of the situation.
See NJVMA for full list of recommendations to emergency service providers.
We advise at this point to look ahead to September.
We may be able to get back to business long before then, however there also may be a huge backlog of other needs that were postponed, or time may be needed for providers to rebuild sufficient supplies after they are back to ‘normal’ – so it may not be until September then that we can get back to large scale TNR.
Use this time to mount your most carefully planned TNR ever!
- Follow the suggestions under Delay section, above!
- Make note of each cat who comes to eat so you have a clear idea of how many are there.
- Feed within the same 1 hour window each day, removing left over food afterwards – get those cats on a schedule!
- Feed inside open traps if possible to get them used to this. Collect newspapers, trap covers, etc.
- Clean all equipment with bleach solution – 1 part bleach to 5 parts hot water is sufficient and should be done for all re-used equipment and trap covers after each use, but now may be a good time to catch up on cleaning!
- Use/borrow wildlife cameras to identify cats who may avoid all contact with you but come after you leave – take notes on what times different cats appear. (We have 3 of these available for loan)
- Make connections for rescue of friendly cats/kittens.
- And finally – use this time to get your records in order! Ask us for a paper version you can print out, digital word version or google sheets version for tracking colonies! Let us suggest ideal components to track your work and help you move your records to a consistent method. Please note that funding we can provide for your projects later this year will require this kind of tracking information, so use this time to find a method that works for you and is easy to maintain!
Recommend attending this webinar sponsored by Maddie’s Fund:
March 31, 2020, 3pm ET
This free 60-minute webinar is presented by Dr. Julie Levy, DVM, of the University of Florida Shelter Medicine Program and Aimee St. Arnaud, Director of National Veterinary Programs, Best Friends Animal Society and hosted by Maddie’s Fund, Hear the latest national guidance consensus on the role of spay/neuter during the Coronavirus pandemic and how programs are navigating these unprecedented times.
Hope to ‘see’ you there!
As always please don’t hesitate to ask if we can help you with any information, resources or suggestions. We are here for you and thank you as always for everything you do!
Project TNR Director