For over five years, photographers Elizabeth and JasonPutsché have been capturing an intimate look at the real lives of feral cats within a community that practices a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program of animal control. According to Community Cats Maryland, there are believed to be about 185,000 feral cats living within the City of Baltimore.
“Also referred to as community cats, alley cats, street cats, stray cats—controversy surrounds them, headlines vilify them, and scientists scrutinize them, yet millions of people feed, care, and advocate for them,” according to the photographers’ press release. “Because they aren’t adoptable they have the highest kill rates in animal shelters, and though talked about and debated regularly, [feral cats] are rarely seen.”
“We have found that cats live everywhere—suburban, urban, rural,” Elizabeth Putsché, who is the founder and executive director of Photographers for Animals, the nonprofit organization that works on behalf of feral cats, told The Atlantic City Lab. “They are amazing at adapting to their surroundings.”
The photographer was an advocate for implementing Baltimore’s TNR policy towards feral cats. In a TNR program, feral cats are trapped, neutered or spayed, vaccinated, sometimes de-wormed, often ear-tipped and then returned to where they were first trapped. The practice, according to The Atlantic City Lab, is endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States as well as the ASPCA.
The community SPCA has noticed a reduction in shelter euthanasia rates since the TNR program began. Ashley Sheridan, of the MDSPCA, believes that the feral cat TNR program is also helping reduce the feral cat population.
“It isn’t that TNR is not controlling the feral cat population, it is that those numbers are difficult to quantify or find verifiable evidence for. Anecdotally, yes TNR programs are helping with the feral cat population,” Ashley said in an interview last year.
“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,” Elizabeth Putsche explained.
Feral cats are not socialized and are not adoptable. Because of this, according to One Green Planet, which featured an article about the feline loving photographers, feral cats have the highest kill rates in community animal shelters, but according to the photographers, they are rarely actually seen and often understood. The photographers from Baltimore are changing that. Their photographs, which are available on their website, capture actual feral cats within the Baltimore area and across the country.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about community cats,” Putsche said. “We want people to see [feral cats] as they truly are—independent, healthy, loved, and thriving outdoors.”
The Putsché pair hopes that through their photo documentation they will spread awareness about the true lives of feral cats and feral cat TNR programs which are designed to keep feline colonies stable and healthy.
[Photo via JasonPutsché Photography]