I’m pretty certain Bob Dylan didn’t have “Return to Field” cats in mind when he wrote the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” but I find it fitting. It defines our effort to be influential in people’s views on society’s unowned cats. In this case, it’s the relatively new practice of putting cats back where they came from instead of euthanizing them, referred to as Return to Field (RTF).
Had someone told me 15 years ago there would be a day when I’d not only be supporting Return to Field but practicing it too, I’d have responded with some colorful remark. At that time my heels were firmly dug in opposing the practice. I was not about to put cats back out there to fend for themselves, and how dare you even consider it in Minnesota of all places! It was during one of those debates a colleague of mine gently pointed out that if living outdoors was so horrific and hard on cats, we wouldn’t have a cat overpopulation problem now, would we? Hmm. And the true outdoor cats being trapped to be brought in for euthanasia …. how were their body conditions? The true feral cats were very healthy.
I’ve always considered myself to be open-minded enough to at least look at the data. And there it was, showing not only was RTF a way to stop euthanizing cats, but it helped reduce the population of free-roaming unowned cats. … WHAT?? It was time to change my tune.
In summary, the song I sing today is all about getting those cats fixed and back where they belong. If they don’t meet the feral definition but can’t tolerate being a housecat, we refer to them as our working cats. It is similar in that we aren’t taking them in for euthanasia but putting them in a barn-type setting. One way you can help is to talk to people you know who might want a few of these barn cats (we recommend at least two). TCHS Animal Care Manager Rose Hegerle talks more about RTF here.
RTF and the barn cat programs aren’t just a fad; it’s actually in our strategic plan. Our new shelter has allowed us to develop this program, and it all traces back to you, the people who believe in and support the work we do for animals.
Thank you for helping us extend our reach out to more animals.
Vicki Davis, CAWA
TCHS Executive Director
(Vicki is pictured with “Leo,” a kitten who is definitely a lover, not a worker.)