Helping The Street Cat Initiative: Launching Better and Improved TNR Programs │ Neighborhood Cats

Helping The Street Cat Initiative: Launching Better and Improved TNR Programs │ Neighborhood Cats


Helping The Street Cat Initiative: Launching Better and Improved TNR Programs │ Neighborhood Cats

Neighborhood Cats is a non-profit organization that started more than two decades ago. They pushed through and promoted the TNR cat initiative and program.

According to Bryan Kortis, the National Program’s Director of Neighborhood Cats, they are involved in trapping cats, offering spaying/neutering, teaching workshops, and launching new and improved programs to help better the lives of street and free-roaming cats in the country and around the world!

Want to know more about what they did for the TNR movement? Continue reading!


What Is The TNR Program By Neighborhood Cats?

Helping The Street Cat Initiative: Launching Better and Improved TNR Programs │ Neighborhood Cats

TNR (Trap – neuter – return) is a somewhat controversial approach to managing and reducing the cat population in a certain community. It was a process that started as a grass root movement in the early 90s, with people trapping cat colonies that live in alleyways or their backyards.

It was hit with much controversy, mostly by government establishments and agencies that deem the approach rather cruel as it involves returning the cats to the streets.

According to Bryan,

“It was under an intense amount of criticism and opposition when it first came in the United States, and as a result, it developed underground.”

Over time, TNR became this large-scale street cat initiative program that can help improve the quality of life of free-roaming cats in various communities! Neighborhood Cats was crucial in ensuring TNR programs become more recognized and spread nationwide!

Like any other organization, the Neighborhood Cats also has a humble beginning. It started with Bryan and his neighbors wanting to help about 30 cats that lived in a lot near their homes. They helped the cats through the TNR process and assisted in getting them get adopted later on.

The story of their success spread from block to block, prompting them to continue and establish the organization. Eventually, they had their big break after becoming the lead agency in doing the TNR project in Rikers Island, the biggest jail in the US. They garnered national press with that.

“Word has gotten out that we had a successful approach.”


Help The Neighborhood Cats With Their Fight To Better the Lives Of Street Cats

Helping The Street Cat Initiative: Launching Better and Improved TNR Programs │ Neighborhood Cats

Neighborhood Cats continued to grow and are still seeing growth and improvement. For now, Bryan promotes themselves as:

“A group specializing in unknown, free-roaming cats and their management mostly through spay and neuter.”

They started in New York City and eventually branched out to Jersey City, New Jersey. They have made it internationally and are working on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

“With those hands-on programs, we do large-scale trap, neuter, return projects and support local trappers, clinics, and whatever we can do to get as many cats fixed as we can.”

Aside from conducting TNR programs, Neighborhood Cats also pride itself in educating and spreading awareness and knowledge about the TNR approach using various educational methods such as online workshops, books, and videos!

They aspire to help other people wanting to start up their organizations. Aside from catering to a local audience, the Neighborhood Cats is also working as a consultant on a research project in Australia and is helping out a group in Indonesia.


If you’re interested in TNR programs, check out Neighborhood Cats’ official website. Scroll down, and you’ll see the schedule of their upcoming workshops. You can also find them on the Virtual Education page of the Community Cats Podcast!

Have suggestions for who we should interview next?

Send us a message at [email protected]!

Bryan: Hi, Chris.

I’m Bryan Kortis and you are listening to The Animal Innovations Show.

Chris: Awesome introduction.

So Bryan, start us off. Tell us who you are and how you’re innovating and helping animals.

Bryan: Well, I’m the National Programs Director for Neighborhood Cats, and that’s a group that specializes in unknown free-roaming cats and their management mostly through spay, neuter.

And we have hands-on programs in New York City, in Jersey City, New Jersey, and here on the island of Maui, where I am now.

And with those hands-on programs, we do large-scale trap-neuter-return projects, supporting local trappers, supporting local clinics, whatever we can do to get as many cats fixed as we can.

And then we kind of take the knowledge that we learn from working directly with the cats and we turn that into educational materials.

We have online workshops, we publish, or I should say author books that are then published elsewhere.

And we kind of innovate programs as we see needs arising in the field.

So, kind of a small— a small organization, but I like to say small but mighty in that we try to have a positive influence on both the ground-level TNR and then the broader scale programs.

Chris: Bryan, for people that are not familiar with TNR, or I’ll call it the plight if you will, of free-roaming cats, maybe a little bit of perspective and numbers and help them understand why this is such a passionate area for you?

Bryan: In the United States, there are millions, we don’t know exactly the number, but we do know there are at least in the millions of unowned free-roaming cats.

So feral cats, stray cats that may be used to be in a home, and they are living independent of your traditional pet kind of lifestyle. They live outdoors for the most part. They depend on the kindness of people to feed them and provide them with shelter in the winter.

A lot of them are not habituated, are not socialized, so, they keep a distance from most people. And without proper management, if they’re not fed regularly and brought to a veterinarian for spay-and-neuter and things like that, they can have very difficult lives.

Most of our followers is an animal welfare motivation.

We want these cats to live good lives, as they can, and we want to stop their reproduction.

But there is the public health, the nuisance, and the conservation issues as well. That all kind of roll up into why this is an important area.

Chris: It sounds like certainly, you were doing the hands-on TNR work, but when did you have that epiphany that says, “You know what, we can have an even bigger impact,”

“if we focus on the training, we focus on the online.” It’s a totally different approach than doing the hands-on stuff yourself.

Bryan: Well, it happened at first from necessity.

So, we’re in New York City and word has gotten out that we have the successful approach, and we helped with that.

We approached like, the Animal Control Agency, the city shelters, and the ASPCA that’s headquartered in New York cities, and we told them about our work and we got them interested.

I think the big break was when we became the lead agency to do a TNR project on Rikers Island, which is the largest jail in the country.

And that was about 2002, and they had about 300 cats spread among eleven different jails. And it had been a problem there for years and years.

And we went on and did this TNR project and it got a tremendous amount of press people all over the city. It actually got national press.

So, we just started getting deluged with we want to do that too. And there were three of us with maybe a couple of other volunteers. So, we had to think about how do we capture this momentum.

How do we build a TNR movement without having to personally run around and trap every single cat in New York City?

So, that’s where the idea of having a workshop, the very first one that we held, there were about five or six new nonprofits that grew out of that.

Trap-Neuter-Return in this country started as a very grassroots movement. It was a few people trapping colonies in their alleyways or behind their houses, and that was in the early 1990s.

That’s where it was introduced on a larger scale by Alley Cat Allies, which is a nonprofit based in Washington DC., that area.

And it was just totally opposed when it was first introduced by all the major interest groups. So, the—you know, your traditional humane societies, both the national and the local ones, considered this to be a form of, like, abandonment.

That it was poor animal welfare to be putting these cats back on the street, that they were better off dead than living outdoors, that euthanasia was actually a more humane approach was the dominant thinking.

Our role at Neighborhood Cats was—we came along maybe seven, eight, nine years later when we were looking more on a national level and we saw that TNR doesn’t become mainstream, it’s hit a ceiling.

There’s only so far it’s going to go if it’s only individuals doing it in isolation. And the government and all the interest groups are against it.

There has to be mainstream acceptance if we’re really going to solve this problem.

Chris: Very cool.

Any idea what the future looks like? What’s the focus for Neighborhood Cats going to be?

Bryan: We’re consultants on a research project in Australia where TNR is actually illegal everywhere. The research project we’re working on has government permits to do TNR, so that’s being done in a real careful way and measuring it against intake into local shelters and various other metrics.

We’ve also started working with a group in Indonesia which where they don’t have legal obstacles, they more have resource barriers.

But we’ve been training them to target if you do the work efficiently, if you understand the policy, you understand the importance of high sterilization levels within areas and groups.

Whatever resources you have, you can do good with it, you can make progress with it, and it’s just the more resources you have, the faster your progress will be.

Chris: So, Bryan, if people want to learn more, what’s your website?

I know you mentioned the online webinars that you guys do on pretty much a regular monthly basis with Community Cats Podcasts, but where can people go to learn more?

Bryan: They can go to the Neighborhood Cats homepage, and at the bottom you’ll see a list of upcoming workshops and dates and times and links to register, and you can learn more and register through there as well.

And we hold them on the first Saturday of every month.

Chris: Awesome.

Well, Bryan, thank you so much for coming on.Thank you for explaining and taking the time to give people that perspective.

And as I wrap things up, I always love to say that innovation comes from all of us. And so, maybe you’re watching or listening, and as Bryan’s talking about the innovative things they’re doing, maybe you have an idea for something that will help animals or the people that love them.

We’d love to know about it. So open your browser and go to INNOVATIONS.SHOW and we’d love to have you on the show.

And we can always use more Doobert volunteers, Dooberteers, so you can sign up for free at DOOBERT.COM.

You could be a transporter, a foster, photographer. Even if you buy your pet food through Doobert, we’ll donate 5% of your order to the rescue or shelter that you choose.

So, check it out at DOOBERT.COM. Bryan, thank you again for coming on. I really enjoyed the conversation and I really appreciate everything you’re doing.

Bryan: Thank you, Chris, and thanks for your leadership in this field as well.

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