Charity Spotlight: Alley Cat Allies

MainStreet is on a mission to find the charitable organizations most worthy of your donations. We focus on their effectiveness and the amount of money they budget for actual good deeds, as opposed to that which goes to overhead.

This week we're looking at Alley Cat Allies.

In a perfect world, no animal would be a stray and every cat would be safe and pampered in a warm, loving home. In reality, there are many feral cats that need someone to speak on their behalf. That’s where Alley Cat Allies comes in.

Who they are and what they do: Based in Bethesda, Md., Alley Cat Allies was founded in 1990 by two women who felt that stray and feral cats’ needs were not being met by the animal control pound and shelter system.

“We provide information, literature and videos to the millions of Americans caring for stray and feral cats,” says Elizabeth Parowski, communications manager for Alley Cat Allies. “We also advocate for government and public oversight of animal shelters and pounds, by pushing for mandatory record keeping and reporting of animal intake and disposition numbers.”

The group focuses on cats that would most likely be euthanized at a shelter. “Feral cats are members of the domestic cat species, but are not socialized to people, so are not candidates for adoption,” says Parowski. As an alternative, the organization has developed its trap-neuter-return program. Feral cats are humanely trapped by volunteers and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered, vaccinated and “ear-tipped” (their ears are clipped, which identifies them as part of an established colony). In addition to ending the breeding cycle, this process also eliminates negative behaviors such as howling and fighting, which are often exhibited by cats during mating season. After being neutered and vaccinated, the cats are then released into a managed colony, which usually involves some type of simple shelter and a regular feeding schedule.

One of the organization’s other recent initiatives is Campus Cats, a program for people helping cats who have made their home on or near college campuses.