Vox Felina’s Five-Year Anniversary

It’s difficult for me to believe now, but when I first created Vox Felina five years ago, I worried that I would one day run out of material to blog about. Today, 314 blog posts, 850 subscribers, 4,028 likes on Facebook, and 1,028 Twitter followers later, I can see my concerns were completely unwarranted. Which, of course, is a shame. Like just about everybody else involved in animal welfare, I would like very much to put myself out of business.

As I explained in my first blog post, I see the hijacking of science by TNR opponents as a significant barrier to developing sound public policy. I’ve spent a great deal of energy over the past five years trying to set the record straight, and remain committed to that mission. There is, as regular readers will surely recognize, much work to be done.

There’s also work to be done on the blog itself. Five years on, the layout is looking rather dated; a new look with additional functionality (e.g., responsive theme for easy reading on phones and tablets) is long overdue. And, maybe it’s time to allow comments on each post, too—something I’ve been reluctant to do from the start.

So, stay tuned—and thank you all for your ongoing support.

National Feral Cat Day 2014

National Feral Cat Day is just around the corner—October 16th. This year, celebrate in style with Feral Cat Mafia* gear!

Among the many items available from the Vox Felina shop are hoodies and long-sleeve t-shirts, perfect for fall! Better hurry if you want them in time for the big day, though, as expedited shipping is not available.

*Curious what prompted this idea? Check out my March 14, 2013 blog post.

10 Most Important Community Cat News Stories of 2013

It’s that time of year again—time to take stock of the year’s milestones. Check out Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2013, for example, or Fresh Air’s book, TV, movie, and music picks.

Not to be outdone, I’ve compiled a list of what I see as the year’s 10 most important community cat news stories—a number of which even the most avid readers may have missed. (Indeed, I’ve blogged about only a handful.)

Suffice it to say, others will disagree with my choices. In fact, I’d be very surprised if anybody agreed with the entire list.

That’s fine. Better than fine, actually—if it means my selections will spark a conversation, or even a debate. Maybe even inspire others to set to work on their own list for 2014.

Without further ado, then, my picks for the 10 most important community cat news stories of 2013… Read more

Tune in Sunday to Animal Wise Radio!

Tune in Sunday to Animal Wise Radio, when I’ll be on with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson discussing a recently published paper declaring that “predation by house cats is probably the largest human-related source of bird mortality in Canada.”

For schedule, a list of local stations, or to listen online, check out the Animal Wise Radio website.

National Feral Cat Day 2013

I had this year’s National Feral Cat Day post all worked out—which is to say, I’d given myself something like 24 hours to round up the various materials needed (the easy part), assemble what I think we can all agree is a brilliant prop (also easy), and then photograph my cats with the aforementioned prop (what was I thinking?).

As the photos below illustrate, the concept was rock-solid. It was the execution that suffered from (1) a rushed schedule, (2) poor-quality photography, and (3) a lack of assistants. Read more

When Feeding Community Cats Is Outlawed…

The timing could hardly have been better. Less than 12 hours after I uploaded the artwork for the latest Vox Felina gear, I learned that the Virginia Supreme Court had, just last Friday, decided in favor of caretaker Susan Mills, who’d been cited in 2011 for feeding community cats. As a story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch explained, the Court ruled that the zoning ordinance violation “is unenforceable because it was overly broad.”

While it remains unclear whether Henrico County will pursue the matter further (e.g., revising their zoning ordinance), the area’s community cat advocates are celebrating. Read more

In Search of Answers

Image courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

I suppose I was looking for a sign of some kind, lingering as I was at Angels Rest on Friday afternoon, the final day of All Staff Week. Just a glimpse of a bobcat, say, or, if that’s asking too much, then maybe one of the blue-black crows I sometimes see here could drop out of the sky onto the hand-wrought gates. Or even an “unexplainable” rush of activity from the hundreds of wind chimes that provide the meditative sound track to this magical place that made such a big impression on me five years ago.

If any such sign was present, I missed it entirely.

Perhaps I was simply lacking the cognitive bandwidth to recognize (never mind process) the paranormal after an intense week—my first as Best Friends’ cat initiatives analyst—of equal parts business and pleasure (the two being, more often than not, seamlessly integrated). I’d spent the previous four days meeting new colleagues, catching up with old friends—surrounded by some of the most welcoming, inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. At the same time, I was also made acutely aware of the numerous challenges that lie ahead.

As I say, it was a pretty intense week.

Still, I’d like to think I was present enough to have noticed if some mystical force had answered the most pressing question on my mind: Was this what I was put here* for?

I might still be there had I waited for the canyon to answer. But as it turns out, I already knew the answer. I just needed to slow down and listen—not to the wind chimes, but to that quiet but persistent voice inside. The same one that prompted me to write about the Great Kitty Rescue, and, two years later, to launch this blog. And, most recently, to join Best Friends.

Lucky for me, Angels Rest is the perfect setting for slowing down, for listening—for rediscovering what we’ve known all along. Is it any wonder I’m already looking forward to my next trip?

* I’m not terribly comfortable with the idea of being “put here,” but am, at the moment, unable to come up with an expression that better describes a natural alignment with one’s deep sense of purpose.

Meet Best Friends’ Cat Initiatives Analyst!


In the end, my decision to join Best Friends Animal Society (which became official last week) came down to that one factor: impact. As a member of their National Programs team, I’ll have the opportunity to improve the lives of stray, abandoned, and feral cats on a scale I could only dream of three years ago when I launched Vox Felina.

My position—Cat Initiatives Analyst—includes a broad range of responsibilities, but most of my attention will be focused on the intersection of science, policy, and communications. In other words, using the relevant science to strengthen Best Friends’ legislative and outreach efforts on behalf of the country’s community cats.

Clearly, this is a job made for the “feral cat nerd.”

And, in a way, it’s also the culmination of a journey that began with Best Friends. As regular readers will recall, it was my involvement five-and-a-half years ago with the Great Kitty Rescue that introduced me to feral cat management and TNR. And set in motion a series of events that led to the creation of this blog.

Speaking of which: What happens to Vox Felina now?

From our very first conversation about joining the team, the people at Best Friends have made it clear that they admire, and see a need for, what I’m doing with Vox Felina—and that they want me to continue that work. I, therefore, don’t envision any substantive changes at all.

As I say, it’s all about impact.

I’m incredibly excited to begin this next chapter, and enormously grateful to Best Friends for the opportunity. Grateful, too, for the community of Vox Felina supporters; without your encouragement and engagement, the opportunity may never have come my way.

Thank you.

May 2013
Phoenix, AZ

Vox Felina Turns Three

Given the events of this week, it seems almost inappropriate to celebrate the three-year anniversary of my modest little blog.

On the other hand, it seems like an excellent time to express my sincere gratitude to the many Vox Felina supporters. You make the long (often tedious) hours of work worthwhile, and—more important—are making a real difference for the stray, abandoned, and feral cats in your communities.

Thank you.


Animal Wise Radio (April 7)

If you missed this week’s Animal Wise Radio show, when I discussed the recent Ted Williams/Audubon incident—and how this fits into the ongoing TNR debate nationwide—with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson, you can check the complete show in podcast format). An MP3 file (9.6 MB) of our conversation (approximately 21 minutes) is available here.

As always, many thanks to Mike and Beth—and everybody else who helps pull the show together—for having me on!

Feral Cat Mafia T-shirts and Hoodies—Light Colors Now Available!

Well, it’s been quite a week—the response to the Feral Cat Mafia prints, t-shirts, hoodies, and totes has been overwhelmingly positive! And, as promised, the design is now available for black printing on light backgrounds.

To visit the online shop, click here.

Unfortunately, distinguishing the black version from the white one can be a little tricky. Once you select the particular product you’re interested in, double-check to make sure the product name reads The Feral Cat Mafia (BLACK printing on light background).

(Note: For art prints, either version will print black on white.)

As with the previous version, all proceeds will be donated to FixNation, one of the country’s most highly regarded TNR/low-cost spay/neuter clinics (upon whose board I proudly serve).

Your ongoing support is greatly appreciated!

Now Available—Feral Cat Mafia T-shirts!

After three blog posts and several comments to online news stories, I thought it was time for a lighter response to the absurdity of recent events. And so, inspired by the comments of the dismissed-then-reinstated editor-at-large for Audubon magazine, Ted Williams, made in the immediate aftermath of his inflammatory Orlando Sentinel op-ed, I’m pleased to introduce* a line of Feral Cat Mafia products.

In addition to t-shirts ($22 each, available only in dark colors for now), there are hoodies, tote bags, and art prints available. Other items will be added shortly.

All proceeds will be donated to FixNation, one of the country’s most highly regarded TNR/low-cost spay/neuter clinics (upon whose board I proudly serve).

* With much help from two colleagues, whose design and technical skills proved invaluable.

Animal Wise Radio (February 10)

If you missed this week’s Animal Wise Radio show, when I discussed the Smithsonian’s recently published “killer cat study” with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson, you can check the complete show in podcast format. An MP3 file (10.8 MB) of our conversation (approximately 22 minutes) is available here.

Tune in to Animal Wise Radio Tomorrow!

Tune in tomorrow to Animal Wise Radio, when I’ll be on with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson discussing the Smithsonian’s recently published “killer cat” study.

For schedule, a list of local stations, or to listen online, check out the Animal Wise Radio website.

Animal Wise Radio: 2012 Trap Liner Awards

Did you catch this week’s Animal Wise Radio show? Hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson had me on to discuss the 2012 Trap Liner Awards and my November 16 Q&A with Walter Lamb.

If you missed it, you can check the complete show in podcast format. An MP3 file (12 MB) of our conversation (approximately 25 minutes) is available here.

2012 Recap—Tomorrow on Animal Wise Radio

Tune in tomorrow to Animal Wise Radio, when I’ll be on with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson discussing the 2012 Trap Liner Award and other feral cat news items from last year.

As always, you can listen online—the show is live 12:00–2:00 CDT.

While you’re at it, please show your support by “Liking” their Facebook page (where you’ll read about, among other things, ongoing efforts by Animal Ark and Fix Minneapolis to reform Minneapolis Animal Care and Control).

2012 Trap Liner Award

“Like so many others of my tenure and temperament—stubborn ancients, I suppose—web reporting is anathema to everything I love about newspapering: getting a tip, developing leads, fleshing-out the details, then telling the story.”

“Now,” laments former Times-Picayune reporter Chris Rose in the August issue of the Oxford American (excerpted in the current issue of Utne), “it stops with the tip. Just verify (hopefully!) and post it. I didn’t write stories anymore; I ‘produced content.’”

Perhaps this emphasis on “web reporting” explains the largely pathetic coverage surrounding the free-roaming cat/TNR issue. There’s probably not even a tip in many cases, just a press release.

Whatever the cause, the effect (in addition to a misinformed public, misguided policy, etc.) is a very competitive field for the 2012 Trap Liner Award. Read more

Warm Holiday Wishes

Vox Felina Logo—Holiday Version

It’s that time of year again—time to overdo it. Buy too much, eat too much, and drink too much. But there’s no such thing as too much gratitude. So, please, be generous to your favorite feral cat/TNR non-profit organizations.

And speaking of gratitude—I’d like to use this opportunity to express my sincere thanks for your continued support of Vox Felina, and for all that each of you is doing for your community’s stray, abandoned, and feral cats.

Happy holidays!

The Outdoor Cat Conference: Wrap-Up

Putting on any conference is a tremendous undertaking. But the challenges involved in pulling together The Outdoor Cat: Science and Policy from a Global Perspective went far beyond the logistics of wrangling 20-some speakers and 150 or so attendees. For starters, there was deciding who should (and should not) be invited to present. (More on that shortly.) And then there’s the fact that, no matter what happens, you’re bound to be criticized.

There’s simply no way to get something like this completely right, no matter who’s in charge or how much planning goes into it.

And so, I give a lot of credit to the people involved—who knew all of this, and did it anyhow. Those I know of (and I’m sure to be leaving out many others, for which I apologize) include John Hadidian, Andrew Rowan, Nancy Peterson, Katie Lisnik, and Carol England from the Humane Society of the United States; and Aimee Gilbreath and Estelle Weber of FoundAnimals. Many of you told me, very modestly, that this conference was “a start.”

Fair enough, but it’s a very important one. Five or 10 years from now, we might look back and call it a milestone.

Here, then, are some snapshots of the various presentations (in the order in which the they were given). Read more

Back from the Outdoor Cat Conference

There was a great deal to think about on the long ride home from the Outdoor Cat conference earlier this week. I hope to post a brief overview of the event’s many excellent presentations in the next few days, but first need to offer an apology to Dr. Donald Burton, founder and executive director of the Ohio Wildlife Center.

In Tuesday’s Q&A session, I challenged some of the claims he’d made regarding rabies and toxoplasmosis during his presentation. And while I stand behind the facts I presented, I regret the tone I used—which was rather accusatory and preachy. Perhaps even condescending. I did not mean to suggest that Dr. Burton was deliberately trying to mislead the audience, only to point out that some of what he presented was, in fact, misleading.

I concluded my comments by suggesting that at a conference such as this, one expects better. I worry, in retrospect, that the same can be said of my contribution.