In the world of animal welfare, there are unsung heroes whose dedication and compassion shine brightly. One such champion for our feline friends is Alexandra, a remarkable individual who has taken it upon herself to lead the charge in a transformative Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program.
With unwavering love and commitment, she has embarked on a mission to better the lives of feral cats, recognizing the importance of addressing their challenges head-on. In this exclusive interview, we delve into Alexandra’s journey, her motivations, and the profound impact she has made on the lives of countless furry companions.
My name is Alex, and I’m living and working in Thailand for over 10 years now.
That was more by coincidence. I’m actually an animal lover since, basically when I can think, and when I moved into my new apartment, that apartment came with cats. They were not particularly well cared for, but no one minded them, so what I did is I stared feeding them. Most of them were already neutered, so I said “okay, that’s great.” I neutered the rest of them and took care of them.
Then I think about 2 or 3 years ago, I noticed in my soi, a lot of stray cats. So they were just popping up here and there, they didn’t look like they were in good shape, and they were all aggregating in one area. I thought “Okay, I’m feeding my cats, so let’s feed those guys too.” Started to feed them, started to get to know the environment, then I noticed it’s a huge problem.
So there were a lot of cats, and a lot of kittens, and they were not in a good shape. I don’t know where they came from, I think some kind people gave them some human food, but it was not a sustainable situation. What I started with was basically is, the ones that got friendly to me, I thought “okay, I’ll pick you up, I get you vaccinated, I get you neutered. And I return you.” That’s basically how it all started. My first cat’s name is Spotty. He’s still there, and he’s still very cute.
So I think in an environment like this, TNR is absolutely vital. You have to do it. Because unfortunately in Thailand, you don’t really have… I mean you have laws regarding ownership of cats and dogs, however, there’s no rules, no registry, no microchipping, so the problem is since also the climate is nice, and cats are finding food everywhere, and the trashcans, the rats, if you don’t control them, they explode.
And a female cat can start to get pregnant as young as 6 months old and they can have, within a year, I think 3-4 litters of cats. So you just do the math. So if you’re not controlling that, this gets out of control. Plus, it comes with a hell lot of suffering. Because those cats get pregnant, they have the baby, some die during delivery, some of the babies are dying. The male cats, if they’re not fixed, they’re fighting because they’re extremely territorial.
Of course, in a perfect world, we would want to catch them, adopt them, and find them nice homes, but that’s just not realistic. So I think TNR is the only way to control the population, which will benefit the cats, right? Because cats that are not having babies, male cats that are not fighting, are just healthier.
You just have a stable population that is not getting out of control, and at the same time, it’s also benefitting the environment around it, because something that I’ve been noticing, and by talking to other people, those cats are perceived as a huge nuisance, right? Because they’re there, they’re peeing there, pooping there, they’re crying, and people get annoyed.
People that are doing stupid, or even forbidden things to get rid of them, so I think if you control the situation with TNR, that’s the only way to get a handle on the street cat problem.
And I think what you should be doing on top of it, if you have the resources is adding vaccination. Because then, that prevents them from getting sick, and then if you go one step further, you need feeders to make sure that this particular colony is fed, then also seeing problems or issues with it. It’s a whole, it’s not only the TNR, the TNR is the core, basically the star, but then around it, in order to maintain a healthy environment for the cats and for the humans, you need more steps.
You need vaccinations. You need feeders. You need someone who has an eye on them. Like, that cat has a problem, or there’s a new unneutered cat, so that you can control them. It’s a big problem that has a solution that is not very easy or very clear cut.
It’s probably a misconception because I encounter, during my limited and small experience, is that people say “you feed them! They come here because of you” and I say “No, they were here before me, they were going through your rubbish, they were in bad shape, they had diseases, but they were here.
So what I’m doing is I’m making sure that they are here, but they are healthy, and that no more are coming in. Because I had people suggest that “I just want to kill them,” I mean, “oh god” right? Apart from the fact that this is illegal, that’s not solving your problem. Because there is something like the vacuum effect. Let’s say you remove all of them, yeah there would for a month or two, there would be less, but the food sources are still here. You still have the garbage cans, you still have the restaurants, new cats will come in. You will have this problem starting again, and again, you will have diseased cats, and cats that are sick, and cats that are not neutered. While the advantages you have with TNR, you have a stable colony. Because cats are territorial, there won’t be new cats coming in, well, there might be one or two, if they are accepted or not. But once the colony of even two cats are occupying a territory, that’s it.
It’s all about making room for them. In a way that is addressing their needs and also addressing the needs of other people around them. I think that’s the biggest thing. “You feed them, they’re just here because of you” that’s really not true. I mean, look around. They are there, they are everywhere, whether people are feeding them or not, but if you have responsible people feeding them and doing TNR, you have a healthy colony that’s not spreading any diseases, and that’s stable.
It’s not like, “oh it’s the crazy cat lady that runs around them.” There are rules to feeding, right? You don’t do free feeding. You don’t just dump a bunch of food. You just make sure you have the appropriate amount of food for the appropriate amount of cats, and that’s it. So that way no rats, no pigeons coming in to eat the leftovers, it’s a science in itself if you do it right.
So how I started trap and neutering, is basically me running around with a cat carrier and some cat food, and getting the friendly cats to go in there. So that’s how I started. That worked fine for a good amount of cats that trusted me, but then that’s not working okay for the ones that are more feral, that are not trusting, because you can’t get every cat to trust you.
Every cat is very different, so that’s what one personal challenge for me. I didn’t know that when I started because I just started because I wanted to help them, but then I ended up, I’m still ending up with the situation where I have half of the colony neutered and friendly, the other half is not neutered and not friendly. So how do we get those guys right?
When I started to reach out, mainly through Facebook to find likeminded people that’s been doing that for longer, have more experience, that can help me with how to do that. That’s why I’m working right now.
Because at some point, you need help. If the problem is too big, you as an single person, and as someone who has a basic understanding about it, but I’m not going anywhere near a feral cat, I tried it. I paid the price, I ended up in the hospital, and got bitten badly. It was not the cat’s fault, it’s my fault, because it’s almost never the animal’s fault. It’s almost always the humans, because you are not reading cues right.
That’s a big challenge if you start like me. “Oh, let’s see. Let’s help them” and then you see “Oh my god this is a huge problem, what am I doing now about it?”
The other problems is humans in general. Because not many people understand it. For them, cats are a nuisance, right? So when they see you feeding them, what I just said before, “Why are you doing that? They’re dirty.” Many people ask me, “why are you doing that? What are you getting out of it?” and I say, “nothing, I’m helping them and it makes me happy that they are happy, as happy as they can be in this situation.” It’s really those threats, some humans. Even though no one did this, but some humans say “I could kill them all” or then you got people throwing stones at them. I just want to go and yell at those people, but then you also need community engagement.
It’s really like, interacting with people around to make them understand what you’re doing here. We’re not trying to harm anyone, we’re just really trying to help the cats, in an extension to help the community.
Let me start with the challenging, because there are many heart breaking moments right? Because there are cats you can’t help, cats that you just find dead because they were run over by a car, there are threats from the outside, mainly from humans, there are, at the moment, I’m feeding my cats at a place where I’m not sure how long I can feed them there, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Some of my initial – I call them my group of 10, which are the ones I picked up and neutered. Two of them, Patty and Athena, they just disappeared at some point and you don’t know what’s happening. They never came back. That’s the heartbreak you need to deal with.
But then, you have moments, the best moments with Joe. He’s the Burmese and he looked awful. I have a picture of him before and after. He looked awful, we just thought he was going to die. But he didn’t. He made it, and he’s a stunning cat right now. He looks gorgeous, he has a new home and I am still in touch with his new dad and mom.
They occasionally send me pictures, and just today I got a text from them “hey, we’re going on vacation, do you mind babysitting Joe for a week or so”. So it’s those moments, that kind of make your day. All the other adoption stories right?
One of my cats just went to a lady down the road, she invites me over all the time. Just to see them being in a new home, that’s so worth it.
Again, that goes away from the TNR but that’s really. TNR is the center, But then you have kittens you can’t neuter them yet, you can’t return them yet, so what I’m trying is I’m trying to find them homes. Then you have the occasional sick cat like Joe, for example. You can’t put him back there. By the time he has recovered, he’s too used to people that you can’t put him back.
Or Teddy, another great story. He’s really cute. I picked him up as a kitten, he got hit by a car, he had a shattered pelvis and a fractured femur. So the doctor was saying I don’t know what to do, and I said okay, he’s a kitten, let’s see what we can do. So we got him an operation at Chula. It took him some time to recover but now he has a great family, and his mom just sent me a picture of him, and he’s really big now and really happy. That’s what makes it worth it to do.
My advice and I just got that advice yesterday, I’m trying to follow it. Get help. Reach out, and I didn’t know that, but I was just reading up on it, there’s something called Caregiver’s fatigue. It’s really like, you have great success, great rescues, and then you have days and weeks where you’re just like, why am I doing this? It’s neverending.
It’s really important to talk to people that do the same thing, maybe try to engage more in the community to get help. If I would’ve known it was getting that big, I would’ve done it earlier. Because I’m doing this for over two years now,
and I think I probably should’ve started reaching out earlier. It’s really tiring, especially if you’re doing it next to another job, if you’re doing it alone, again, I’m not doing it entirely alone, because I’m working with several vets now.
But the moment it gets bigger, and you really recognise how big the problem is, you need a network. You need to start on the network, which is what I’m trying to do right now.
My thing is just, respect those street cats. It’s not their fault that they are in this situation right? They did not choose this, they’re just trying to survive. I’m also understanding that not everyone can or wants to do what I’m doing, or others doing.
But I think one thing is that, at least don’t harm them, right? So thats the minimum. If you have an issue, just reach out. Private NGO’s or private organizations can try to help you. The same is for soi dogs right, even though we don’t have that problem in Bangkok, in this area as much, but it’s the same thing. Respect them. They are living beings.
Alexandra’s story serves as an inspiring testament to the power of compassion and individual initiative in the realm of animal welfare. Through her tireless efforts and unyielding dedication, she has not only changed the lives of feral cats but has also inspired others to take action and make a positive difference in the lives of animals.
Her role as a true animal hero highlights the transformative potential of a single person’s determination, and as we bear witness to her incredible impact, we are reminded that even in the face of challenges, love and compassion have the ability to create meaningful change. As Alexandra’s journey continues, let us all be inspired to follow in her footsteps and create a world where every furry companion receives the care and consideration they deserve.
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