Tarra hadn’t been involved with TNR or cat rescue for cats living outdoors ever before, but knew she had to do something for all the cats she saw living outdoors on the street she’d moved to. Once she “stumbled on” the Homeless Cat Management Team on Facebook she not only took care of her own neighborhood but began helping others and even helped to found the organization that became Pittsburgh C.A.T. runs the Facebook page and facilitates adoptions for it.
In autumn 2013 Tarra sent a message to the HCMT Facebook page asking what she could do about the feral cats in her new neighborhood. A volunteer visited and showed her how to trap and along with some help from a neighbor, who has since become a volunteer, ended up trapping 30 cats for TNR.
In the process she discovered that some of the cats weren’t really feral but were frightened and calmed down with care and affection, or they were already pretty friendly. She began fostering them and learning more about care for ill cats and kittens because many rescues are ill, injured or neglected when they are taken in. She also learned about socialization for cats who had little or no experience with humans which she found she’s pretty good at, and enjoys when cats and kittens lose their fear and learn to trust, and can go on to an adoptive home instead of being returned to their place outside.
Initially she fostered heavily, over 30 cats in 2014, but living in an apartment with limited space has prevented her from fostering much so far in 2015. Instead she volunteers at HCMT clinics, helps teach others how to trap cats for TNR and traps cats herself where needed, transports to and from clinics, among foster homes and to and from the shelters the rescue works with. Because she transports she is often an overnight stay for cats on their way from one place to another, providing care from bottle feeding abandoned neonatal kittens to medications for a URI or other conditions. And although she trapped those initial 30 cats and has since then TNRd more, the Brookline neighborhood where Tarra lives still has a huge number of cats around, so “the work never ends” and she’s likely trapped over 50 by now.
Along with other rescuers who had trapped and rescued adoptable cats, she sought adoptive homes through other rescues or on her own through social networking. The mission of HCMT around which most of our rescuers are centered is only to provide TNR and low cost veterinary care to homeless or rescued cats, not to find adoptive homes. But in time there were so many adoptive kittens and cats that, along with two other volunteers, she helped to plan out the organization that became Pittsburgh C.A.T., an organization with a “mission centered around fostering and adopting out cats”, including a comprehensive adoption application and home and veterinary checks by volunteers in the organization. Tarra runs the Pittsburgh C.A.T. Facebook page and facilitates the adoptions. So far in the six months or so that the organization has been networking to find homes for cats over 100 cats and kittens have found good and loving homes, and the volunteers are always available to adopters if any problems or questions arise, or if someone wants to adopt again.
Tarra has always loved cats but was actually very allergic to them. When her college roommate adopted a cat she decided to use that as an opportunity to try to build up a tolerance to the dander, which was successful so she fostered a few rescues for the Wood County Humane Society in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Tarra’s day job does not involve animals at all—she is a science teacher and as she says, “I clearly have a passion for helping animals AND people!”
Right now Tarra has six cats, “which is more than I ever would think is ‘normal’ but after doing what I do, it is quite normal!” Her husband “is wonderful” and helps her transport, trap, scoop the boxes, clean, etc. Even her 10-year-old step-son loves to help transport and trap also!
It’s understood that rescued cats are often ill or injured and may not survive even after rescue, but even with that it’s hard to get over some cats you’ve cared for, however briefly.
“I recently rescued a cat from a situation where I was lied to about where the cat came from. The cat was an adult weighing only 2.5 pounds. At first, it was assumed he was neglected. It was a very exhausting couple of weeks and I kept praying that he would pull through. Unfortunately, it was discovered that he most likely had FIP and he had to be put to sleep. I rushed to the clinic after work to hold him while he fell asleep. I will never get his little face out of my mind. It was a situation where I was thankful that he didn't have to suffer anymore but extremely heartbroken that he couldn't pull through and live a happy life.”
The work goes on, and in the past month alone Tarra has volunteered at HCMT during a high-volume spay and neuter clinic, transported cats, facilitated adoptions, run the Pittsburgh C.A.T Facebook page, and found fosters for cats. She has taken cats from bad situations and worked with Western PA Humane Society to get them homes.