Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
Jason and Elizabeth Putsché want to change the way we see feral and stray cats, or “community cats,” as some prefer to call them.
“These cats are all very healthy, they’re cared for, and they’re cared about,” Elizabeth explained. “Just because a cat lives in a warehouse doesn’t mean that she’s ‘ugly’ or ‘gross.’”
The Putschés have photographed more than 15,000 community cats with their nonprofit organization Photographers for Animals. They hope that revealing the cats in their natural environment will help dispel some of the myths about them.
“It’s so easy to be ignorant and negligent when you don’t see something,” Jason explained. “It’s easy to say, ‘They’re dirty, let’s just round ’em up.’”
Elizabeth emphasized that the attractive cats they photograph are not “isolated incidences,” but the norm.
“The cats find the resources they need regardless,” she said. “They’re so self-sufficient.”
A large part of the Putschés’ advocacy for community cats is the belief that, while populations should be humanely controlled through trap-neuter-return programs, the cats should be allowed to continue living independently.
Urging lawmakers to implement affordable and effective TNR programs in cities across America, while also preserving the integrity of community cat colonies, is a driving force behind Jason and Elizabeth’s upcoming documentary.
“We tend to project our feelings toward our own cats onto community cats,” Elizabeth said. “We say, ‘That cat needs to be in my house, in my lap, eating expensive food,’ because we associate that with our cats. But your cat is in a totally different situation. If (a cat) has never been touched by people, obviously he’s where he needs to be.”
Another oft-misunderstood part is community cat caregivers.
“We’re trying to show a more accurate portrayal of the people who are caring for community cats. There’s a very distinct stereotype of who people think that person is,” Elizabeth laughed, “which we haven’t found to be accurate.”
“In truth, community cats avoid people,” Elizabeth added. “When they do present themselves, they’re sick, and that’s why you’re seeing them. So that can be people’s only experience with community cats, when [the cats] need help.”
Whether community cats are in plain sight or not, Jason and Elizabeth Putsché want them to be seen.