Friday, June 1, 2018

Catnip Nation's June Report - What's Happening With the Cats at Google?

In March I brought you the sixth installment in a series of posts by Tina Traster, Producer and Director of the documentary film Catnip Nation. This month Tina tackles a New York Times article that is emotional for cat rescuers, advocates and lovers. Google's employee run group GCat Rescue, which does wonderful things for feral cats, has been getting pushback from an environmental group. The link to the story is here. Read Tina's response below and tell us your thoughts in the comments. This may strike up differing opinions amongst our readers, but if a colony of cats could be in danger we need to let the world know. 



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Dawn  


It’s official! The phrase “TNR – trap, neuter, return” – has made it to the front page of The New York Times. Can we finally have a national conversation about an issue that is playing out in every corner of the country?

But before I get ahead of my skis, let’s put the reportage in context. There’s no doubt the Times was attracted to this story because it involves the company Goggle, in Silicon Valley, adorable but endangered owls, and cats, not so adorable in this context. The story, in fact, was written by a technology reporter, who no doubt stumbled on this issue because he covers Silicon Valley.

To summarize, Google has an employee group called GCAT Rescue, which traps and neuters cats around the Googleplex. Kittens and friendly adults are put up for adoption, the “ferals” are returned. There are food stations in these well-managed colonies. It’s safe to say that a national newspaper like The Times would not cover the “unremarkable” story of GCAT's wonderful work but for the suspicion that their charges are the culprits for owl deaths.

According to the story, reported on May 26th, environmentalists say cats are killing owls. The story includes one anecdote of a dead owl found “shortly after a feral cat was seen stalking it.” Later in the story, it also mentions that a neighboring golf course may be the reason many burrowing owls are being killed. Hmm. The article also says fewer owl fledglings have been seen in recent years.

Naturally, conservation groups, speak up loudly in the article, claiming the cats in well-managed colonies still hunt. They debunk plenty of anecdotal evidence that TNR is an effective management system for ferals. As we in the cat world know, the “bird” groups are powerful, organized and well-funded. They’ve honed their message.

GCAT, which has less than a dozen members, refused to be interviewed – which is unfortunate because it seems as though they’re hiding while the other side airs its grievances.


Courtesy GCat Rescue


So let’s circle back to the importance of this article running in the NYTimes, and why I believe it falls short. The reporter, David Streitfeld, writes about technology. In fact he’s a Pulitzer Prize winner for “explanatory reporting” on technology and its impacts. But the reporter has come up short in his attempt to lay out this issue. First, it’s so easy for the “bird” folks to rail against TNR, to criticize it, and to make claims about bird deaths, often without true stats. What they never say, unless pressed, is that they’d be only too happy to have ferals rounded up and “taken away”.  But taken away to where? There is nowhere, other than to their death. There’s no in-between solution, sadly. There may be a sanctuary here or there, but we do not have wholesale solution for this problem in this nation. TNR is the best band-aid we have. If I’d been reporting out this story, I would have spoken to an organization that understands TNR – that’s the least a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter could have done. TNR is explained as a practice in the article, but the debate in this piece is a one-sided argument from the bird groups. This happens all too often because the birders have a well-honed script. But they are careful not to mention killing cats because they know only too well that in the year 2018, there is no consensus for that.

Still, I’m going to take heart in the fact that TNR is mentioned on Page 1, and I’m going to hope that the article is passed around, and that enough people send an email to Google to make sure that they do NOT implement a policy to stop feeding the cats. Doing so would be nothing short of cruel and inhumane. Ferals become dependent when they’ve been fed for a period of time, and GCAT, according to the story, has adopted out nearly 150 cats.

Send an email to Google. Tell them they need to continue their model TNR program and stand behind the employees who support the colony. And while you’re at it, send an email to Facebook, which, according to this article, “stopped allowing cat feeding several years ago.”

Please weigh in. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. 



Tina Traster is a socially-conscious, award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker. Her 30-minute documentary, This House Matters, is an examination on historic preservation in the Hudson Valley. The film has screened at the YoFi Film Festival, the Kingston Film Festival, the Hoboken International Film Festival, and the Nyack Film Festival. Traster's work has appeared in scores of newspapers, magazines and literary journals including The New York Times, The New York Post, Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, Redbook, Family Circle, Parade, Time Out New York, Audubon, Ski Magazine and many others. She is the author of the award-winning memoir Rescuing Julia Twice: A Mother's Tale of Russian Adoption and Overcoming Reactive Attachment Disorder. Since 2006, Traster has written the "Burb  Appeal" column for The New York Post. 





16 comments:

  1. Nice blog !!!
    Thanks for sharing such an interesting blog.

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  2. This is so frustrating! I wish someone in the TNR camp had spoken up, at least anonymously, about the truth when it comes to this issue. My human is really beginning to dislike these bird groups - okay, she already loathes them because they are all about killing cats, and not so much about digging out the truths about bird conservation.

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  3. L & L....

    :(

    we wish we could re call de article that stated the multee tood oh cauzez oh burd death....PROVEN....we wish we could re call de article bout de town that got rid oh everee cat in existence; onlee ta bee overcome with ratz....TROOTH ~~~~~~~

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  4. We will try to contact Google and ask them to continue the good work. That Streitfeld dude is a real butt when it comes to cats. Great post!

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  5. The silence from the Google people created a big hole in the storyline, and it's probably true that the cats are killing the owls. Perhaps there is some cat fencing that can be put up, to keep the ferals away, or move the feeding stations to other locations. Both the cats and the owls can be saved, with some teamwork and the willingness to think outside of the box on this issue. 'Removing' cats doesn't work, because more will just fill in their place, as we ALL KNOW. Time for both sides to stop pointing fingers, and put their heads together, imho.

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  6. TNR does work and we hope Google continues what they are doing.

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  7. I get so frustrated with irresponsible and mis-informed journalism. It DOES make a difference - and the cats suffer!

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  8. It's a shame no one from Google was willing to talk, but it IS wonderful that they're doing the TNR work in the first place! I'm definitely going to read more about this. Thank you for sharing this!

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  9. Why didn't Google speak up. Killing owl total horseshit (sorry but it's true). Really, these people need to get a grip. We have turds who are 'environmentalists' here and they are a waste of the earth's good air.

    Misinformed?? YOU BET. I do 'explanatory reporting' and I may never win a Pulitzer prize but I get my fact right before I publish.

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  10. I think owls kill cats when they can so why should they be protected and not the other way around. Poor cats always get blamed for everything.

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  11. Thanks for getting the word out, I wonder why they didn't mention that owls eat cats (at least young kittens).

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  12. I didn't read the article. I wanted to read the comments first so I would know if I was going to shoot the computer after reading the article. It appears I would have wanted to! I am VERY involved emotionally NOT in favor of these bird groups. They make me past angry.

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  13. This is so upsetting. I sure hope the Google folks step up, and continue their good work. Why would a NYT technology reporter even write this article, anyway? Why not one of their science writers???

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  14. Thank you for this article, Lola. They always want to blame us, instead to see the truth about bird killings in general. We all have to stick our paws together in this matter and make the change, or at least an eyeopener to the world! Good Luck Pawkisses to everyone who stand up for the rights of an animal πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—

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  15. I loved every word and every picture! It is a goal to be able to finally get to a Cat Cafe. I will next time I go to Charlotte. They have a fairly new one. Opened last year I believe. I am happy to pay the fee. Its always worth it to the cats and those who maintain them for us all. Someone once said they could stay home and pet their own for free. BUT there has to be something very special about going to a Cat Cafe doing such wonderful work for the cats in general. So..I'll pet Katie Isabella and go pet some others too one day. :-) And thank you so much for coming by Katie's blog when she wrote of her favorite brother. XX

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