Meet Bryan Kortis, the National Programs Director at Neighborhood Cats

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Q1: Please Introduce Yourself to Our Community

Hi! I’m Bryan Kortis, the National Programs Director here at Neighborhood Cats and one of the co-founders. We work almost exclusively with feral and stray cats and the people who feed them, primarily using the approach known as Trap-Neuter-Return or TNR. Basically our goal is to spay and neuter the cats who are living outdoors and are too wild to be adopted, and try to have them cared for as well as possible. We have hands-on programs in New York City, parts of New Jersey and on the island of Maui in Hawaii. We do everything from trapping, training caretakers, providing winter shelters, arranging veterinary care and whatever else is needed. On a more global level, we have created many of the leading educational materials in the animal welfare field about TNR. We also design feral cat specific equipment, consult with communities on large-scale TNR projects, administer a free colony tracking database and host a website popular among TNR practitioners.

Q2: Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind Neighborhood Cats ?

It all started back in 1999 when I was walking past an empty lot near my apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I spotted some kittens running around and, after a little investigation, learned there were dozens of feral cats living in the courtyards of that block. I called around looking for help for them, but there were no services available for ferals. Myself and a couple of neighbors started trapping the cats and bringing them to private vets for spay/neuter, plus adopting out the kittens. Within a year, the situation was totally under control. Word spread quickly and others wanted us to do the same for their outdoor cats, or learn to do it themselves. We started teaching workshops and doing TNR projects for city agencies. There was such a tremendous need in NYC and all over the country that are work just kept growing – to this very day, our reach continues to spread.

Q3: How does the day to day look like at Neighborhood Cats?

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While we’ve had a big impact, Neighborhood Cats is actually a relatively small organization with five full-time staff members and a lot of volunteers. Given our size and the breadth of work we do, the one thing I can say for sure is every day is different. A day for myself might include driving a cat home who was fixed the day before at Maui Humane Society and releasing him. Then working on our website, editing a chapter in a book, commenting on the design of a new piece of equipment with the manufacturer, drafting a fundraising email and then, as night falls, going out trapping. Never a dull moment! It’s like that really for all of us here. Everyone is very committed to our mission.

Q4: What do you like most about working at Neighborhood Cats?

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There are two parts of the work I especially love. One is how creative it can be. Having been there early on in the TNR movement, it is just amazing to see the progress that’s been made and how more and more shelters and communities are practicing it. What used to be something fringe is now almost normal. It’s like watching a dream come true while being part of making it happen. The other aspect I love are the cats themselves. They’re all such individuals, even if some don’t particularly want you near them, they just exude personality. It’s really gratifying to be able to help them.

Q5: What does the future hold for Neighborhood Cats?

We’ve co-authored a book on Return to Field – a program where feral cats are fixed and released by shelters instead of euthanized – and that will be coming out soon. A couple of new pieces of equipment we designed to help trappers are launching from Tomahawk Live Trap. A very exciting upcoming project will be a very large-scale TNR research project in Australia which we will be partners on. There’s also our work spreading TNR in Hawaii, traditionally a tough place for feral cats. So the future continues to look very busy!

Q6: How Can We Help Neighborhood Cats

If someone would like to support our organization directly, donations are the best way to do that. Like most animal welfare nonprofits, we rely on the public to fund our work. Monthly gifts are especially helpful and we have many $5/month donors. Just go to www.neighborhoodcats.org and click on the Donate button. Another way to support us is by designating Neighborhood Cats as your chosen charity at smile.amazon.com.  That way, a percentage of all your Amazon purchases is donated to us. If someone wants to help by helping the cats and you live in the New York City area, we hold regular training workshops. Attendance provides you with free spay/neuter services, free trap rentals, expert volunteers and more.  For upcoming workshops, go to: https://www.neighborhoodcats.org/tnr-in-nyc/workshops  If you’re working with cats in Livingston, NJ, or Maui, Hawaii, give us a call if you need hands-on assistance. Elsewhere in the country, visit our website and check out the instructional videos and books under How to TNR and Resources, and feel free to contact us with questions.  We also offer consulting services for large-scale TNR programs.  Most of all, if you see a cat in need and decide to feed them, that’s a great thing, but make sure to get them fixed, too!

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