What is Uptown Cats and What Do We Do?

We work towards stabilizing our city’s feral and stray cat overpopulation crisis.
We do this by using the humane, nonlethal, and highly effective trap-neuter-return (TNR) method to prevent the unwanted birth of kittens among feral cat colonies, promoting TNR for widespread public use by offering the use of humane traps, and field TNR training for community members providing access to free spay/neuter surgeries rescue, treat, and sterilize abandoned, stray, and feral cats suffering from injury, disease, exposure, neglect, and inhumane treatment finding safe and nurturing homes for rescued cats

Less is more

Using a formula that works with information found in AVMA U.S Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, and the U.S. Census, it estimates that in 2000 there were some 815,000 feral and homeless cats struggling to survive on the streets of New York City’s five boroughs. This number continually increases partly because of the very efficient feline reproductive system, but also because of well-meaning people who feed stray cats but do not prevent them from reproducing which, in effect, only helps to increase the rate of reproduction.
As a countermeasure, Uptown Cats has developed comprehensive, community-wide TNR programs for residents to use where feral cats breed: neighborhood parking lots, gardens, schoolyards, empty lots, and alleys. Uptown Cats then provides rescued cats and kittens with shelter, food, veterinary care, and, ultimately, new homes.
With the help of a volunteer workforce and support network, and under ASPCA sponsorship, Uptown Cats has sterilized some 300 cats each year (25 cats a month) since December 2004. Of these 300 cats, about 200 cannot be domesticated many feral cats, for example. These cats are returned (the “return” of “trap-neuter-return”) to live out their lives in a “managed colony,” with food and especially made winter shelter monitored by an assigned caretaker who alerts Uptown Cats in the event of illness and newly abandoned and intact cats.
Uptown Cats finds new homes for the remaining 100 or so adoptable, domesticated cats, dozens with health complications for which we provide veterinary care, including viral testing, de-worming, vaccination, and treatment for fleas and ear mites. Some cats require extensive surgical treatments and medical care for a wide range of injuries and/or illnesses. Fully recovered cats are placed as pets in well-screened, responsible households, where they are given a second chance at life.


Uptown Cats receives dozens of telephone calls and emails daily reporting situations where a cat may have fallen out of a window and is seen motionless on the sidewalk, this is known as “high-rise syndrome” some are reported wandering around the streets, some are surrendered by their owners, some are pulled from hoarder homes, some were left behind in empty locked apartments after the owner/tenant moved away, and some cats are pulled out from behind walls because pregnant female cats sneak in during the night to nest at construction sites; work crew leave unfinished walls at the end of the day, then return next day to complete the unfinished wall where unbeknown to the work crew a cat has now made a nest for her newborn offspring.
Uptown Cats has rescued cats found in just about any situation imaginable… the number of possibilities are infinite and we average 100 adoptions yearly involving animals found in these types of situations. Then there are those cats with special needs requiring placement in a sanctuary, and some others are placed in the care of another organization that work in tandem with Uptown Cats. January 2009, the ASPCA upgraded our program by subsidizing the costs of sterilizing an additional 25 cats per month, doubling our capacity for the year.

Viewpoint and overview

It is the view of Uptown Cats that as a society, we have not yet come up with the right solution to the problem of cat overpopulation; we have not learned from our mistakes, and so we continually revert to failed methods.
An estimated 80 percent of pets “surrendered” to shelters by their owners about 5 million animals a year nationwide are killed. This is unacceptable. Unfortunately, there are not enough homes for this many animals, and for whose numbers grow every year. Clearly, this is not a problem we can euthanize or adopt our way out of.

A bit of history

Domesticated cats and people have coexisted for some 10,000 years. Over the course of that time, people have tried to solve the problems associated with abundant feline reproduction through mass killings and/or relocation of entire cat colonies. In the 14th century, cats were thought to be associated with Satan, and so a majority of the European cat population was killed. This led to the overpopulation of rodents, which in turn contributed to the outbreak of the bubonic plague, an epidemic that killed 150 million people one-third of the European population. Despite our best (or worst) efforts, feral cats continue to overpopulate today in ever-higher numbers. Those who still think that the mass killing of cats can control the feline population have 10,000 years of history working against them.

Our mission for the future

Our new objective is to establish Uptown Cats’ first low-cost spay/neuter clinic as a Community Animal Clinic, a fixed facility in upper Manhattan where we will provide:
shelter to our rescued cats and dogs
free and low-cost veterinary services and spay/neuter surgeries for low-income pet owners living in communities where feral cat overpopulation is most prevalent
free educational programs on pet care, nutrition, and wellness management (e.g., the importance of spaying and neutering, the seriousness and danger of viral animal diseases), animal-cruelty awareness and prevention, and “owner surrender” prevention programs
a TNR community-outreach program to include the training, TNR certification, and logistical support for community volunteers
a pet-adoption center where we can give our rescued animals new hopes and a new start.
With our newly established facility working at max-level capacity our success and achievements will at best be dwarfed by the reality and severity of the problem we’re facing in New York City. Individually, our facility’s best efforts will only be a drop in a bucket. The fact is that more needs to be done and additional facilities are needed to provide low-cost spay and neuter surgeries throughout all five boroughs of New York City because the need for this is greater than anyone has ever imagined.

Reality is a hard pill to swallow

At the Animal Care and Control of New York City (ACC) the yearly inflow of cats and dogs is greater than the number of adoption homes available to place all of the animals. In the year 2005 there were 41,548 unwanted cats and dogs processed through the ACC and of those only 10,743 found adoption homes, various animal welfare groups rescued 6,840 and 1,409 animals were sent back with their original owners who had a change of heart. Regrettably, the left over 22,556 cats and dogs were killed in 2005.

Take two pills and call me when you have the money

The majority of owner-surrendered cats and dogs that end up at the ACC are not spayed or neutered. To spay or neuter a pet in New York City can vary in costs from $300 at a no-frills clinic to $900 at a clinic where tea-cup Yorkshire Terriers inside Luis Vuitton bags fill the waiting room, an unaffordable expense for many low-income families with domesticated pets and the offspring of domesticated pets. As a result many are forced to abandon their pets because they can’t afford to have them spayed or neutered. Building more shelters will only churn out the same results at greater volume. Uptown Cats believes that it is possible to drastically reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs that are turned lose on the street or abandoned at the ACC, death row for animals.

Saving lives of thousands of animals is worth all the money saved

We are aiming for a more realistic and practical solution to save the lives of the many thousands of animals and millions of dollars for New York City. The concept employs the idea of offering 20,000 yearly low-cost spay or neuter surgeries to low-income pet owners subsidized at approximately $65 so low-income families will be able to keep their pets as an alternative to having the ACC absorb the cost of $200 it costs to feed, and care for each cat and dog regardless of weather they are adopted, or killed.
A large percentage of the tens of thousands of feral and stray cats on the streets eventually end up at the ACC. However with subsidized low-cost spay or neuter surgeries we intend to sterilize seventy percent of all feral/stray cats whereby new births equals attrition through TNR we can stabilize the cat population, lower euthanasia rates, minimize the rate of animal abandonment, and maintain an effective community rat-abatement program, and by mobilizing a workforce of TNR volunteers save the city money and improve public relations for the animal-control system.
We impart the following facts to illustrate how this concept functions as the only cost-effective choice available and proven to be the most humane methodology to work with. Thanks to a scientific study, commissioned by Animal Friendly NYC, a reputable political animal advocacy organization, was conducted for 2005 by statistician Dr. Alexander Kiss (a lecturer at the University of Toronto and Manager of Research Design and Biostatistics at Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Center) projects what effect 20,000 low-cost spay/neuter surgeries would have on the number of animals the New York City shelter admitted in one year and the results produced a very dramatic response in the first year:

Amassing Results

  • The intake number of animals is reduced by 42 percent from 41,548 (without surgeries) to 24,097 (with surgeries)
  • The shelter’s operational cost is reduced from 8,309,600 (without surgeries) to 4,819,568 (with surgeries)
  • The shelter’s operational cost is reduced from 8,309,600 (without surgeries) to 6,119,568 as the combined shelter operational costs and the cost of providing the subsidized surgeries.
  • The results created a reduction in tax-dollar spending by $2 million (covering both the costs of sheltering the animals and providing the low-cost subsidized surgeries)
  • The a low-cost clinic program results in having 17,500 lesser animals that needed to be adopted and this also hugely contributes to reduce Euthanasia

It is also expected that over the course of the next ten years, the number of cats and dogs processed through the NYC shelters system will decrease slowly from 41,548 animals to 19,660 in the tenth year, with the added benefit of having $18 million in tax dollars saved to still cover all costs related with the low-cost clinics and the costs of sheltering ll the cats and dogs, without a low-cost clinic program 34,000 animals will end up in the city shelter system at a cost of $75.5 million over the next ten years and this is just enough to cover the costs of sheltering the animals.
With the low-costs clinics Euthanasia is expected to decrease significantly. Currently, there are only 20,000 available adoption homes for all the cats and dogs taken in at city shelters every year. But when the number of animals taken in comes closer to the number of adoptive homes available, fewer animals will need to be euthanized.
To completely end animal abandonment, and maintain a well-managed animal population control system in New York City a total of 50,000 low-cost neuter surgeries a year for the next ten years is needed. Currently, there are only 17,000 to 19,300 low-cost spay/neuter programs in New York City. The low-cost clinic program is a win-win solution saving the city millions of dollars, and the lives of thousands of animals.

Information provided by the executive Director of New York City Animal Care and Control at an hearing before the Health Committee of the City Council, September 29 2005

For a profile of the program, see Animal Control Management, published by the International City/County Management Association. Washington, D.C., 2001. Audit Report on Shelter Conditions and Adoption Efforts of Animal Care and Control of New York City, City of New York, Office of the Comptroller. June 19, 2006.

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