Find out who we are, what we do, and what we can help you do for yourself. We consider ourselves passionate pragmatists...
SIFI is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit, no-kill, all volunteer organization providing TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) education, equipment, and support primarily to the SI community, but available to animal advocates throughout NYC and beyond. Our organization was inspired by the working model of Neighborhood Cats, also a private non-profit organization.NC's mission is also to solve the free-roaming (stray and feral) cat overpopulation crisis in New York City through the humane, non-lethal method of TNR.
SIFI's husband and wife founders moved to SI in 2007, only to find themselves on a street with far too many unfixed cats. After speaking with neighbors, they realized that something needed to be done to improve the situation. They undertook the fixing, vaccinating, and ongoing care of every cat on the street...and then decided that every citizen willing to do their part should have a helping hand in the process. The Staten Island Feral Initiative, also known affectionately by their volunteers as "SIFI," was founded in July of 2008 to provide much-needed information, training, and tools to SI residents caring for or working with feral and stray cats in their own community.
SIFI's founders are now living on a street which has seen NO kittens since the spring of 2008!
Through the empowerment of citizens to control the growth of colonies in their area, we are working to end the cycle of free-roaming cat reproduction, creating a better existence for both humans and cats on the island, and also reducing the flow of cats and kittens into CACC shelters. We provide information to the general public and host regularly scheduled TNR-training workshops on Staten Island. This course is authored by Neighborhood Cats, NY's foremost expert on all things feral (click here for more info). For all those who complete this 3.5 hour workshop, we also provide free equipment loan, access to free and low-cost Spay and neuter services, expert guidance, hands-on assistance (when possible) to those unable to physically participate in the process themselves, and ongoing long-term support to all workshop graduates and colony caretakers on Staten Island.
The Problem: Too Many Cats Living on the Streets
Tens of thousands of street cats live in the alleyways, backyards, and outdoor spaces of New York City. They are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats and, unneutered, they go on to spawn new generations. These cats often group themselves together in packs known as "colonies." Many of their nuisance behaviors can be attributed to instinctual behaviors that would likely cease if they were sterilized. These behaviors include noise from fighting and mating, the perpetual birthing of kittens, and the smell from the spraying of pheromone-laced urine.
Because the majority of these cats are not socialized to humans, they are not candidates for adoption. The breeding of these street cats not only creates a neighborhood crisis, it also results in more cats and kittens entering the shelters — taking away cage space (for the ferals) and homes (for the friendly cats) that would otherwise go to the cats and kittens already there, awaiting adoption. Most feral cats and kittens taken in at city shelters are killed because they are not adoptable as house pets. Beside the humane cost of needless killing, the city must shoulder higher costs for municipal animal control.
The Solution: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)
Throughout New York City, TNR is proving effective in humanely managing feral cat colonies and reducing their numbers over time. TNR is a two-step approach to feral cat overpopulation:
Stray and feral (unsocialized) cats are humanely trapped, evaluated, spayed or neutered (sterilized) by a veterinarian, given a rabies vaccination, left eartipped for identification, and then returned to the familiar habitat of their original colony. Tame (friendly or socialized to humans) cats and kittens young enough to be socialized are ideally removed for adoptive placement in permanent indoor homes.
Colony caretakers (individuals and volunteers just like you) provide ongoing care of the cats, including daily food, water, and clean-up of the area, shelter, and monitoring of the cats' health. This ongoing surveillance ensures that any new cats that find their way into the colony will be removed if they are tame, or TNR'ed (Rabies vaccinated, left eartipped, and sterilized, then returned to the colony) if they are feral. This allows the number of cats in the colony to diminish over time through natural attrition, as cats get old and die from natural causes.
Testimony from SIFI's Director, in her own words, about the origins of SI's first and (so far) only TNR-focused org:
"In 2007 my husband and I bought a house on Staten Island that came with a neighborhood full of un-neutered cats. There were nightly rounds of howling and yowling; soon accompanied by mating calls. The situation needed to be addressed; both for the sake of our sleep and sanity, and to avoid the inevitable conclusion: kittens.
When people see a cat on the street, their first impulse is usually one of three approaches; rescue, remove, or feed. We knew these were not adoptable cats, and we didn’t mind them being there…but we knew that we would be feeding them, and where that would get us if we didn’t do more than just that.
We had never heard the term “TNR.” But we did the only thing that made sense; we stepped up. We did some research, discovered Neighborhood Cats, and attended a TNR-training course. One month later we had fixed 19 cats and placed 8. Through attrition, the outside cat count has dwindled from 19 to 8. And keep in mind that our success should be measured not by contrasting 8 to 19, but by contrasting 8 to what the count would have been had those 19 cats, (and their kids and grandkids and third cousins by marriage twice removed) been reproducing for the past 5 years.
We are living proof that TNR does work. As mentioned above (but it bears repeating) we are now living on a street which has seen NO KITTENS since the spring of 2008
Our efforts were so clearly and immediately successful that we were inspired to create a community service non-profit with the mission of facilitating that same success in every neighborhood on Staten Island – and of eliminating the obstacles that we had faced…having to travel to secure traps, being faced with waiting weeks for surgery dates, had it not been for the assistance of Empty Cages Collective. SIFI was founded on one simple principle – that it should be easy for people who want to do the right thing to do so…go figure.
In July of 2008 SIFI’s first meeting was held at a Starbucks with 12 people in attendance…and we all agreed something needed to change. We began by making noise. We wrote to the ASPCA, the Humane Society of New York, the Mayor’s Alliance, etc. detailing our experience and impressing upon them just how under-served Staten Island was in terms of TNR resources. In 2009 we began instructing the Neighborhood Cats TNR-certification workshops on Staten Island. Today, Staten Island is home to nearly 600 TNR-certified citizens, with that number growing steadily. We manage the Staten Island trap bank (available to all TNR-certified SI residents), help caretakers network with others in the community, and maintain a website that acts as a resource both for certified trappers and for the public. We advocate, above all else, responsible compassion in the community."
(portions of this text have been taken from the NYCFCI website, and contain links to relevant pages at NYCFeralCat.org)