The Education City Community Housing’s TNR group talks about why it is important to sterilize the cat colony in the housing compound
Take a walk along the twisting, tree-lined pathways of Qatar Foundation’s Education City Community Housing (ECHH) compounds and you are likely to see a friendly cat tucked in the shade of a bush. Look a little closer, and you’ll notice that the cat has a “tipped” ear – the universal mark that the cat has been sterilized to prevent community cat population growth.
This is the work of the ECCH Trap Neuter Return (TNR), a group of 12 residents who have taken it upon themselves to sterilize stray cats in the compounds.
A community effort like this contributes to Qatar Foundation’s sustainability goals
“TNR is the international standard for controlling cat populations,” says Beth Aguirre, an ECCH TNR representative, and an English teacher at the Academic Bridge Program (ABP), part of Qatar Foundation's Pre-University Education. “TNR is supported by the United Nations, the Animal Resources Department at Qatar’s Ministry of Municipality and Environment, and various humane associations across the world. A community effort like this contributes to Qatar Foundation’s sustainability goals.”
Aguirre points out that keeping sterilized community cats in the compounds benefits the long-term reduction of the cat population. “Cats are very territorial and don’t like newcomers arriving in their area. So, having some sterilized cats in the compound ensures that un-sterilized cats don’t try to make ECCH their new homes. That’s why capture-kill-remove programs are not effective.
Having some sterilized cats in the compound ensures that un-sterilized cats don’t try to make ECCH their new homes
ECCH TNR has already seen the positive effect of their work. With 85 to 90 percent of the ECCH community cats sterilized, the population has stabilized, and new kittens are a rare sight on the compounds. ECCH TNR also helps adopt cats to lifetime homes and cares for cats when they are injured.
What prompted this ECCH TNR group to form more than a year ago was that individuals were working independently, trying to spay or neuter cats, and treat sick cats, as well as rehome them.
“ECCH is quite a large compound, and we talked about what each one of us was doing independently. So, we got together and made sure that we had equal coverage throughout our lots, and that all the animals were being provided for. And in case one of us fell sick, we had backup. This is because there's a lot of stress in caring and providing guardianship of these animals,” says Marci Brown, also an ECCH TNR representative, and English Department Supervisor at ABP
The humane treatment of all animals says a lot about an organization, and can be very attractive to potential new employees
The ECCH TNR group covers the cost of all vet bills themselves. And although the government vet would be ideal for the group to get their cats treated and neutered or spayed for free, their work schedules don’t allow them to visit the vet during weekdays – as that is when it is open for services.
“Housing a large population of community cats at Education City could require resources from QF. Reducing the number of community cats over time allows QF resources to be directed toward other necessary activities. And, since this is a volunteer effort, it means that busy QF staff members can focus their attention on other duties,” Brown says.
In addition to contributing to resource sustainability, the humane treatment of community cats promotes goodwill among residents and potential new employees and residents. “The humane treatment of all animals says a lot about an organization, and can be very attractive to potential new employees,” Brown adds.
One of the few problems of living in an expat community in Qatar, according to Brown, is that one is often isolated from a sense of stewardship and a sense of community, and may feel that they’re just a guest passing through. “And I think that what our compound cats do is they really present a chance for guardianship and stewardship. They interact with everybody in the community. And I hear from many people of how wonderful it was, especially during lockdown, to have their presence. There's been numerous studies to show the social, emotional, and physical benefits of petting a cat lowers blood pressure,” Aguirre says.
We appreciate the involvement in TNR of all trained community members
And it is not just adults who benefit from such an initiative, children, too, learn from interacting with animals. Aguirre’s daughter took on the task to create a short film that captures the important work of the ECCH TNR group.
“I have great love for both animals and the art of filmmaking, so combining the two was an exciting experience. I feel that it's important for my generation to use artistic outlets to advocate for their beliefs. I'd say my video is an example of this. I'm planning to work on more independent projects in the future. Overall, it's been an honor to represent my community and the wonderful people in it,” 16-year-old Araceli Aguirre, says.
At the moment, the ECCH TNR group works only within the housing compound, and seek to expand their work through educational programs within Education City or receiving the support of expert advice and training from various QF entities.
The ECCH TNR group is open for QF members to contact them, should they see an unsterilized, injured, or sick cat in ECCH. “Also, we appreciate the involvement in TNR of all trained community members. We are happy to help train people– this is definitely a “more the merrier” activity – and training more people helps ensure the perpetuity of our project. We can train others by bringing them with us several times, so they know how to handle the trap the humane way, and where to take the cats for sterilization,” Brown says.
However, she advises that only those who are trained should try to trap or catch a cat to avoid injury to the person trying to catch the cat or the cat itself.
Those who wish to know more about the ECCH TNR group can reach out to Beth Aguirre on firstname.lastname@example.org or Marci Brown at email@example.com; can email ECCH.TNR@gmail.com or follow @ecchtnrofficial on Instagram.