New book shows how people can make a difference for cats

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Back in 1990, U.S. shelters were euthanizing twelve million cats and dogs each year. I remember this because it was a million dogs and cats each month. Something had to be done.

Motivated by what I saw in my backyard of Bridgeport, Connecticut, I started a program to connect people who needed help with getting their companion animals spayed or neutered with programs and clinics across the country that provided this life-saving service. The program was called SPAY/USA. The two most gratifying aspects of running this program were 1) knowing that tens of thousands of people each year were able to gain access to affordable, accessible spay/neuter services locally and 2) hearing from grassroots people all around the country who were making a difference in their own cities and towns. I well remember Linda Chitwood’s first call to our hotline, now run by North Shore Animal League. It was in the late 1990s, and Linda called asking how best to go about addressing the problem of numerous stray cats in a mobile home park near her hometown.

It was clear as we spoke that Linda knew how to go about solving this daunting problem and so I listened, thinking that if someone else called with a similar issue, her thoughts were very helpful. I remember thinking this knowledge needs to be shared. She knew about the need to stop the cycle of unwanted litters. She understood about the kindest and most effective ways to convince people to help. She knew how to find out who is in control and who can give permission and assistance. She knew what actions would lead to a dead end.

I thought she should write a book about it. Unbeknownst to me, Melanie Lambert at the Summerlee Foundation also thought that Linda should write a book. It would be years before Linda would have the time and energy to put it together, but she has done it! $5 A Cat Head: True Stories of Animal Welfare With Hands-On Tips for Helping Animals is the perfect gift for the young friend, neighbor or relation who wants to help animals but cannot or will not go to vet school. It’s great for the retiree who now has time to do what he/she dearly wants to do and perfect for anyone who just wants to make a difference in real life.

Years ago, volunteers made huge differences in their communities, but our culture has drifted off to a place where people just send a check and hope the problems go away. They do not go away. It is time to get back to direct action, one-on-one help, and compassionate caring. Linda Chitwood shows us how to do that with specific tips and do’s and don’t’s, all woven into very compelling true stories that play out in trailer parks, alleyways and parking lots. $5 A Cat Head is a very moving, very powerful book, much needed at this time.