As a veterinary technician, Tabitha Kucera fielded many questions over the years about community cats and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) from clients at the Ohio clinic where she worked. Locals also reached out to Kucera on social media, where she had been advocating for TNR. Even many of her fellow veterinary professionals weren’t familiar with the practice. She began to wonder if anyone in the Cleveland area had been educating people about TNR.
That’s when this idea hit: “No one knows about TNR,” she recalled thinking. “I’m just going to go lecture about it.”
With her boundless drive and enthusiasm, Kucera set out to expose myths and change attitudes. She spent hours and weekends creating a PowerPoint presentation based on Alley Cat Allies’ and other groups’ resources, booking rooms at local libraries, and handing out flyers to promote her talks. She also set up lectures for the veterinary community, inviting people she knew and reaching out to clinics.
Her mission to educate people and advocate for cats didn’t stop there. Kucera became a member of Alley Cat Allies’ Feral Friends Network to serve as a resource for people in her community. She attends city council meetings to explain to elected officials that TNR benefits the community. She talks with animal shelters about how TNR would reduce their intake of cats and save cats’ lives.
“Most people are against the killing of cats. It’s just getting the education out there, especially to veterinary professionals,” she says. “Veterinary professionals tend to be the go-to [people] for animal education.”
Kucera says she learned about TNR after she began working as a veterinary technician and became interested in how she could help outdoor cats. Her first TNR experience was about six years ago when she helped a friend trap an outdoor cat using Alley Cat Allies’ resources. After that, she was hooked.
“I kind of got engulfed in it,” she says. “Alley Cat Allies was one of the first resources I was exposed to.”
Kucera also developed an interest in cat behavior while working as a veterinary technician. She began to realize that many clients at the veterinary clinic didn’t understand their cats’ behavior or body language. Too many cats didn’t stay in their homes, or were euthanized, because behavioral and medical issues were misdiagnosed or misunderstood.
Now Kucera, a certified cat behavior consultant, has her own cat behavior consulting business, Chirrups and Chatter. She also attained Fear Free and Low Stress Handling certifications, which enable her to recognize and alleviate fear and anxiety in animals. She says her certifications have helped her to better understand her feline patients, which makes them more comfortable and calm and less fearful and stressed.
Her certification as a cat behavior consultant, and her eight years as a veterinary technician, give Kucera a unique perspective that helps to educate others.
“Learning how to do TNR is important,” she says, “but it’s also important to teach others how to break stereotypes.”