Tina Traster, a veteran journalist-turned-filmmaker of the multi-award-winning documentary Catnip Nation has lived with and loved cats for years. Her idea to make a documentary about them began as an ode to these enigmatic creatures. But despite her passion and the popularity of cats in mainstream culture today, her journalist’s compass led to a darker place with a startling revelation that was misrepresented by the fandom: Cats have it rough. And the documentary became a different story.

Sue and Ray Jones, parodying American Gothic, show their defiance against orders to stop feeding feral cats. Poster Art by Keri Sheehan

Initially, she didn’t know there is a nationwide crisis with too many cats in shelters who will never be adopted, millions more euthanized and an estimated 70 to 90 million feral or “community cats” living in cities, villages and towns across the country, wherever they can find a food source. Nor did she know that many well-intentioned people who are trying to care for these cats are oppressed, threatened and persecuted by outdated laws, unprotected rights or uneducated politicians.

Shining a spotlight

Determined to change the fate of a voiceless population and teach about this crisis, Catnip Nation was made to be an accessible and broad medium to tell the story by turning cameras on specific people.

Sue and Ray Jones from Augusta, Kansas, are facing fines and imprisonment for putting out water for feral cats living behind their store.

Stanley Lombardo of Oceanside, New York, was barred from his 30-year post as a volunteer at the local landfill where he cared for a colony of 40 abandoned cats. He had to walk away under orders from the town supervisor.

Ken Salerno was the caretaker for 65 cats living under the Seaside Heights, New Jersey, boardwalk when the newly elected mayor put out an executive order to euthanize all of the cats.

Tina says she made a conscious decision to let the characters’ lives and the hurdles they face tell the…

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