A little while ago, Pawesome told you about vegan cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz‘s request for kitty tchotchkes — old, new, big, small, anything went. The reason for the request was still a mystery at the time, but it was promised that the ceramic cats would be helping real-life cats.
Now all has been revealed: The Teal Cat Project raises money for the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, which provides trap-neuter-return workshops and gives rescuers in New York City the assistance they need to save lives. The first round of the project — the previously requested cats, now a delightful shade of teal — has sold out, and tshirts are now available with plans for more fundraisers to come. I talked to Moskowitz about the Teal Cat Project, TNR, and her upcoming book Vegan Pie in the Sky, cowritten with Terry Hope Romero.
Q: How did you get the idea for the Teal Cat Project?
A: I throw benefit dinners for animal organizations, and vintage tchotchkes make great centerpieces for the tables. If it’s a dog benefit I’ll scavenge the thrift stores and try to find dogs, if it’s for a farm sanctuary cows and pigs, and so on. I was working on a benefit dinner for a local cat rescue group and trying to figure out a way to make the ceramic cats a little classier. I’m also an HGTV addict, particularly Design Star, and I remembered one challenge where they had to make all these tacky knick-knacks looks cool, so they spray painted them white, and it did look cool! But you know, teal is even better. When I tried it, they looked SO great teal that I thought they could be sold in any boutique for a trillion dollars. And then I thought about Cabbage Patch Kids, and the idea for the tags came to me, and everything else fell into place.
Q: How many cat figurines did you receive when you initially put out the call?
A: Maybe 50 or so? Which is so great because people didn’t even know what they were for. I was just like “Trust me, it will help cats!” But thrifting is one of my favorite things in the world to do, so I had lots of fun finding kitties, too.
Q: What’s the response to the project been like so far?
A: Overwhelmingly amazing! We actually sold out of the kitties in under 48 hours. I wasn’t expecting that at all, I thought it would take more like a month. We raised over $4,000 and I am so thrilled that our plan is working. I’m so grateful to have our designer Anna, who makes everything look top notch. I think that has a lot to do with our success so far.
Q: Do you think awareness of feral colony management and TNR has been growing?
A: Oh yes, definitely. But it seems that feral colonies are also growing. But groups like NYC Feral Cat Initiative, and here in Nebraska, Feline Friendz, are making great strides not only in spay and neuter, but in education, which is probably one of the most important parts of TNR. If people are educated about feral cats, and about their own cats, we can eliminate the problem of feral cat overpopulation. Often the colonies begin with unspayed or neutered house cats. If people know that these rescue groups exist, and that low cost spay neuter is available, hopefully they’ll take advantage of it. And if people are educated on how TNR works, hopefully they let these rescuers in to do their jobs, and even get involved themselves.
Q: What do you hope comes of the project? Where does it go next?
A: I believe that we can eliminate feral cat overpopulation in our lifetimes and eliminate any perceived need for shelters that kill healthy cats. I truly think it can be done, and TNR is the way to do it. I see the Teal Cat Project as a way to deliver the message in a lighthearted way, but our mission is very serious. Not only do we provide money to our affiliate groups, but the cats are a conversation piece.
Q: How are things coming along with your newest vegan cookbook, about pies?
A: The pie book is done, and I’m so excited to see what people bake up this fall!
Photos from The Teal Cat Project