It’s official: We are a country of cat lovers. We have more cats in our homes today than dogs- 80 million, according to a recent survey. And for every pet cat curling up in our laps, there’s a feral cat roaming the outdoors. These cats were either abandoned, or they were born wild and never had much human contact.
The question of how to manage these cats has become a huge public policy debate in cities and counties across America. Its pitting two large movements against each other who are otherwise quite closely aligned: conservationists and animal rights’ activists. Conservationists say the cats are invasive predators that are decimating native wildlife, and they want the cats removed. Animal rights’ activists argue that rounding up the cats and killing them is inhumane. They want to reduce the population over time by neutering the cats and returning them outdoors.
This conflict has been simmering for years, but it’s reached a boiling point in Antioch, California, a city in the Sacramento River delta that is home to many bird species and a large feral cat population. As city officials wrestle with how to deal with the cat crisis, the narrative arc follows activists on both sides of this issue, as they lobby local government and engage in civil disobedience. Who will prevail?
I followed this issue over the course of 18 months from the perspective of the activists on both sides of the issue, as well as city officials- and the cats themselves. I used a combination of motion sensor cameras and specially made “cat cameras” to film the feral cats and their interactions with wildlife, the opening sequence is shot entirely on these “cat cameras.” The result is a documentary that I completed in December 2015.