Houston PetSet Community Relations & Grants Manager Becky Best recently talked to three of #TeamFeral’s board members – President Kevin Wisneski, Vice President Kelli Matelske and Secretary Carlos Ortega – to learn more about this small, but mighty organization focused on saving Houston’s cats. 

When #TeamFeral president Kevin Wisneski moved into his new home, little did he know that what the previous owner left behind would have such an impact on his future. He was told resident feral cats were fixed; however, over time he would see the mom pregnant or find kittens running around the yard.

As many people do, he turned to Facebook to find a group dedicated to cats and kittens to get more information about the situation and any help available. It was there he learned more about Trap Neuter Return (TNR) and decided to borrow a trap to prevent the cats from having future litters. Kevin borrowed a trap, learned more about cats and rescue from experienced rescuers online, “and, that’s how it got started,” he reminisced about #TeamFeral’s beginning.  

At about that time, Kelly was working with another local rescue group that was sending some of its animals on transport via plane. She met Kevin, who is a flight attendant, one day when dropping off pets on a transport. The stars aligned during that fateful meeting, as she was looking for new volunteer opportunities and Kevin was looking for a new board member. 

Similarly, Carlos was working with another rescue to help them establish a transport program. That organization did not take pets off the street, choosing instead to focus on shelter animals. It happened to be a rare time in Houston when there were not a lot of cats in the shelters, so when mutual friends introduced Carlos to the organization, he had the time and passion to get involved. 

Today, a big part of the organization’s work focuses on TNR because, as Kevin says, “if they aren’t born, they don’t need to be rescued.”

In the process of gathering cats for surgery, they come across many friendly cats and kittens that would make good family pets – and that’s where the transports come in. “Because we have transports lined up a month or two in advance, we can usually confidently take cats into the program knowing there’s an outcome,” Kevin said. Carlos and Kelli agreed and added that they are glad to work with the shelters as for many of those cats, euthanasia might be the only option – especially for ones that have medical issues. 

When asked about what they are most proud of accomplishing, all three are humble but recognize that for a team their size operating on limited funds, they have accomplished a lot to save Houston’s cats, even with the pandemic fighting against them along the way. Thanks to them, thousands of cats have now either moved to loving homes or been fixed to help curb Houston’s cat overpopulation issue.

What makes this accomplishment even more impressive, is that #TeamFeral is all-volunteer, with everyone of the core volunteer crew working full time in addition to performing their lifesaving work for Houston’s cats. And the work doesn’t stop there. With Kevin moving to New Jersey, he is now bringing that passion to save cat lives to that area, as well.

When asked about their dreams for the future, each had a slightly different view, but all ultimately leading to better lives for cats.

Kevin envisions a time when rescue groups will collaborate more closely, ultimately dividing up the city into sectors with each focusing on an area in which to provide maximum support and coordination for lifesaving. 

Carlos hopes more people outside of rescue will understand the importance of caring for their pets, including spaying/neutering and microchipping so there are fewer animals that get out and need help. 

Meanwhile, Kelli captures what’s in the hearts of many rescuers – that someday there will be no shelter euthanasia lists and that this problem will be solved allowing her and thousands of other rescuers to devote time elsewhere. 

Until that day comes, #TeamFeral plans to continue to expand their efforts in TNR, transports and adoptions, and welcomes those interested in helping to reach out to them at info@teamferal.org to get involved.