The Best Hobby Is Something That Has Absolutely Nothing to Do With Your Job

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The new year is the perfect time to finally take up ceramics, learn Mandarin, start a book club, start rock-climbing, or plant a garden. In 2018, the Cut has practical advice on trying something new. Make bowls, not just resolutions.

It all started when I discovered a colony of cats living in a junkyard near my apartment in Park Slope last year. Every day I would walk by and notice a half-dozen cats and wonder if they were hungry. I started leaving cans of Friskies pâté out for them, but I wanted to do more, so I looked into my options, and found a whole community in New York dedicated to trapping, neutering, and releasing feral cats. Soon, to the surprise of absolutely no one who knows me, I began my life moonlighting as a cat trapper.

The gist of trapping is this: You rig a humane trap with stinky-smelling fish to lure cats into. Then you take them to a vet to get spayed/neutered and vaccinated. After a brief recovery period, the cats are released back into their colonies. This process is called Trap-Neuter-Return. TNR helps control the feral cat population (a fact I tell animal-haters) and allows the cats to live happier, healthier lives (a fact I tell everyone else).

Trapping cats is an art, and I went to the Juilliard of cat trapping: a workshop at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe. There, a hodgepodge group of Brooklynites tried to coax overstimulated kittens onto our laps while we were taught how trapping works. At the end of the workshop, I received my trapping certificate and embarked on a months-long project to get all the cats in the yard fixed and vaccinated. I quickly became my neighborhood’s go-to cat lady, called upon to solve every feline-related issue from “kitten stuck in cinder block” to “cats fighting outside my window late at night.” I’ve even rigged a metal trap on a rotting picnic table so that my 70-year-old neighbor can set it off by pulling a string from her third-floor window. There are an estimated half a million stray and feral cats in New York. Once you realize that, you start seeing them everywhere.

These days I spend at least ten hours a week doing something cat-related, whether it’s helping a friend administer flea treatments or trying to catch a kitten someone spotted down the block. I love that rescue has absolutely nothing to do with any other sphere of my life; my job is in a completely different realm and my friends aren’t into it and my boyfriend is lukewarm, at best, about cats. TNR fulfills my desire to *whispers* “make a difference,” and through it I’ve met some of the most generous people I know. It also makes me frequently smell like sardines, but that’s nothing a quick shower can’t fix.

The Best Hobby Has Nothing to Do With Your Job