Q&A: Kristen Gasnow Brown, president, Feral Feline Friends of East Tennessee

What do you do, exactly?

We are all volunteers, helping control the feral cat population by what's called TNR—trapping, neutering, and returning feral cats. We also manage the colonies, make sure they have food and water daily, and that an unaltered cat hasn't joined them. The easy way to tell that a cat has been TNR-ed is a little tip taken off its left ear. That way we're not retrapping the same ones over and over.

Where in Knoxville do they live?

Everywhere. More abundantly you'll see them around college campuses, restaurants, apartments—up and down Kingston Pike is one of the largest colonies. They are the result of people not spaying and neutering their animals, and abandoning their cats—a pair of unaltered cats can literally produce thousands of descendants in a lifetime.

And this is cost-effective?

Yes, a lot of people don't know that it's far more expensive to euthanize and dispose of unwanted animals than to TNR.

Who does the surgeries?

We work with UT Veterinary; four times a year they do some through a grant. We also pay for some with donations, working through low-cost clinics. Our group has spayed and neutered 3,500 cats since 2004.

How did you begin?

My sister and I moved back to Tennessee and noticed a colony behind a local restaurant. We were naive enough to think that we could just take them to a shelter and they would find them homes. When we learned they'd probably be euthanized, we did some research and got involved. Now we have around 50 volunteers, but we could always use more! And we've started focusing on education, walking people through doing it on their own.

Do you have lots of scratches?

They're not typical cats, running up and rubbing your leg—we don't handle them for the most part. But we have been bitten and scratched a time or two.

To learn more or donate: feralfelinefriends.org