Caring For Feral Cats in Your Community

pictures_feral.jpgMost cities and towns have some form of animal control in place, usually as a division of the police department. Thus, an animal control officer's boss is usually the chief of police. But police departments typically have less interest in the welfare of animals than in law enforcement related to the more exciting pursuit of human derelicts and dastards.

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One officer smiled at me and said he wasn't able to investigate a cruelty case I reported, as he had more urgent business with a burglary at the moment. That's understandable, but this is usually more of a problem in smaller communities because they have less money and resources to cover all the bases. In fact, most of these smaller, local agencies would rather dispose of animal problems... literally... because the paperwork is cumbersome, and "more important" issues must be handled first.

Understanding the link between animal and human violence

Law enforcement officials in many small towns have not grasped the connection between cruelty to animals and to humans. Thus, they are very unlikely to look into animal problems involving mistreatment of pet cats, and much less to strays.

These agencies often view the problem of overpopulation, especially of cats, as a "vermin" problem, best handled by extermination. Thus, cruelty against strays is typically ignored.

Many communities have utilized proven feral cat strategies, but they are almost always organized and managed by private individuals, and then are scoffed at by city officials.

Until authorities actually wake up and get it, it must remain with us, as caring citizens in any town, to deal with these unfortunate cats. It's possible, but isn't always welcome in our own communities. Those residents who hate cats, for instance, will continue to demand a simple trap-and-kill program, often "contributing" to this strategy in their own cruel ways, by placing poison and leg-hold traps in their yards or other locations.

Trap, Neuter, Release

What they never seem to get is that killing has never worked, and never will. The only program that has ever made a truly significant difference is one known as Trap-Neuter-Release, where strays are captured, altered, vaccinated and treated for any medical problems, then released back to their territories if they are healthy, but not adoptable.

Also known as Trap-Neuter-Return, this is the only effective way to humanely handle the problem, since there are not enough homes for them all, and killing only leaves space for new ones to enter the group.

If you are feeding strays, here are some ways to help them:

pictures_cats_outside.jpgSet up feeding stations. Make or find small containers to serve as miniature "dog houses" to provide shelter. Monitor the colony, or group of cats you feed. Don't just toss a bag of food out for them once a week. Keep an eye on them. If you can't trap them, notify someone who can, and get them fixed and "vetted" (treated by a veterinarian).

Find or organize a feral cat club or group so you can help each other to help these poor cats. Collect any kittens you find, as they may be adoptable if young enough to be tamed. Find a local shelter or rescue group to help with this, if possible.

Find a veterinarian who is willing to participate. Not all of them are interested, so you may need to ask around. Look for area spay-neuter clinics that offer discounted surgeries. While shelters and pounds euthanize (kill) between 3 and 4 million cats and dogs every year, no one is counting the number of strays and ferals who are shot, poisoned and starved to death. If we truly have dominion over the animals, people must learn that dominion means responsibility... It's not a license to be cruel.

Dr. Peters has an extensive background in health care, animal care, journalism, computer repair and systems administration. She writes articles over a wide spectrum of topics and has numerous ebooks available on the Internet. Visit her websites, The Problem Cat and HiPlains Animal Welfare Society for more articles and information about pets.

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