There is a lot of talk going on about what to do with the issue of feral cat population. Some measures have been proposed which will allow residents to kill what they perceive to be feral cats on their property. This suggestion has caused a bit of a stir, and amongst cat lovers, it is quite understandable. Cats are natural wanderers and a treasured feline may make a mischievous dash out of its home only to find itself hunted quarry on a neighboring property.
There are more humane solutions being practiced right now which entail trapping feral cats, neutering and then releasing them back to their environment (TNR). Critics of this method maintain that the problem of cat predation on local small animal populations still exists after neutering, and that a continuous supply of stray cats are finding their fertile way into these feral communities every day. Thus, they maintain, any positive gains realized by the TNR program are being constantly negated by the actions, or inactions, of irresponsible pet owners.
There doesn’t appear to be any immediate, cut and dry solution to feral cats at present except to keep employing the TNR program and educating the public about how to be accountable for their cats. Local laws can be enacted to impose fines on owners whose cats are caught wandering on a frequent basis. Social pressure can be fostered in the form of campaigns that suggest it is absolutely not cool and downright irresponsible to have unneutered or unspayed cats wandering around. This, of course, would not be applied to owners of show and working cats where planned breeding is necessary for their specific breed.
It comes down to the fact that over 64% of U.S. households have pets, and the majority of these pets are considered as family members. Cats are the rebellious, independent members of the family unit. They shouldn’t be left to their own devices or discarded like disposable lighters. Similar to any wayward teenager of a family, special measures and tolerances have to be adopted in order to get the loved ones through a difficult time in their lives and bring them back into the fold of family unity.
Cats are a bit different in that they are wayward children for life, however, they can be conditioned to accept a house-bound lifestyle. Having them spayed or neutered (we’re talking about cats now – not teenagers) will help temper their wanderlust a little, and there are some great outdoor playpens and containment systems designed just for the benefit of felines. Some cats can even be leash trained for nightly walks, however, that may not be particularly healthy for you or the cat if there are too many unleashed dogs in the neighborhood.
Do what you can to help alleviate the problem of cats turning feral. The animal welfare organizations and volunteers are doing what they can to deal with the current populations by using TNR, rescuing and adopting of cats. But the flow of new, fertile domestic cats into the feral communities must be stopped at the family, neighborhood and regional level. This is accomplished through public awareness campaigns, teaching school children about responsible pet ownership, social pressure and individual involvement. It’s a long uphill road, yet it can be accomplished, one or two kitties at a time.