How to help feral cats

The feral cat population in the U.S. is out of control. Often times the situation is not dealt with appropriately. The underlying problem is our disposable society, we are accustom to discarding anything we tired of or are finished with. This often times includes our pets. We move and leave them behind, they grow up and the cute factor has waned, or we take vacation and leave Fluffy to fend for herself, while we’re gone, and she’s never seen again. I’ve heard and seen it all. I worked as animal control officer for over seven years, trying unsuccessfully, to help the helpless. People need to stop adopting pets they have no intention of keeping indoors as a family pet.

The feral cat problem is not an easy one to solve, but the spay, neuter and release programs are not the answer. As an animal protective services officer, I was the one called when an injured animal needed help. I’ve rescued animals with horrendous injuries, heads so swollen they can’t eat or drink, broken backs, and gaping, infected wounds, and rabies! Some of these cats had the tell tale sign (punched ear or tattoo) of being from a SNR program. The spay, neuter, and release programs do not address the dangers for cats living on their own in the wild. These programs may save the animals from death but who saves them from the suffering they must endure when they are injured or trapped? I once chased a cat with a mayonnaise jar stuck on his head, unfortunately I didn’t catch him and his fate bothered me for weeks.

Another problem with maintaining a feral cat colony, is the cats will wipe out the wild life in the area. Cats are thrill killers, they kill for the excitement of it. If there is a feral cat colony in the area there will be no birds, foxes, reptiles or other small wildlife around. This local, wildlife diversity, could be disrupted for years while the cat colony is maintained. If your neighbors are bird watchers, they are not going to be happy with your cat colony.

What is the solution for these helpless animals? First and foremost, education. If everyone would stop and think about their choice of adopting an animal into their lives. Will you be financially able to provide food and vet care for your intended pet? Are you prepared to keep the animal for ten to twenty years, and will this pet be a valued member of your family and not just a novelty? Too many cats just out grow their welcome, through no fault of their own.

Keep your cat indoors and spay or neuter! Cats live longer, healthier lives when they don’t have to deal with the dangers in the “wild”. If your cat is indoors then you have no worries that he is out getting into fights with other animals and sending you to the vet unnecessarily. There are still people out there who do not believe in spaying or neutering they’re pets, for one reason or another, and then allow their pet to roam the neighborhood, impregnating or getting pregnant. These people should refrain from being pet owners, they help to bring unwanted pets and animal suffering into the world.

After being in the animal welfare industry for so long, I am convinced that the SNR programs are not addressing the real issue of overpopulation of feral cats. Euthanasia is better than the suffering I’ve witnessed first hand. Euthanasia is a humane way to deal with a problem we have created and continue to perpetuate with “band-aid” solutions that do not address the underlying causes of the problem. If the thought of “killing” these animals puts a bad taste in your mouth, good, get upset, get educated, and help the helpless in ways that benefit both man and beast!

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