People will have very different opinions on this. The division of opinion almost exactly follows the differences in opinion on cats in general. In other words if a person likes cats they will disagree strongly that feeding feral cats is unsociable. If a person dislikes cats they will strongly dislike the feeding of feral cats.
When a compassionate woman feeds feral cats it is usually for the purpose of facilitating a trap-neuter-return program. There are lots of individuals who like to do this. Or perhaps they feel through their compassion that they have to do it. A lot of people cannot walk away from suffering animals that require assistance. That must be a praiseworthy quality. It must go in favour of accepting the feeding of feral cats. We put them there in the first place. These caring individuals are taking on the burden of responsibility for them. There are few people who are willing to do that. They deserve praise for their social responsibility.
Ultimately the feeding of feral cats as part of a TNR program is good, socially responsible behavior. It must be as it tackles the ‘feral cat problem’ that people created. It is surprising that they are not given more support through local authority funding and back up.
Set against this is the weakness that TNR does not work when carried out on a small scale (or does it?). If TNR was shown to definitely work, to categorically reduce feral cats populations it would satisfy the people who dislike feral cats. They would have no reason to claim it was unsociable and a public health issue to feed feral cats as part of TNR, as in the long run their demands to get rid of feral cats would be met.
Here we have the problem. Does TNR work? We need a proper, independent, government funded study to assess the efficacy and consequences of trap-neuter-return programs. I am sure there are published studies but they are not conclusive and they certainly do not stop people complaining about people feeding and caring for feral cats.
These polarized views sometimes find their way into court. There was a high profile case in Beverely Hills some time ago. And recently there is Susan Mills, a ‘Henrico County woman’, who feeds feral cats. She appears to be doing this on her own property but that has little bearing on the matter as far as I can tell because the consequences of feeding feral cats on your own property goes beyond the boundaries of your property.
Feral cats are attracted to the area and therefore pass through public areas and other private properties. Neighbours complain of health problems. The trump card for the anti-cat brigade is rabies. If a feral cat has rabies and bites a person who dislikes cats in the neighbourhood where a person is feeding feral cats that is a major argument to stop feeding feral cats. Or is it?
Rabies is rarely carried by feral cats. It is bats who carry rabies apparently. And why should a person be bitten by a feral cat? What was that person doing? If a person is bitten by a feral cat it must be the fault of the person.
In the case of Susan Mills, she was found in a previous hearing to be in violation of ‘zoning laws’ (permitted use of areas of land designated by the local authorities). What Susan was doing was considered to be ‘not a customarily incidental practice to a home’s usual purpose’. The order against her had been drafted too widely and as a consequence was unworkable. It prevented anyone from providing any form of assistance to any animal in the zone. Was it just about the drafting of the order? I don’t think so. The problem goes deeper.
The root cause of the problem needs to be tackled – the ‘feral cat problem’. To fight over an individual case like this is almost pointless and non-productive. It is simply a symptom of the bigger problem that puts people into conflict on how to fix it.
Feeding feral cats is not unsociable. If it causes a legal nuisance it is because no one in high authority is taking on the underlying issues that give the United States feral cats in the first place. Feral cats were not meant to be part of the domestic-human relationship. They are a victim of human failure in respect of that relationship.
An after thought. In many counties feral cats are not considered a problem or at least there is less concern about them. They are accepted perhaps in part because they are useful in keeping down rodent populations. Israel is an example of an acceptance of feral cats and in many southern European countries the human-cat relationship is more relaxed, cats are semi-domesticated.
Might an adjustment in mentality in America assist the people in dealing with the feral cat? Where the human-cat relationship is more relaxed feral cats are better tolerated. Americans are far more likely to keep cats indoors all the time. This is a symptom of a desire to create an overly sterile environment; to control the environment to extreme. Perhaps there is no ‘feral cat problem’. Might it be a human problem?
Associated: World popularity of TNR
P.S. This page on Facebook shows us that the demarcation between carers and the rest is a world-wide issue.