3 steps to reducing feral cat numbers in the USA

The harsh reality is that the only way to reduce feral cat numbers in the US is through properly enforced legislation. No one wants it. People don’t like their freedoms curtailed. And state and federal governments in the US are disinterested in walking the walk when tackling the ‘feral cat problem’ of the USA. A lot is written about it and there are lots of moans and complaints but what about action with real bite? Asking people to change habits does not work.

Only the law makers can fundamentally change things. There are two ways running in parallel to gradually reduce feral cat numbers.

Feral cat
Feral cat. Image in public domain.
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1.Stop the supply

Firstly you have to slow the supply and then eventually almost extinguish it. That means all domestic cats in homes anywhere in the country must be spayed or neutered at the earliest possible age and not after a female cat has had kittens.

You cannot achieve this by asking nicely. You’ll have to provide obligatory education, under the law, in schools on the subject of domestic cat care and feral cat management. There should be a mandatory course within the schools’ curriculum. This will help get future domestic cat spayed and neutered voluntarily at the correct time. Resolving issues through education is a long term process. I’ll take 20 years to see real change. So best start now. Low cost spay and neuter clinics need to be dramatically expanded.

You’ll also have to make it obligatory to spay and neuter existing cats and that can only come about by passing legislation and enforcing it properly. Yes, resources will have to be thrown at it. It won’t happen for that reason because the irritation of having feral cats is acceptable when set against the cost of removing them humanely.

2.Reduce existing numbers

Thirdly you can’t simply get rid of the existing feral cats by killing them. It is impractical and inhumane and it fails. There should be proper local authority funded TNR programmes carried out extensively to gradually reduce existing numbers. You can’t rely on wonderful volunteers working against the odds. It needs more.

Bird lovers moan all the time about TNR as it puts predators back on the street but there is no alternative to TNR and people put the cats there in the first place. No point moaning about it now. You’ll just have to settle in for the long haul.

3.Count

And as Americans don’t know how many feral cats there are – they really don’t – there needs to be more programs like that being carried out in Washington to count feral cats to genuinely start to see some accuracy in monitoring numbers. Without accuracy you won’t know if any program is succeeding or not.

No quick fix

There is no magic solution or instant fix. It took 100 years to get to the point where America is currently with what is believed to be a large number of feral cats. It’ll take at least 20 years of bold action to see a genuine decline in numbers.

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