I have it from an excellent source that there is a minimal homeless cat problem in Switzerland. This does not surprise me. What is the reason? The reason should be interesting to people who are concerned about the “feral cat problem” or shelters overflowing with unwanted but healthy cats resulting in the inevitable euthanasia of many of them. Anything to help resolve these problems should be welcome. There is no simple, one line reason.
A friend of mine says this:
Stray cats would mess the place up…(meaning the Swiss like it tidy)
Marc, who lives in Switzerland and who regularly comments on this site says:
…the homeless cat issue here exists, however the degree
to which it exists is minimal…..The Swiss have money, and they always seem to neuter their pets and take them to the vet regularly.
Marc mentions a tough law that exists in Belgium:
In the paper this morning there is an article which talks about Belgium’s law which requires a person to have a breeders licence in order to be able to ‘own’ an un-sterilized cat (as they call them). Anybody owning a cat privately therefore is required by law to have it spayed/neutered. Now the Swiss are talking quite seriously about having this law implemented so that the situation here never has a chance to get totally out of control as has happened in so many other countries – America probably being the worst of them.
I think this law that Marc mentions is a nice balance between over legislating and not legislating at all.
Marc also says about Switzerland:
For a country that has so few feral cats, and yet they are panicking about the few they have, I think something good must be inherent in the average Swiss person. They have many animal rights type laws. You can’t go to the pet shop and buy one hamster. By law you must buy 2 so they are not alone. I think they care about animals. The food products containing animals are of a much better and more humane quality than other countries. (not that its good anywhere per se) but even the cheapest eggs are not that cheap and are made according to Swiss standards of animal keeping practices which are quite stringent as I understand…..I have NEVER seen an unhealthy cat on the street here but I have seen plenty of cats who don’t have collars but belong to people. At first I thought some were stray but they were not – I asked around.
So when you see a lot of happy cats wandering around its quite appealing after what I saw in Canada. Canada was awful. Awful. Very sad indeed.
In relation to farm cats he writes:
I have read about many situations of barn/farm cats here in Switzerland, so they do have them. And in fact I have seen adoptions of barn cats and farm cats in the cases where the farmer has too many. That’s a lot better than just drowning the kittens which is what most farmers would do in other countries and this one too I’m sure. But it seems some farmers here care a lot about their cats which is nice. And I’m sure elsewhere.
We can conclude that the Swiss are good about minimizing unwanted cats and feral cats. It is difficult to put a finger on the cause. There are probably many reasons such as:
- A refined sense of community spirit supported by a culture of discipline. A socially aware and responsible culture. To be honest, I think this is the single biggest factor. You need to be aware of the feelings of others (people and cat) when keeping a cat….”The Swiss are responsible to the extent of being boring and all Swiss kids grow up being good little boys and girls. They would not be irresponsible with much. It’s actually pretty boring to some extent since they are so careful…” I feel that although Americans are in general civic minded they are also prone to being more competitive on an individual level and less good as a team (socially aware). That is a pure guess though but it could be one factor in the reason why there appears to be a feral cat problem in America.
- If you go to Switzerland you see very tidy, litter free and organised public places. Do they consider feral cats a form of litter and do anything they can to prevent them from occupying public places including preventing their creation through responsible cat caretaking?
- Money. The standard of living must be a factor. Wealth is linked to education too. Better education leads to a more responsible attitude toward looking after a cat and that includes going to the vet when required and to have your cat neutered or spayed.
- The Swiss are very independent minded remaining outside of the European Union. Perhaps they feel they are better than the rest. They probably are. It takes discipline to do that.
- Excellent animal welfare laws (Swiss Federal Act on Animal Protection 1978) but not particularly better than a lot of other countries. American animal welfare laws are at a state level and are similar to European laws. The issue really is whether people want to abide by the law because animal laws relating to animal cruelty for instance are hard to enforce.
- Good law enforcement. I am guessing that law enforcement is good in Switzerland. There is no doubt that where law enforcement is weak the law is pointless and worse. In Mexico animal welfare law is not bad but completely unenforced. In America it appears to me that people can shoot feral cats with impunity. Even the police do it and therefore animal welfare law is not enforced adequately. In the UK it is a charity, the RSPCA, who enforce the Animal Welfare Act 2006. That is a good idea. Police are not the ideal people to enforce animal laws.
- Animal welfare laws that have been in existence for a long time. I would guess that countries where animal welfare laws have been in place for the longest time are also places where animal welfare is the best. This is because laws gradually enter the communal consciousness. A classic example is the wearing of seat belts in cars. Before laws making it obligatory no one did it and now it feels odd not to do it.
- Climate. The climate should be a factor. Warmer countries tend to have more feral cats it seems to me as survival is easier.
- Switzerland and England are about 1000 years old although you can’t date the beginning of these countries accurately. I think the age of a country should be a factor. It certainly seems that way. America is relatively young at about 400 years of age on my reckoning. Australia is a young country too. They have some controversial attitudes towards cats. Generally they are overly tough in my view and in some places shooting a cat is legal. The age of a country may have a bearing on attitudes.
- The size of a country is a factor. Smaller is better where the attitude, government and motivation is good towards animal welfare.
Lastly, a measure of the development of the people of a country is a factor too. This is called the Human Development Index. Switzerland is high in this list as expected at 11th. This is just one element of a complex bundle of reasons why the homeless cat problem in Switzerland is minimal.