I am going to combine two news items in this post. One comes from PETA and the other from news media. PETA states that animal shelters are turning their backs on cats which is leading to more cases of cat hoarding. They say that shelters are turning away cats because they are under pressure to become no-kill which means they can’t make space in the shelter by euthanising cats. They run out of space and therefore turn away cats. That’s the argument. PETA prefer cats to be euthanised which is controlled killing rather than allowing cats to be abandoned and dying in a cruel way.
PETA also state that cat hoarders pose as cat rescuers. I have known this for many years. They tend to operate on social media, particularly Facebook presenting to the world that they are concerned about cat welfare. While they do this they harm cats through their hoarding leading to neglect. Sometimes the neglect leads to starvation and death. It is quite horrible. PETA referred to a California woman who described herself as a “rescuer of stray cats”. She was a hoarder and has been charged with felony cruelty to animals. You can imagine the conditions and the abuse so I won’t describe it. This case would not be unusual.
PETA also state that some state legislations have tried to legalise cat abandonment and strip cats of legal protection. They refer to a bill going through the Virginia legislature, Senate Bill 1390. They argue that the bill, “would have effectively allowed municipalities, groups, and individuals to abandon cats outdoors without providing them with any care.”
There have been several news media accounts of an increase in feral cats in America. They argue this is due to veterinary services not providing discount spaying and neutering services in the usual way due to the coronavirus pandemic. This has led to feral cats procreating more than usual, leading to more feral cats. One news media website say that the feral cat population on Long Island has seen a jump during the pandemic for this reason.
It is possible, too – although I have not seen this mentioned news media – that volunteers who run TNR programs may have been reluctant to continue their work during the pandemic for social distancing reasons. It depends how risk-averse they are. Although the work of running TNR programs is, I would argue, relatively safe in terms of contracting Covid-19 because the work is outside and the volunteers can remain socially distanced.
Another factor, perhaps a minor one, is that there may have been some cat abandonments during the Covid-19 pandemic because of the fear of contracting the disease from their pets. And there may be financial issues due to unemployment leading to abandonment of pets. These cats may become feral. Some of them might not be neutered which would make them a source of future feral cats, at least potentially.
The Grand Forks Herald reports that the pandemic has resulted in reduced animal-control efforts at a time when “Covid-stressed pet owners began to dump unwanted cats on street corners.”
They refer to Christine Gruber who monitors six feral cat colonies in the Dayton’s Bluff area of St Paul, who said that she cannot keep pace with the “rising tide of unadoptable cats.”
Gruber said, “It’s becoming harder for me to even make a dent.”
They say that the animal welfare system is a casualty of the pandemic. Once again they refer to a shutdown of clinics performing spaying and neutering operation. In addition 66 cat-rescue groups were forced to shut down. The Animal Humane Society permanently closed its shelter in St Paul. They suspended importing pets from other states.
However, Minnesotans are looking to adopt more frequently. In the UK this has happened as well and dogs are preferred over cats. In Minnesota it is said that nonprofits suspended the mobile spay/neuter vans serving the areas of low income communities. This forced them to pay $350 for spaying a cat. They couldn’t afford it because they had their own problems due to the pandemic. This resulted in cats being dumped.
The founder of the cat-rescue group SCRAM, Laura Johnson, said that feral cat colonies were growing statewide in Minnesota and that there are thousands of cats near Pine City which is about 60 miles north of the metro area.
Conclusion: I won’t go on but the clear impression is that the ‘feral cat problem’ has increased during the coronavirus pandemic for the reasons mentioned above. This is very sad because a lot of very good people have spent a lot of time and effort in doing their best to reduce feral cat numbers in many communities across the US. The problem of cat hoarding is a perennial one. It is not going away. The local authorities need to come up with solutions to deal with the problem at the root. It comes down to mental health issues and education in combination with in excess of cats which are readily available to people predisposed to hoarding.