Feral and Stray Cats are Killed not Euthanised

by Michael
(London, UK)

Canadian Feral cat - you are better off in the wild - photo by Bruce McKay (Flickr)

I have been led to make this post by Lori Smith, who has written an essay that I hope to publish on this site. She pointed me in the direction of the excellent website, Alley Cat Allies, who have a page about the use of the word 'euthanasia'.

This is something I had not sufficiently picked up on as I am indoctrinated into the acceptable belief that feral and homeless cats are killed humanely as a necessary but unfortunate response to the problem of unwanted cats and cats that are considered a nuisance; feral cats.

Euthanasia is a word that conjures up the humane and gentle release of unwanted cats from this tough world. It tends to make the process acceptable. And I mean the process of killing millions of cats every year in the United States. Do we know how many? I am not sure that we do. I have seen figures between 2 and 14 million.

The trouble is most of these cats are not euthanised. They are outright killed because there is nothing wrong with them.

The dictionary definition of 'euthanasia' is

The act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment. - The Free Dictionary

Millions of healthy cat are therefore killed each year. How do we live with this? It is clearly acceptable to people in the USA as little or nothing changes from year to year.

Of all the cats in pounds and shelters in the United States 73% are killed. Twenty-three percent are adopted. Two percent are returned to their owners. These are startling figures from the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy Shelter Statistics Survey1. You will be unsurprised to read that almost all feral cats are killed by shelters and pounds. Why don't shelters neuter them and return them?

Forgive me if I have this wrong but it seems that this mass slaughter is a way of life. It is just there, part of the system of cat 'ownership' or disownership.

Humans have a great capacity to make the unacceptable acceptable through the use of euphemisms. For the sake of clarity a euphemism is

The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive. - The Free Dictionary

We use euphemisms in the ghastly world of declawing cats. 'Declawing' is a classic euphemism that completely hides the true nature of this hideous operation, which as we know is the not the removal of the claw as the word suggests.

Alley Cat Allies make the point that the killing of cats in shelters and pounds is the number cause of deaths of domestic cats in the USA (or in the case of feral cats what should be a domestic cat).

They make the very important point too that there is a distinct lack of statistical information. Shelters don't collect data accurately and/or don't release it unless you force them through a formal freedom of information request. Something is wrong. I am also told that shelters don't assist in the collection of data on the abandonment and rehoming of declawed cats. This would be useful information in tackling declawing of cats.

Are shelters perpetuating the killing and declawing of cats in their own interests? I will stop on that provocative note.

Euthanize a cat - how it is done

Feral and Stray Cats are Killed not Euthanised -- Source:
1. Alley Cat Allies
Link to original Flickr photo

Feral and Stray Cats are Killed not Euthanised to Feral Cats

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Feral and Stray Cats are Killed not Euthanised

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Apr 12, 2010 100% No Kill Shelters do exist in USA
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

It is so maddening to see the term 'euthanasure' being convoluted as it has been; however, take heart - there are some very worthy NO-KILL shelters in the USA that really mean it.

Along with the wonderful Alley Cat Allies organization, the North Shore Animal League of America is the world's largest NO-KILL shelter. Please take a moment to peruse their website. The link below outlines their Mission Statement; however, should you visit the Home page and read from there, you will understand just how committed they are in helping distressed animals. This shelter, in union with other like-minded organizations rescue animals everywhere.

I thought you may also appreciate the link to see how they got started. It's rather amazing.

Apr 11, 2010 No mercy - only killing
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Michael, thank you for pointing out how the meaning of 'euthanasia' has moved from mercy killing in order to relieve from incurable suffering into killing in general for human practical reasons.
It's a prime example of how a euphemism works at it's worst by covering up the grim facts. But if instead of 'euthenasia' the term 'mercy killing' had been used, the hypocrasy of those pounds and shelters would probably have been too obvious.
For healthy ferals 'mercy' should mean neuter and return, but all they are offered is the killing. What a shame...

Apr 10, 2010 Alley Cat Allies
by: Dorothy

Another great article Michael. Thanks for bringing our attention to this fine organization. There was a another article by Lori Smith soon after this one that is also informative. She quotes you and refers to your articles. POC is turning out to be a formidable cat advocacy.

Knowing there are these groups here in the US helps some of us feel less 'paralyzed' about how to help.

Bravo, and keep the stories coming. Education is key.


Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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