Feral Cat Caretakers Don’t Always Do the Right Thing

I personally have great admiration for people who voluntarily care for feral cats. As far as I could am concerned they do valuable work and this is not a general criticism. However, I also believe that sometimes feral cat caretakers and those people who are concerned about feral cat welfare make mistakes and antagonize their neighbors unnecessarily. They might do this innocently or inadvertently in their quest to help feral cats but I don’t think it furthers the cause of feral cats in general.

In this instance a woman living in North Richland Hills in Tarrant County, Texas, USA, is feeding feral cats in her neighborhood. She has been doing this for six years. She believes that cats should be free to roam. I don’t know whether she is engaged in a TNR program. The report does not disclose that. But she leaves food down for the cats 24/7. This attracts the feral cats and of course foreseeably her neighbours are up in arms.

Although, her neighbors are exaggerating the problem in the furtherance of their condemnation of this lady, you can see how a kind of war is set up between a person who loves feral cats and wants to help them and others who have opposing viewpoints. This does not achieve anything. It is essential that feral cat caretakers work with the community and with the authorities to ensure that they minimize antagonism with their fellow citizens and also work within the guidelines set down by the local authority and animal control. I sense that the best way to work with feral cats is also to work with the authorities because it gives validity to any feral cat TNR program. In some cities and counties, as I understand it, it is obligatory to work with the local authorities if one wants to work with feral cats.

The woman concerned is Suzy Oujesky. She lives behind a home belonging to a guy called Tim Flanagan. Tim Flanagan is well known at the local cat shelter because he has trapped 48 cats and taken them all to the shelter. I will have to presume that all the cats were euthanized as is the usual practice for feral cats unless some of them were not true feral cats in which case they might have been rehomed. And it also begs the question whether a certain percentage of these cats were domesticated and belong to somebody but that is another matter.

Food for feral cats
The food put down by Suzy Oujesky.

Flanagan says that the cats have ruined his fence and attacked his dog. I cannot believe that feral cats have ruined his fence. They may have left some small marks on the fence but they would not have ruined it. As for his dog: I don’t believe that either.

Another neighbor has complained. She says that the cats have damaged her property. She says that they spray urine on everything including shoes that they left outside which they had to throw away subsequently.

The “war” escalated when Suzy was caught on a surveillance camera entering Mr Flanagan’s property and releasing one of the cats that he had trapped. The neighbors have called animal services at least 68 times since 2011. Mr Flanagan has sent them 250 photographs of cats on his fence. Nothing happened.

Suzy wrote letters to the neighbors threatening them by saying that she has connections with a judge and a lawyer. When the news media became involved and interviewed Suzy she said that she no longer fed the cats.

City management agree that they have mishandled the situation. North Richland Hills City Manager Mark Hindman provided a statement in which he only hints at the fact that they will go against Suzy. They do not say what they are going to do but it is pretty clear that they’re going to stop her feeding feral cats. There may be an ordinance which prevents people feeding feral cats unless they are part of a TNR program and unless the food is lifted after the cats had been fed.

However, the point of this short article is a simple one, namely that people working with feral cats should ensure that to the best of their ability they do not antagonize neighbors and that they work with the local authorities.

P.S. I am in two minds about this lady. I love her courage and passion to help. I just don’t see it working out in the long run. It works against her and the cats ultimately.

Here is a video explaining things:

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4 thoughts on “Feral Cat Caretakers Don’t Always Do the Right Thing”

  1. Yes I agree with the summation of the problem. I myself have had my share of angry neighbors complaining at or about me as I look for cats in my neighborhood. I try to keep a low profile, but when someone gets in my face because they just don’t understand or care, it’s hard not to reply with a few choice words of my own. The latest cat I’ve taken in I had to wait months for until he wandered onto my property just to get a good look at him. I’ve learned to ask for permission to trespass and not to argue with a policeman. Don’t laugh at them either; it doesn’t help. That wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but just don’t go there.

    Reply
    • I can see the problem and I am in two minds on this. This lady is passionate about helping feral cats in an environment that is hostile towards her. So I see her courage etc.. I am just not sure she is doing it the right way. There should be a better way. Albert, do you feed feral cats? You rescue them? How would you play this if you where this lady?

      Reply
  2. I think this case illustrates a common problem of rescuers, TNR caregivers, etc. Because we feel/know that our cause is just, we feel empowered to act boldly without taking into account that our values are not shared by many others in the community. Perhaps rescuers need to take a more defensive, less open attitude. Doesn’t it sometimes feel like we are waging a guerrilla war? Would love to see a dialogue about this. I admit that being courageous sometimes/often brings about miracles, but I’ve also seen rescuers get burned by not being cautious enough.

    Reply
    • Marianna, I think you sum up the problem very well. I do agree that people who love and care for feral cats need to act boldly sometimes because they feel oppressed or because the authorities don’t do enough. And they know that there are people out there who will dislike them and they also know that feral cats are vulnerable and that they need our help. However, it cannot work if we are waging war with other citizens including neighbors. It just goes down the wrong path and leads to a very unproductive situation. I think it also rebounds on feral cat caretakers. They can reinforce the crazy cat lady label unfortunately, which is a very incorrect and derogatory label.

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