Feral cats: doing the right thing is much harder than the quick fix but it’s better

The battle of wills about how to deal with feral cats is the battle of morality over expediency. It is the battle of doing the right thing over the quick fix. It is the battle over long-term thinking versus short-term thinking. There is a battle going on in many parts of the world about how best to deal with the feral cat problem. The way a country deals with it reflects on the attitude of the citizens of that country and their elected administration.

Nutmeg a favorite Disneyland cat
Nutmeg a favorite Disneyland cat. Photo: Seth Kubersky.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Feral cats when employed properly can be both useful and enhance the environment as demonstrated by Disneyland.

Handsome Greek feral cat
Handsome Greek feral cat. Photo: Image by user32212 from Pixabay

In America it comes down to county-level and city level. It is the administrators of these jurisdictions who decide how they are going to control feral cats and minimise their numbers. It can often be about stabilising the population which is another way of saying that they want to prevent the numbers growing. This is an achievement in itself.

You can sum up the right thing to do in that well-known acronym: TNR, which as you know stands for trap-neuter-release. There are variations on it such as TNVR which adds the word ‘vaccination’ to the phrase because incorporated within the TNR program is the vaccination of the feral cats which they’ve trapped.

And you can sum up the quick fix in two words: killing cats. When an administration decides to kill feral cats, their plan is to eradicate them completely from the environment. This fixes the problem – on paper. The problem is that it’s pretty well impossible to eradicate all feral cats in one area and it is certainly impossible to eradicate all feral cats across an entire country. This is because they are very good survivors and you don’t know where they are and how many of them there are.

And if you can’t kill them all – which is an immoral concept in any case – they will simply repopulate the area where they been eradicated. And so, it becomes a killing fest which provides a temporary fix but no long-term solution.

In the news today there is one American jurisdiction, Colleton County, which has decided to push the TNR solution. This is the correct and only solution currently available in my opinion and in the opinion of other animal advocates. Colleton County is in South Carolina and the report is that there are too many stray and feral cats in that region of the US. Another in the news is Madison County, who’ve also opted for TNR. It works best when councils harness the power of volunteers and work with them. Under this arrangement TNR can become very effective and enduring. And helps with community cohesion.

Trapped feral cat as part of TNR. Photo: Image by sandid from Pixabay.

RELATED: Volunteers wanted to relocate island feral cats while the government wanted to euthanize them

The problem is caused by people informally breeding domestic cats by adopting them informally and then not sterilising them. They then abandon them or they escape their home and become stray and then feral cats. That’s the root cause and then once they are feral cats they procreate. A lot of people are sensitive to the presence of feral cats and feed them. This helps them to survive and procreate. It’s understandable but incorporated within feeding should be the TNR program.

By all means, feed the feral cats but at the same time you trap them and take them to a veterinarian where they are neutered and spayed. And all this takes time, effort and money and an army of volunteers if you can get them. And there are some wonderful volunteers in America who are truly dedicated to their task of managing cats and improving their lives.

Feral cats managed by volunteers don’t live short, miserable lives. They often live reasonable lives which is the right outcome because people put them there in the first place. Society has a duty of care to look after them. New Jersey has introduced two new bills A-2275 and S179 which are designed to encourage community TNVR programs. They are collectively known as ‘Compassion for Community Cats Act’. This reflects the moral issue when dealing with feral cats that I have mentioned.

A shocking feature of TNR is that sometimes the volunteers, the people at the coalface, are abused. The battle as I described it in the opening paragraph takes place on the ground between people who object to TNR and those who carry it out. I recall one volunteer being shot dead by a man.

RELATED: Healthy Happy Feral Cat Colony of over 200 Cats (over 8000 Hours of Volunteer Work)

Feral cats generate a lot of passion on both sides of the fence. But I’ve got to be brutally honest here. The people who hate TNR are ill-educated. They don’t understand the way it works and its long-term benefits. And they ignore the ethical issues. When you ignore ethics in any project you make things much easier but often you don’t make things better. In fact, you can make things worse.

Then there’s the question of conscience. Society has a collective conscience. Only through TNR can society have a clear conscience in the way they respond to the presence of feral cats in their community.

The country which has opted for the quick, brutal fix is well-known: Australia. Their attitude towards feral cats reflects the general culture in that country. I’m afraid to say that they will fail if they think that the mass slaughter of feral cats will solve their problem. And the failure will be built on a mass of pain and a tortured conscience.

Below are some articles on TNR.

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