by Lori Smith
Lets respect our animal companions - photo by darkmavis (Flickr)
Most of us are familiar with the command God gave to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (New International Version, Gen. 1.28).
However, how many of us have considered what these words mean? Is the LORD suggesting brutal domination, or compassionate stewardship? Proverbs 12:10 gives us the answer, for it states, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”
Most of us would say we do care for our animals. Especially here in America, we pride ourselves on having compassion for them. In fact the Christian Science Monitor reports, “In the United States, sixty-three percent of households include a pet (up seven percent since 1988), and pet lovers spent $38.5 billion on their pets in 2006 (up from $21 billion a decade earlier)” (Bauer, 1).
Therefore, it must be ignorance among the general public that accounts for the number of cats that are euthanized each year. Alley Cat Allies, one of the leading cat advocates, reports that “euthanasia in animal control pounds and shelters is the number one documented cause of death of all cats in the U.S.” (“Cat Fatalities and Secrecy” 1). Additionally, for every domestic cat that is being cared for, there is an unwanted feral (completely undomesticated) cat running wild in America with no support (“Cat Fatalities and Secrecy”1).
The issue with feral cats is not a new one. Pictures-of-Cats.org, a zealous cat-advocacy site in the U.K. provides web browsers with a history of the problem.
Included in this history is a pamphlet issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1916, which states, “Hundreds of thousands of cats (in America), deserting their owners or deserted by them, have reverted to the wild state, bred in the woods, and their progeny have increased until they have become… a menace to small game” (Forbush 8). Unfortunately, the situation today is not much different than it was almost one hundred years ago. It is also not a problem that is limited to the United States, which explains advocacy groups in other parts of the world like the one mentioned above.
April 24th 2010: One of the feral cats we have rescued. Elsie is the mother; we haven't named the kittens because they will be given away. It will be so hard to part with them. We plan to have Elsie spayed and hope she will be willing to become an indoor cat.
Exactly what is the current situation regarding feral cats, and more specifically what is a feral cat? Michael Broad, creator and author of Pictures-of-Cats.org, provides this definition of a feral:
“Originating originally from the domestic cat — no or little contact with people and born outside of human society. They are wild domestic cats” (“Feral Cats”)
There are currently more of these wild cats living in America than domestic ones. Additionally, Allie Cat Allies reports, “Scientists are of the opinion that the majority of kittens being born in the country are born to the outdoor population” (“Missing the Target” 2). Unfortunately, most communities have combated the problem by euthanizing thousands of cats each year.
Is there a better remedy? Fortunately there is. Allie Cat Allies, in corroboration with other advocacy groups, have narrowed the solution to five simple steps:
(1) Conduct trap-neuter-return for all cats. The number one priority when discovering an individual or colony of cats is to safely and humanely trap them to see that they are neutered and vaccinated.
(2) Provide food and water. If possible, feed on a regular schedule and remove uneaten food within thirty minutes.
(3) Provide shelter…It can help protect them from the elements and help you deter them from neighbor’s properties.
(4) Monitor the colony and keep accurate records. Keep track of all colony members, their health, new cats that might enter the colony, and your ongoing trap-neuter-return effort.
(5) Help cats and people co-exist. As the colony caregiver, you become the cats’ public relations firm and can help maintain their good image and good neighborhood status in your community.
Make sure that residents know you are open to their feedback about the cats. (“About Us: Caring for Stray and Feral Cats” 2) This solution actually resolves the problem in a humane way. A number of communities, which have implemented this strategy, have witnessed positive results. Alley Cat Allies writes, “The breeding stops. Populations are gradually reduced…The cats are vaccinated against disease, and they are fed on a regular schedule. This ongoing care creates a safety net for both the cats and the community” (“Do You Believe She Deserves to Live” 2,).
However, there are some groups who are not in favor of this approach. There are generally two arguments that surface. Firstly, there are conservation groups that blame feral cats for devastating the wildlife communities where the cats live. Maryann Mott, a reporter for National Geographic News states their position this way, “Wildlife and ornithology organizations…believe these stealthy predators decimate bird populations and threaten public health. The organizations want the cats removed from the environment and taken to animal shelters, where they are often killed” (1).
Secondly, some people do not want their tax dollars to be spent on animal care; and Mott reports that the most successful programs receive “large-scale public and financial support” (2).
However, these groups are largely responding to myths; and the truth dispels fears. For example, concerns regarding the death of birds is mostly unfounded. Michael Broad writes, “Nature does not support ferals in urban areas…It is the rubbish or the kindness of humans” (“About Feral Cats”).
It is also not more cost effective to eradicate the cats, nor does it wipe out carriers of disease such as rabies. Instead, “The most effective means of stabilizing populations, controlling rabies, and protecting human health is to sterilize and release healthy vaccinated cats back into managed sites. These well established supervised colonies effectively occupy territory…and actually provide a buffer zone for humans” (“Rabies and Feral Cats” 3). Additionally, trapping, removing, and killing the animals is very costly. Moreover, it does not work. What occurs instead is what has been documented as “the vacuum effect…other cats move in to take advantage of the newly available resources and they breed prolifically, quickly forming a new colony” (“Do You Believe She Deserves to Live” 2).
In conclusion.. Scripture provides us with many examples of how the LORD expects us to treat animals. He commanded the Israelites to let the land rest on the seventh year so that wild animals might eat along with the poor (New International Version, Exod. 23.10). Similarly, the Sabbath was given, not only to give rest to people but to animals as well (Exod. 23.12). Therefore, we must view all animals which exist with compassion.
Especially since the feral cat problem stems from neglect. Writes Michael Broad, “There is no point moaning about feral cats as if we are blaming the cats for the problem. The problem is ours in the same way as is obesity or bad debt or any other human condition” (“Our Problem” 1). All feral cats can be traced back to a domestic cat with an irresponsible owner.
Thankfully, as we have shown, the solution is simple and can be done by average people like you and me. It is a simple as caring for those ferals or strays that God puts in your path. If you see a hungry cat feed it. Call your local ASPCA to see if there are any vets or grants in your area that provide monetary help with spaying and neutering. Then obtain a trap, take the animals into the vet, and release them back into the wild once they have been treated. Most are able to cope quite well in the wild when they are provided with some outdoor shelter, food, and water (“Do You Believe She Deserves to Live” 1). This would be a great project for those with small children who could be taught how to show compassion and be good stewards of God’s creation. For others, it will bring the satisfaction of knowing they have pleased God Who has not forgotten one sparrow (Luke 12:7).
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Photo: original on Flickr
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