Neutered feral cats after surgery - great but sad photo, thanks - photo by Feral Indeed! (Flickr)
A fair percentage of people want to know how to get rid of feral cats. And this is actually a cat news item because in Columbia, USA, a lady who was trapping, neutering and releasing (TNR) feral cats as well as feeding them in the process was prosecuted under a law that prohibits keeping more than 4 cats at one location. The question was whether this extended to feeding and conducting TNR on feral cats.
The local court convicted her. On appeal a circuit judge allowed the appeal. Her written judgment is awaited.
This case mirrors to a certain extent the Beverly Hills Municipal Code Case. In both cases people living in one area where the TNR program was conducted objected to it because it attracted more feral cats and indeed wildlife.
Fair enough in one way, it seems. And they wanted to get rid of feral cats from their area by stopping the feeding of them as part of the TNR programme.
To me the action of prosecuting her seems inherently wrong on at least two levels.
Firstly, she is trying to humanely and decently mop up a mess caused by other people. The causes of feral cats are complex but one reason is irresponsible abandonment. And in my view the underlying reason for abandonment is not only the fault of the cat's owners but also the veterinarians who purvey through the practice of declawing that cats are "things" we can do as we please with.
Another reason for feral cats is probably the failure by some owners to neuter their cats. Why don't they neuter them? Is it the vet's charges? Or just a lack of awareness or both? I am not sure but the cause of the "feral cat problem" is deep seated and underlying and simply punishing a good woman for doing her bit, voluntarily, to help the victims of peoples' carelessness and/or greed (vets) is quite definitely not the way to go about getting rid of feral cats.
The circuit judge no doubt agreed with this.
But how to get rid of feral cats? There has to be a complete and subtle culture change. The concept of the human/domestic cat relationship has to change for some people (not all, of course) and their attitude towards the domestic has to change to one of high responsibility, which translates to always neutering (sad but it has to be done as it is the only practical way under current circumstances) their cats and importantly assimilating the idea that a cat is to be kept for the life of the cat with no exceptions.
That might seem tough but I don't think it is. Before adopting a cat a person simply has to ask themselves can I keep this cat permanently whatever happens?
Lastly the vets have a major role to play in conveying the right culture of cat keeping. They are failing dismally in this.
It almost always comes down to money. Vets compromise their values chasing the buck and cat owners abandon cats because they can't afford to keep a cat anymore.
Both these problems are resolvable. No one in the Western world is sufficiently poor to the extent that they cannot continue to keep a cat. Lack of sufficient funding is a convenient excuse.
Back to the story. If people want to get rid of feral cats from their area by stopping TNR programs this is simply brushing the problem under the carpet or moving it somewhere else. This simply perpetuates the problem. This is more irresponsible behavior.
The people who prosecuted this lady (Animal Control) are misguided and lack an understanding of the wider picture. It was doomed to fail.
How to get rid of feral cats? Go back to basics and fundamentals and do that for long enough and you will succeed without further harming the innocent victim, the humble domestic and feral cat.