Is it OK to feed feral cats during the coronavirus crisis?
Yes, of course it is. However it is a question worth asking if for no other reason than it gives me the opportunity to say it is okay. That point needs to be made loud and clear. There is a particular need to feed feral cats nowadays because the various lockdowns have resulted in less food for feral cats. Either in terms of less waste food behind restaurants etc. and/or volunteers who normally feed feral cats being fearful of going out because it might break social distancing rules or lockdown laws. In truth there may be an urgency because it would be cruel to stop feeding cats who are already the recipients of human kindness.
There are three major points to make:
Feeding feral cats at any time
The feeding of feral cats at any time is somewhat contentious because there are objectors to it. They ague that it attracts wildlife and that the feral cats spread disease. These are weak arguments as the food can be put down for a set time and feral cats spread less disease than humans (ironically Covid-19 is a good example). So in general feeding feral cats is morally the right thing to do, especially as we have put them in their dire predicament through human carelessness and neglect.
Transmission of Covid-19
A potential argument against feeding feral cats is that the kind-hearted volunteers who do it might spread Covid-19 to the cats and harm them. Also in the process they might spread the disease to each other. Both negatives can be successfully scotched. There have been recorded cases of presumed transmission from people to cats but they’ve been exceedingly rare and the cats have had mild or no symptoms. As for human-to-human transmission while feeding cats this can be eliminated by complying with standard social distancing measures and wearing masks.
For the greater good
If we judge the morality of human behaviour by how much good it does in general and if we include in the ‘equation’1 animals as recipients of good human acts, feeding feral cats makes the world a better place. It is therefore morally justified as a means to improve the world. It should therefore be done and can continue to be done during the coronavirus pandemic.
Note: In working out what is good for the planet we need to ask what acts create the greatest good for the greatest number AND we must include animals as part of “the greatest number”.
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