The city of Weed in Siskiyou County, California, has decided to ban the feeding of feral cats. The law is not yet passed but when it is, if you live in Weed, you will not be allowed to feed feral cats in public places including on streets, sidewalks, alleyways and in parks. The objective is to reduce the number of feral cats living in the city. Of course, the TNR advocates object to it. They say that not feeding the cats will result in them starving. The city council implicitly agrees with that. They want them to starve to death because it will reduce their numbers. That is their simple formula. Let nature take its course they say while ignoring the cruelty aspect and the vacuum effect.
The residents of the city are split on the matter which is bound to happen because there is a variety of opinions on cats and different standards of morality and kindness among the citizens of one city. Also, some people will have a feral cat problem and some people won’t. The TNR people know best in my opinion. They say not feeding won’t reduce the feral cat problem and of course they say it is cruel. I’m going to comment on this.
Not feeding feral cat is a reactive action. It is a method of trying to control feral cat after the fact i.e. after the cats have been born and are in the environment. Like I say, it is reactive and highly inefficient, cruel and in the long term ineffective. Also, it is unlikely that people will comply with the law even though they will get a fine if they are caught. You can’t stop people doing what they are compelled to do (out of kindness). And if people disagree with the law, as half of the city do, you’re going to get people breaking the law. Further, it is going to be difficult to enforce because you can feed feral cats surreptitiously without being seen (no evidence).
It would be far better to take proactive action. Education encourages people to do something and the law forces people to do something. It would be far better if the council instigated some sort of educational program on cat ownership to minimise cat abandonment in parallel with a prohibition on cat abandonment. The city admits that they have a problem with people abandoning their cats which is the beginning of the feral cat problem because these cats are also unsterilised and so they procreate. And if they die from starvation people still go on abandoning them. Starving feral cats to death does not stop people abandoning their cats.
The better law would be to force people to not abandon their cats. If you had a law which stated that if someone is caught abandoning their cat, they would end up in prison for five years nobody would abandon their cats. I’m not proposing that that sort of law should be in place because the punishment is too severe but the point is made. And if you stop people abandoning their cats you tackle the problem at root. This is far more effective. It is also more decent and more humane. If you stop cats being created you stop cats being in pain and distressed because they don’t exist.
Why can’t these councils understand this? The only long-term and proper way of dealing with feral cat is to change people’s attitude and behaviour towards domestic cat ownership. It is a long-term project (30 years). It is the small minority of cat owners who cause these problems. They don’t spay and neuter their cats so they procreate and then the cats wander away from their home or they’re dumped because the owners’ lives are somewhat chaotic. A lot of people simply can’t manage their lives. They don’t have the self-discipline or the wherewithal to cope properly and they cause these kinds of public problems. They need education and in parallel they need to be forced to change their ways through applicable and appropriate local law.
City administrators and councils across the USA and in other countries are constantly addressing the problem of feeding feral cats. It’s a persistent issue which resurfaces and also constantly splits the community. Its great weakness is that once you start feeding feral cats you can’t stop because they become dependent upon being fed.
SOME MORE ON FEEDING FERAL CATS:
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