There are a number of ways to reduce the number of domestic cats becoming feral. The first is obvious, namely that stray cats need to be reunited with their owners. In 1998-99, in the United States, only 2 to 3% of all cats entering animal shelters were returned to their owners1.
It perhaps goes without saying that the “domestic cat reunification rate” would be improved substantially if microchipping and identification programs of cats were implemented. Secondly, all cats allowed outside should be sterilised. Thirdly, and this is a more difficult area, cat owners should seek help with respect to domestic cat selection, behaviour and medical problems. This is about education.
This is because many cat owners fail to keep their cats in the long term because of a lack of knowledge about domestic cat behaviour and their social needs. It would be far better if unknowledgeable cat owners sought help early on to improve the relationship with their cat rather than relinquish their cat to a shelter after living with what they consider to be domestic cat behaviour problems for years. “Domestic cat behaviour problems” are often human lack of knowledge problems.
These sorts of steps require initiatives on both the national and local level. Community-based programmes could include education from pre-school to adult levels. Animal control can be improved and there could be greater expertise in animal management.
There may be a role for legislation to tighten up the standards of domestic cat caretaking. This is a contentious point. One problem with legislation is that it requires effective enforcement and this is certainly a weak spot in legislating for higher standards in cat caretaking, particularly with respect to preventing abandonment. However, the world is gradually moving towards limited legislation as sensitivity towards feral and stray cat welfare, in general, improves.
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Ref: 1 – Two studies Zawistowski at al 1998 and Dowidchuck 1999