The UK seems to be following some city councils in the USA. The councillors (the lawmakers) of Nottingham have decided to ban the feeding of a colony of feral cats in a place called Woodlane Gardens “with immediate effect”. If the cat lovers refuse to comply they’ll be fined.
The people who feed the cats were sent a letter from the community protection officer Nick Loizou. The reasoning behind the ban as stated by Mr Loizou is laughable. He said that the cats are a “source of fatal and non-fatal diseases”, citing rabies and ringworm.
Everyone in the UK knows that rabies was eradicated from all UK animals (except a rare strain in bats) years ago – actually it was eradicated in 1922. Feral cats do not carry rabies. Feral cats are not a source of fatal diseases in the UK.
As for non-fatal diseases there are several zoonotic diseases such a cat scratch fever, ringworm and toxoplasmosis to name the best known but ringworm for example is a very low level “disease”. It not something to be really concerned about and you have to be in contact with the cat to get it from a cat. The chances of that for the average person is negligible. Most people don’t even see feral cats in the UK. I don’t consider feral cats a health hazard.
The major point is this: not feeding feral cats does not really solve problems of public health unless the city council think that by banning feeding them the cats will die. They won’t in my opinion.
At least when they are fed by colony caretakers the cats can be neutered and spayed, which will get rid of the cats eventually, provided the neutering is carried out consistently and with due diligence.
The cat caretakers are more sensible and practical. They want the council to work with them to run a more effective TNR program.
Denise Roberts wisely and correctly says:
“I don’t think they started out feral. A cat’s owner died and it became a stray and since then the problem has spiraled out of control.
“They’re harmless. They don’t trust humans and they don’t go near them. They only way to stop this getting worse is to catch them and neuter them.”
Lesley Martin (a dog lover) said:
“Fining people for feeding them is not the right thing to do. The council needs to work with residents and even animal charities to come up with a solution.”
The general mood is that the council’s letter is ridiculous, which it is. The truth of the matter is that the so called community protection officer lacks sufficient knowledge to make a proper decision on feral cats. He should set up a meeting with the colony caretakers and work out a proper, humane program to deal with the cats which satisfies the community at large.
Of course, there will be people in the community who want to be rid of the cats. It is always like this. However, their desires can be satisfied while at the same time treating the cats humanely. These are often domestic cats turned feral. They were someone’s pet at one time.
Councillor Nicola Heaton says:
“It is important that we continue to work with citizens to tell them that while they may feel inclined to care for these animals, there are clear reasons why they shouldn’t do so.”
This is a reference, I believe, to the idea that feeding feral cats leads to more feral cats. I am not sure that is true if feeding is part of a well organised TNR.
The UK is reciting the age old argument: does feeding feral cats as part of TNR work for in the interests of animal welfare and the citizens of the community. I believe that it does. The council should study this matter further and reconsider their decision.