For years the war has raged on.
On one side, those who love cats, and want to help those who are homeless have a better quality of life.
On the other side is a coalition of wildlife enthusiasts and animal abolitionists.
And what are they fighting about? What to do about the estimated 50 million unowned cats that roam the US.
In theory, the proposals made by the pro-cat side, which includes major animal welfare groups such as Alley Cat Allies and the Humane Society of the US, should work wonders. They propose TNR, or trapping the cats, spaying our neutering them, and then returning them to the area they came from to live out their lives. And since the estimate life span for a feral cat is 1-3 years, their numbers should slowly die off.
And in some communities it’s working.
And yet the cats keep coming.
The problems created by outdoor cats are many. Wildlife enthusiasts remind us homeless cats kill millions of birds and other small creatures annually. Abolitionists state the cats spread disease to owned animals. Also, the cats suffer the pain of injuries or illness for which they cannot be treated because they cannot be caught. To many, those that care for feral cat colonies are seen as little more than hoarders of outside cats.
And we cannot forget about the problem of dumpers- those who release cats in established, cared-for feral cat colonies. These include nuisance cats, cats that were abandoned or homeless in the neighborhood, and pet cats that are no longer wanted. Often the dumpers think they are doing a good thing for the cat. After all, it won’t be euthanized in the colony like it will at the animal control shelter, and it will be cared for.
Despite the battles and occasional success stories, inaction seems to be the rule. Why? Money.
Some local governments have no problem with TNR programs, and they contract with groups to provide the service to the community. Other local governments have no problem with the service being provided as long as they’re not paying for it. In areas such as where I live, where there is a lack of will AND a lack of money, the homeless cat population goes unchecked.
Personally, I don’t know what is the right approach for homeless cats. I want to see no creature killed. But the piecemeal approach of today simply is not working. And since our society is so deeply divided on the subject, it’s unlikely there will be a workable solution anytime soon.
In the meantime, the cats keep coming.