As National Feral Cat Day approaches (this year it falls on Sunday, October 16th), I’m already launching my canvassing action to educate people, and especially my condo neighbors, about community cats, aka feral cats, stray cats, outdoor cats, alley cats, what have you.
Some of my neighbors on the condo email site have proposed shooting the cats they see outside or at least calling animal control on them, whether they are pet cats or community cats.
I believe this is a wrong-headed approach. For one thing, animal control delivers most cats to kill-shelters, where they will be killed if not quickly claimed, pets or not. And many shelters do not actually scan for microchips, which would determine if a cat is owned, and how to contact their owner to retrieve them.
And just removing outdoor cats does not solve any problems that someone feels they might create, because the “vacuum” in the neighborhood is quickly populated by other un-owned cats. This phenomenon has been fully and scientifically documented.
Further, even if animal control did deliver the cats they confiscate to a shelter that does not simply kill the cats, there is still a problem. From the Alley Cat Allies webpage, this short article explains why:
Sanctuaries: Not an Easy Fix
Cat sanctuaries are not the answer for the millions of outdoor cats who live outside. In fact, animal sanctuaries are not a viable option for most cats including socialized cats who have lived with people inside.
Cat sanctuaries face many challenges, including significant financial obstacles. These sanctuaries are extremely expensive to build and maintain, and most of them just aren’t sustainable. Once a facility has opened, they fill up fast because they can really only provide long term care for a small group of cats. Even then, the confinement and the large number of cats in small rooms or areas causes the cats a lot of stress and can expose them to disease.
The money spent housing a few hundred cats in a confined space could be used to fund Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) and low-cost spay/neuter programs. Redirecting resources in that way would actually work to benefit the entire cat population.
Sanctuaries are forced to close their doors every year due to insufficient funds or an inability to properly care for the cats in the existing confined space.
For a detailed explanation of why sanctuaries are not the answer for cats, especially community cats, check out our case study of a feral cat sanctuary.
In case you might labor under the misimpression that stray cats, more properly called community cats, are ugly and malnourished as a matter of fact, actually they live on average as long as owned cats, and are usually as lovely. Some cases in point (and many have an ear-tip clipped, which shows that they have already been trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to their living site, although not all facilities in all communities use the ear-tip method):
The cats above are from the Boardwalk Cats Project in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is great when a community rallies around their community cats this way! More feral cats:
Feral cats cannot usually be socialized, although there are notable exceptions. However the kittens of feral cats are fully adoptable, and can be raised to be loving pets. Here are some photos of kittens of feral cats:
Then there are the sad pictures, of cats behind bars…
In an effort to forestall more cats ending up in kill shelters, or worse, I have initiated an action in my condo neighborhood, canvassing as many neighbors as possible with informational hang-tags for their doors that explain community cats and the best ways to handle them. I’ve also got flyers to hand out, if anyone comes to their door!
And yesterday I began the action by dropping off a literal box-load of materials to my friend Sammi Bickerdt, who is volunteering to canvass as well. I also took materials to Barbara Eakins, a dedicated volunteer for Colony Cats of Columbus. She fosters kittens in her home, and I was delighted to meet three of them yesterday in her kitchen!
Then I took posters and flyers to my amazing veterinarian, Dr. Mike Kelleher of Healthy Pets of Rome-Hilliard. He is the most compassionate vet I’ve ever known, both towards his animal patients and their human owners, who often require even more special handling than their pets do!
I hope that you will visit the websites of National Feral Cat Day and Alley Cat Allies, where you will discover much more information about community cats, their care and handling for the betterment of the entire neighborhood. There is also still time to register your own action in honor of National Feral Cat Day!