Recently I’ve been having a problem with the feral cat population in my neighborhood. I live near a park and own 4 cats that are indoor/outdoor cats. The choice to allow my cats outside actually came about as a result of owning a dog. I have cats of varying ages (one is almost 6 months old and the oldest is 11). All have been sterilized and all are up to date on their shots.
A bit of background. I was brought up near a busy highway on 2.5 acres of land in a rural setting. I have had to handle both wild animals, feral animals and the poor animals that get dropped off because their owners don’t want them anymore. I have regularly either participated in capturing an animal and taking it to town to the shelter so it could be adopted. Or watched as my father had to shoot (he used the term “put down”) a sick animal that could have hurt one of our farm animals. I have had my share of pets that were easy to get along with and pets that weren’t. We often caught cats, had them fixed and returned them to our home where they became OUTSIDE cats (mostly because they didn’t want to come inside). We would have been happy to let them in and kept the door cracked and the heater going in a section of the barn during cold weather.
My problem isn’t with the feral cats themselves, but with the volunteer that feeds them. He or she is apparently a member of the Solano Feral Cat Group. Below is an excerpt from their website.
The Solano Feral Cat Group is a volunteer based, 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping Solano County’s homeless cat population. Our mission is to improve the lives of feral and homeless cats living in Solano County by humanely stopping their breeding through Trap-Neuter-Return(TNR). With TNR, feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their original location. The breeding stops, and the behaviors associated with mating stops (spraying, fighting, yowling). TNR is the only effective, humane, and long term solution in controlling feral cat populations. Our mission is also to protect the welfare of cats, and to promote the humane treatment and well being of these animals by:
- Offering monthly, low cost spay/neuter clinics for feral, stray, and pet cats.
- Educate the public about the plight of stray and feral cats and the need to spay/neuter and microchip pets.
- Support feral cat caretakers and gain recognition of the beneficial role they perform.
- Promote the adoption of long-term, caretaker-based solutions regarding feral cats.
Note that the mission statement makes no reference to the fact that they regularly feed feral cat populations. Or that there are ENTIRE sections of the website devoted to the care and keeping of feral cats.
In general I support the mission of the particular group, but there is one section where these folks and I differ. FEEDING THE CATS. In my humble opinion this simply encourages MORE cats. And they do so RIGHT BEHIND OTHER PEOPLES HOMES. Now, I know I wasn’t brought up in a PETA-influenced household (however we ALWAYS treated animals humanely),but this part of what the folks do seems just like finding rats in a field and directing them towards someones home. Because while cats are much friendlier pests than mice or rats, feral cats are STILL PESTS.
My main problem is that my oldest cat has a history of urinary tract infections (2 of them) and one of the ways I monitor his health is to feed him specific food. I can’t do that if someone else starts feeding him. Nor is it easy to keep him away from random food when someone places 4 or 5 bowls of food under the trees on the other side of my fence. As a responsible pet owner, I keep my pets up-to-date on their vaccinations; I feed and water them regularly, I clean up their feces, I TRY to keep them collared (more on this later) and I try to make my home SO INVITING that they would never want to leave. All I ask is that strangers stop feeding my pets.
I’m sure the volunteer has made friends with my animals. She has chastised me for not collaring them. I have tried collaring my cats. I ended up buying a new collar EVERY WEEK. Since I can’t afford that I’ve decided that the next time I take the cats in for shots, they (or at least the young ones) will get tagged electronically.
Here is the part that makes this entire situation harder for me. The volunteer told me on the phone that she is on disability and spends all her money feeding stray cats. She also told me that she moved where she feeds them because she was getting complaints from her neighbors. She told me that she got in trouble with her landlord because the feral cat population in our park started moving in to her apartment complex. WHAT???
So you engage in activities that YOU KNOW irritate the folks in your neighborhood and you cannot afford. This does not make sense to me. As a matter of fact – except for the fact they are not in her home – this smacks of one of those awful Animal Hoarder episodes on TV.
If anyone has recommendations as to what I can do now that a feral cat population has been moved to my back yard I would appreciate it. And please note that I cannot keep my cats inside unless I get rid of my dog.
*edited for grammar…