Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dealing with Feral Cat Populations

As some of y'all know, I am a veterinary technician. What you may not know is that I have worked in day practice, emergency practice and now work in a spay and neuter practice. I love what I do, with every ounce of my being, I love my job. I have always had an open heart toward animals. I brought home every critter imaginable as a child and that trait has never faded, even after all these years. 
Something I wanted to blog about today was feral cats. In the day practice I worked in we saw a good many feral cats and now in my current practice we see them every day that we do surgery. The feral cat population is huge in this area. I'm not sure if its just because here in the south we don't have really cold winters so there is usually an abundance of things for the kitties to eat or if the pet owners in our area are just that irresponsible, I think it's a combination.  
I just wanted to give y'all some information in case you have a feral cat problem in your area. There is an organization dedicated to helping people control the feral cat populations in their area and also there to help the cats. This organization is called Alley Cat Allies. They can help you if you are having problems with cats in your area. There have been numerous studies on the best ways to control or eliminate feral cat populations. 
The best way to help control the population is by spaying and neutering all of the animals in the colony. There are a few rescue groups in our area dedicated just to trapping, spaying or neutering and releasing these feral cats back into their population. Some people feel that trapping and euthanizing these cats is the best option, but if you take the time to read these brochures you will see that is has been proven that this method just doesn't work. Trapping and relocating also doesn't work. From the Alley Cat Allies site:
"Grounded in science, TNR stops the breeding cycle of cats and therefore improves their lives while preventing reproduction. It is a fact that the removal and killing of outdoor cats that animal control has been pursuing for decades is never ending and futile. Since feral cats are not adoptable, they are killed in pounds and shelters. With a successful program like Trap-Neuter-Return to turn to, it’s hard to believe that animal control agencies continue to kill cats, even though that approach has shown zero results."

Why doesn't relocating work? Because there is some food source in the area keeping the cats sustained, if there wasn't a food source the cats would move on. So if you just remove the cats more cats will take their places. 

Once all of the cats in the colony have been spayed or neutered the population will begin to decline because #1 you will no longer be adding cats to the colony by way of breeding and #2 once the cats are fixed they will no longer welcome new cats to the colony, they have no reason to.  Cats only allow new comers in to the colony for breeding reasons, if they no longer have the desire to breed they will protect their area from intruders. 

Some people are concerned with the effect that feral cats have on the wildlife population. The truth is many studies are not showing the real truth. Studies are conducted asking owners if their cats bring home birds, but there is no way of knowing if the cat actually killed the bird. Cats are opportunistic feeders, they will scavenge. Many studies have shown that only 35-56% of cats hunt.  And it is has also been studied and determined that cats prefer the taste of dry or canned cat food over birds or mice. So if you want to help protect the wild birds in your area your best bet is to feed the feral cats! It is important to note that cats and their prey species have coexisted for hundreds if not thousands of years. Feral cats have not just come into existence in the past few decades, what has changed is the human population and mans impact on this earth, with deforestation and pollution. We are more likely to blame for the decline in wildlife species than feral cats!

I hope this blog has been informative and I hope it gets you thinking about spaying and neutering your own pets. Spaying and neutering is the most humane, logical choice.  So next time you see a feral cat I hope you have a more positive opinion about them than you may have had before reading this blog. 

Enjoy your furry and feathered friends!

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