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Feral Cat Purge Isn’t the Solution 

A response to Jim Anderson's Time for a Cat Management Plan.

A recent article in the Source, (July 12) written by Jim Anderson, left me shaking my head.  In his article, “Time for a Cat Management Plan” his message seems to be that feral cats carry the plague; they will spread it to humans, and therefore they need to be exterminated through euthanasia. He states that cats are killers by nature. True. So are domestic dogs that roam in packs, killing or maiming livestock. Oh, and humans kill other humans through ethnic cleansing, war atrocities, etc.
It would seem to be a matter of perspective. He disagrees with the ASPCA, which endorses the Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) method as the only humane solution. He believes that cats should be registered the same way that dogs are (I am assuming “licensed”) and identified with a collar and ID.  If captured, the owner can be notified to come get their cat. If there is no ID, he reasons it is a feral cat and should be euthanized.

This reminds me of a saying by Albert Einstein, “Condemnation without investigation is the highest form of ignorance.” Unfortunately, there are many holes in this theory of the “final solution” for cats.  Furthermore, the mass euthanasia of cats puts an unfair physical, financial, and emotional burden on the shelters and staff who would have to deal with this.

In Europe, scene of the historical bubonic plague, cats are protected by law in many places, including Rome and the Vatican City. The Catholic Church finally changed its stance on cats when it realized that cats didn’t cause the plague; populations of flea-infested rodents did. When cats kept the rodent population in check, this reduced the threat to humans. FLEAS carry the plague; ANYTHING that can become a host for fleas acts as a vector to expose humans—again, rodents.

There are numerous reasons that human beings get sick. Remember the Hanta virus? This virus is spread to people by—again—rodents through saliva, droppings and urine. As of July 3, 2012, there have been 15 cases of Hantavirus in Oregon, per the CDC.

Talk to the veterinarians, trappers, shelter staff, and volunteers who deal with feral cats. Do we have any documented cases of the plague with this group? Between them, they have dealt with thousands of feral cats in the TNR program. More then one of them have been bitten, more than once. Why the fear mongering?

Regarding the registering (licensing?) of cats, one need only look at the noncompliance of many dog owners with the licensing mandate. And, as any cat owner knows, cats can easily slip their ID collars. Yet, a cat coming in without a collar would be a feral, according to Mr. Anderson’s reasoning.

The vast majority of so-called feral cats are “throwaways”—dumped, abandoned pets. True feral cats were born and raised in the wild; abandoned cats will often join or coexist with the feral.

Well intentioned adoption of kittens or intact adult cats without follow up spay or neuter is one of the main reasons for the existence of wild and feral cats, as is pet abandonment.  Folks who do this suggest that cats can catch mice, etc, and survive (unlike the family dog).

Unfortunately, we have met the enemy, and it is US.

A comprehensive program of community education, truly responsible pet ownership, safety nets such as pet food banks; and ultimately high quality, high volume spay and neuter programs to reduce pet homelessness is the only reasonable answer.

As Gandhi said, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” It is time for common sense, and community wide responsibility.

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