Managed feral cats can live healthy lives. Image Copr. Sapphire Dream/Flickr
No, I don’t mean my cats have turned on me, although Seren and Karma have yet to call a truce. Actually, the past week or so has been filled with an array of articles, posts, and flame-war discussions denigrating cats as well as those who attempt to help them.
This isn’t new. Cats have been the scapegoat for many of the world’s ills. Perhaps it’s because our felines have such great success surviving what would fell lesser creatures. After all, there’s a reason that “9 lives” myth has been repeated for eons.
Cats, particular the issue of ferals and TNR, seem to bring out all the trolls. For more on TNR, read this blog post from last year.
News outlets eager to sell stories and get more eyeballs on their venues often duck fact-checking and opt for hand-waving sensationalism. So cats are blamed for:
- rabies (despite the fact that wildlife reservoirs–bats, raccoons, foxes–are the more likely host)
- “crazy brain disease” and being baby-killers due to toxoplasmosis (despite the fact most humans harbor this without any problem, as a result of eating rare meat–and it’s easily preventable with just modest hygiene)
- Bird predation (despite human destruction of habitat and other critters–like rats and snakes–impact birds at much higher rates).
- And now, a scare that cats transmitted tuberculosis to people, via contact with badgers. (?!) “We don’ need no stinkin’ badgers!” (sorry, couldn’t resist but it’s NOT funny)
The anti-TNR folks point to these issues to convince us lethal means–usually poisoning–of feral cats should be implemented. That’s worked SO WELL over the past 100+ years (NOT!). The results have been ineffective, inhumane and costly.
My owned cats Seren and Karma stay inside, not to protect the wildlife from them, but to protect them from the wildlife. I agree that companion cats merit protection. But so do feral felines, who through no fault of their own, live life on the wild side. And truth be told, both Seren and Karma were but one paw-step away from living that wild side life, and being the targets of cat haters.
Sound harsh? So sue me.
TNR is not a “single” thing. It’s an all-encompassing effort that not only trap-neuter-returns but also adopts out the adoptable “strays” that wander in or get dumped, places kittens able to adapt as pets, euthanizes the un-save-able, and helps relieve the burden for local animal welfare organizations. So according to some, TNR is a “failure” because cat colonies don’t go away simply with the trap-neuter-return portions of the equation.
Is TNR perfect? No. Is killing cats a perfect solution? No. Are there valid arguments on both sides? Of course. That’s always the case when the situation isn’t black and white, but instead all shades of gray, tabby, calico and more.
Here’s my response to one thread of comments:
“I’m delighted there are so many here who claim to have the best interests of cats (shelter, stray, feral, pet) at heart. And I’m saddened that rather than working together to help the situation, great pains are taken to denigrate any effort. It’s very easy (on both sides) to pick and choose the “facts” one wishes to spotlight in an effort to support an argument and point fingers how WRONG WRONG WRONG the other party is. Rather than allow emotions to run the show, it’s a much more difficult — and ultimately rewarding and ethical –stance to offer a balanced look. Rather than point out the shortcomings and condemning a particular practice based on the FAILURE, why not look at the successes, analyze why they worked and how to improve these efforts?
That might actually make the positive difference all parties purport to want.
Thank you to those who truly do want what’s best for the cats. Your passion could indeed make a positive difference for cats. They’re the innocent victims in this tug-o-war.
And as far as I can see, cats and cat lovers (on both sides) lose the battle when all that matters is who can shout loudest. True journalism, it seems, is dead and advertorials have inherited the hand-waving space.”
I’m tired of having to quash the bad information each time it’s resurrected by folks who ignore reality. And I’m sickened by those who use these issues in a war against companion animals who argue that it’s more ‘humane’ to trap and kill feral cats, rather than to manage colonies in which healthy cats unable to accept human companions live for a decade or longer. Properly cared for feral colonies provide a protective barrier from diseased animals (and other cats)–because as we know, kitties chase away “stranger danger” and only reluctantly accept in newbies to the fold. Seren drives that home every day with her c’attitude toward Karma. Of course, the operative words there are “properly managed/cared for.”
Here are just some of the recent stories, with commentary, that have been published. Some make valid points, although I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusions. There also have been some solid rebuttals.
The Evil Of Outdoor Cats is the story that started the recent furor, and here’s the author’s follow up with some more response and a nicely composed Response from CWA Member Anne Moss and from well known pet expert Steve Dale.
TB Caught from Cats and a vet’s warning about More To Come (notice how the vet says it’s low risk–but the headlines trumpet something else.)
No Evidence to Support Killing Feral Cats offers a great response from Peter Wolf with facts and figures to back it up
I’ll let y’all decide for yourselves. Some of my colleagues have speculated we’re in the middle of an orchestrated PR campaign against TNR and cats in general. What do you think? Do our responses to these stories fuel the fire? Are we preaching to the choir without any chance to change minds?
Oh, and I have no doubt the trolls will come out in force. So in advance, y’all can refer to my comments policy here.
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