|Purred: Fri Dec 31, '10 7:26pm PST |
|A few statistics I posted on the Rescue Forum:
Total U.S. owned cat population: 73 million
--Of the 73 million, 87% are already neutered or spayed by their caring owners
--Total unowned/feral cat population: est. 10-40 million
--Number of cats *and dogs* entering shelters annually: 8.3 million
These are all estimates, but come from actual studies. You can see that there's no accurate figure for the number of ferals (which is hardly a surprise). At most, they make up more than half of owned cats. Although the number of owned cats who have been altered is quite high, one imagines that the 17% who are not spayed or neutered are contributing to the feral population, as are the ferals themselves.
Spay/neuter and TNR are the only humane ways to combat this situation. Unfortunately, there will always be cat owners who let their unaltered cats outdoors, and I'm sure there are many more feral colonies who are simply fed by well-meaning people than controlled by a TNR program.
There does not seem to be a solution to this that will satisfy everyone. Some people believe that feral cats, like other wild animals, should be allowed to live their lives in peace. Other people, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (to use an example I'm familiar with), feel that feral cats pose a public health threat. In the case of Tokyo, feral colonies, when discovered, are subject to being carried away and euthanized.
This is not a pretty picture. But when you see feral colonies filled with cats and kittens who all appear to be suffering from URIs (goopy or sightless eyes, sneezing), you do tend to feel that there is a health threat there. Japanese cats also get FeLV and FIV. Fortunately, rabies does not exist in Japan, but in countries where it does, unvaccinated ferals can become vectors for rabies.
I can see the arguments for feeding and for not feeding. I can also see the arguments for trying to control feral populations as well as for doing away with them. I don't have any answer, beyond the fact that "owned" cats (however loosely "owned") should be altered, and that anyone who feeds ferals should also take the responsibility for TNR. Letting an unaltered pet walk the streets is irresponsible. Feeding without carrying out a TNR program is irresponsible. Irresponsible in regards to the cats themselves and the community at large.
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