It was probably the fifth time I had driven down the same road and dodged the same 20-odd cats sunning on the warm asphalt. I never hit one, fortunately, but plenty of other people did. The cats ranged in age from springy kittens to possibly middle-aged adults. They were part of a feral cat colony that a local woman had taken upon herself to feed.
She provided them with two doghouses stuffed with hay for shelter and would stop by every morning to dump out food. If you’ve ever seen the Family Guy episode with the sick cats, you can imagine what these cats looked like as they wandered up for food.
To give the woman credit, she did trap and neuter a couple of them, but the rest continued to add to the population. The limited gene pool resulted in kittens with missing eyes, ears, and limbs. Without proper vetting, they were sickly and diseased and at risk for contracting and transmitting rabies. They were also anemic from being severely infested with fleas.
The colony was reported several times, but the woman would destroy or tamper with the traps that animal control set out. Finally, under threat of citations, the woman consented to having the colony removed by animal control. Most of them were too wild and/or sick to ever be put up for adoption.
Colonies aren’t random. They start with someone letting their intact cat roam and produce kittens. Many people think it’s OK to let cats just roam around the neighborhood, intact or not. Many of these cats end up as strays, scavenging for food and reproducing if they are able. A few cats attract a few more, and the offspring of these strays are considered feral.
The No. 1 reason people give me when they feed these stray/feral cats is that they don’t want to see them go to the shelter because they "know what will happen there.”
Well, pardon me. I wasn’t aware that humane euthanasia, as awful as it may sound, was so horrible in comparison to adding to the population of intact, unvaccinated homeless cats. I don’t like to see any animal die, but I also don’t like seeing people willfully contribute to the problem instead of being part of the solution.
Our own two kittens were the result of someone feeding a stray without spaying or vaccinating her. In their eyes, she wasn’t their cat, but they also didn’t want to see her go hungry. A kitten herself, she gave birth to four kittens, two of which live with us. After her first litter, they decided to get her spayed.
Unfortunately, they didn’t do it soon enough, and she gave birth to a second litter. Remembering how hard it was to find decent homes for the kittens from the first litter, they made the responsible decision to take the mama cat and her kittens to the local shelter, where they were able to find homes after being properly vetted.
The ASPCA has a lot of great articles on managing a feral cat colony, but the average person feeding strays doesn’t have the monetary resources to cover spay/neuter and vaccines for every member of the colony. In my opinion, that’s when you let animal control do their duty. You can also try to work with rescues in hopes that the tamer and healthier cats can one day be adopted out.
What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments!
Read other articles about feral cat issues: