Most "Feral" Cats Can be Rescued and Recover from the "Wild" Outdoors

FROM LEAGUE OF MINNESOTA CITIES INFORMATION MEMO Animal Regulation in Cities:

VI. Regulation of cats Section IV, Animal regulation – general information. In addition to the general requirements already discussed earlier in this memo, cities may impose requirements for care of cats by ordinance. “Outdoor Cats: Frequently Asked Questions,” Humane Society of the United States. Often the most problematic cats in the city are feral cats. Feral cats are from the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats who are not spayed or neutered. These cats were never pets and do not have owners. (In comparison, stray cats are pet cats that have wandered off or gotten loose). RELEVANT LINKS: League of Minnesota Cities Information Memo: 4/10/2018 Animal Regulation in Cities Page 29 Feral cats are not tame like pet cats and can be difficult to handle. Feral cats can threaten the health, safety, and general welfare of the city. Some of the more common concerns include:

Cities may take action to deal with feral cats.

A. Feral cat trapping programs “Outdoor Cats: Frequently Asked Questions,” Humane Society of the United States. If cities choose to take action on the feral cat issue, it is often done by adopting a program. A “Trap-Neuter-Return” program is recommended by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Emphasis mine). At a minimum, this program includes spaying or neutering, giving rabies vaccinations, and surgically ear-tipping. (Ear-tipping is the universally recognized sign of a cat that has gone through this sort of program). The positive results from this program include: • Reduced mating-related fighting and other related noises. • Neutered or spayed feral cats roam much less and are less visible and less prone to injury from cars. • Reduced foul odors (neutered male cats are no longer able to produce the stinky spray used to mark territory). • Reduced reproduction activity leads to fewer feral cats being born, resulting in a lower population over time. Some cities will have city employees trap cats. Other cities will enlist the assistance of the residents in trapping cats. Cities may provide the traps for residents to pick up. Cities can accept feral cats that were trapped by residents and brought to designated spots, such as the animal control authority.

B. Feeding bans “Outdoor Cats: Frequently Asked Questions,” Humane Society of the United States Sometimes cities will impose “feeding bans” that prohibit residents from feeding feral cats with the idea that if the cats are not fed, they will go away. While this seems like it would work, it often does not. One reason relates to enforcement. Feeding of feral cats is not easily observed behavior so it is not easy to enforce a ban. Further, some people do not like to see animals suffering and will feed the cats despite the ban. Even if people are not intentionally feeding them, feral cats can still find food from other sources like dumpsters and garbage cans. RELEVANT LINKS: League of Minnesota Cities Information Memo: 4/10/2018 Animal Regulation in Cities Page 30 “Outdoor Cats: Frequently Asked Questions,” Humane Society of the United States Feral cats can often survive for weeks without food (emphasis mine) and, since they are territorial animals, they will not quickly or easily leave their territory to look for new food sources. Instead, they tend to move closer to human activities as they grow hungrier and more desperate. Malnutrition makes them more likely to succumb to parasites, like fleas, that can spread into houses, garages, and businesses. Finally, malnourished cats are likely to continue to reproduce, resulting in malnourished kittens, causing this cycle to continue.

C. Disposition Section III-B, Disposition of animals. Some cities will choose to dispose of feral cats that have been captured instead of spaying or neutering and returning them. If the city chooses this method, it should dispose of these cats in a humane manner. (END)

NOTE: No mention is made about feeding and caring for TNR cats, tending the sick and injured or for re-vaccinating them especially against rabies. One reader of the nationally syndicated newspaper column Animal Doctor was an enthusiast of TNR in Florida for some years but wrote that he eventually gave up in disgust and out of pity for these poor cats, stating:

” Prior to 1990s, TNR was considered illegal and was underground. What Animal Care & Control did regarding stray cats or dogs was rounding them up and having them euthanized (which is the humane thing to do in my opinion). Unfortunately since 1990s, things have gone backwards. TNR has become increasing popular because of the so called “No Kill” movement. To me those words “No Kill” is not really accurate. What they mean is “No Euthanasia”. Although the end result is the same, I see the two as very different. Killing is violent, painful and usually with cruel intentions, whereas euthanasia is painless, humane, peaceful although sad, and the intention is usually not wanting the animals to suffer either at the moment or in the foreseeable future.

We don’t think TNR people are bad people at all. I did it for 3 and a half years myself. I know the intention of TNR people is good. I know my intention when I did TNR was a loving intention: I just wanted to help those poor cats. Maybe that’s why my philosophy changed over time having witnessed personally what could happen to these outdoor cats: getting hit by cars, getting killed and sliced under car hoods, fleas, ticks, parasites, ear mites, worms, infections, getting shot or poisoned by people, trapped in garages or places it cannot get out, freezing to death or suffer cold related symptoms like hypothermia and losing paws, the list goes on and on. My main issue is once you release them, it is highly unlikely and impractical to help them again when they need medical attention whether they are abandoned back onto the streets, backyards or even farms. Most of these outdoor cats don’t die of a humane death. If they are lucky enough, they get hit by a car and die instantly. But many times they likely die of a slow and agonizing death from diseases, infections etc. I think we live in a death fearing and death denying society. I think the issue with the “No Kill” movement falls under that umbrella.

In addition to the plight of the outdoor cats, there are some situations where our indoor animals may need to be euthanized because of many difficult circumstances: owners pass away, people having to move, places not allowing pets, financial reasons, too many pets already, not wanting pets to be stressed and suffer in some uncertain future homes or situations. For me I can never give up my pets to other people or groups. I never would want my pets to feel abandoned. It is unfortunate sometimes we have to lie to try to get a vet to euthanize our pet because it would take too long and too much effort to explain our position and situation because many times their response to a euthanasia request is: Oh we don’t do convenience euthanasia. Yet the vets that refuse euthanasia don’t seem to care about what may happen to the pets if they are not euthanized, or whether they may end up in a worse fate than euthanasia or not. This is why I think No kill shelters are horrible because once they are full, they turn away animals. Some people then just simply abandon their animals on the streets, in the woods, and sometimes even leave them behind in the homes after they are evicted from. This is just me: I feel sad when I have to euthanize my pet, but at the same time. I know one day I will see all my pets again on the other side.

To me “No Kill” people lack a level of empathy because they operate from an ideological purity perspective, rather than from an empathy perspective for the animals such as feral cats. The reason I have the perspective I do is because I put myself in the feral cats’ perspective and all the struggles it has to go through to get its basic needs met, food, water, shelter and medical care etc. How can we care for our house cats attending to every need they have, while turning a blind eye to the suffering the feral cats experience on the street because we know their basic needs are not getting met. That’s why the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is no more than 3 years while a house cat can live up to 15 to 20 years. To me the situation is clear: feral cats have a hard, short and suffering life on the street. If I can help them by bring them indoors, I will do that. If I’m not able to, at least I could help end their suffering through euthanasia”. (email from Paul Zhang, May 118).

Veterinarians in the U.S. and U.K. have been recently discussing managing “moral distress” in companion animal practice (for example see Anne Fawcett & Siobhan Mullan,2018, Managing moral distress in practice, Veterinary Record, In Practice, 40: 34-46). Certainly emotional distress coupled with the moral dilemma of euthanizing healthy but temperamentally unadoptable cats ( and even dogs considered dangerous who can end up incarcerated their entire lives in No Kill shelters) is a professional challenge but should not lead to the unconditional endorsement of TNR as an alternative to ending the lives of cats humanely rather than opting ( for emotional rather than bioethical reasons) to neuter and vaccinate them and release them to fend for themselves outdoors. The same must be said about those many people who support TNR, putting their own emotion-governed values over the emotional and physical well-being of the cats for whom they claim to love.

Given the resources, animal shelters and foster-care volunteers with experience handling cats can rehabilitate most cats initially tested to be fearful and/or aggressive and are then designated as being unadoptable and are either euthanized or neutered, vaccinated and released back where they were initially found/rescued.

Regardless of dedicated volunteers feeding these released outdoor cats, they are an invasive species, potential public health risk, kill wildlife and cannot be easily re-caught when veterinary care is called for along with re-vaccination against rabies. Housing such cats in large, safe enclosures is a humane alternative, many shy and fearful cats becoming socialized and adoptable in the process. For details see multi-level, indoor-outdoor group housing for stray cats, Pro Animale für Tiere in Not e.V. - Home | Facebook

See Also

Feral Cat Recovery From the Wild