National Feral Cat Day was celebrated on October 16, 2014, although it is unlikely that many of the homeless animals for whom this day was coined had much to celebrate.
Even if they have been TNR’d (Trapped/Neutered/Released or Relocated), feral cats are still left in the streets, dodging traffic, covered with grease from hiding under parked cars, infested with parasites, chased by dogs, scrounging in garbage bins, eaten by coyotes, foxes and other predators, and face a myriad of other unimaginable hazards. What they don't have is a safe, warm home--which is demanded by every reputable adoption organization before they will even consider releasing a cat.
National Feral Cat Day was reportedly created by a national advocacy group, Alley Cat Allies, which states it is the first organization to introduce Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to control feral cat colonies in America and establish and promote standards of humane care. (Although struggling to survive in an urban venue or being killed and devoured by a coyote is questionably “humane.”)
According to the description on Daysoftheyear.com, the TNR approach is now “embraced by major cities and animal-protection organizations.” A look at some of the articles and comments written about free-roaming feral cats and TNR during the celebration of National Feral Cat Day shows they have been less than celebratory. Here are a few:
Lee County, Florida
In Lee County, Florida, NBC reported on October 16, “County Program Inadvertently Floods Neighborhood with Cats." The report starts, “A handful of residents in Fort Myers say there is such a big problem on their street that they're moving because of it…Feral cats are winning a neighborhood fight on Stella Street.”
Lee County decided to use National Feral Cat Day to get input from residents to improve the program. So, Jackie Daley, a Stella Street resident, sums it up this way, "I live in a litterbox…You can't entertain and have guests over, everyone steps in it…”
TNR was started in Lee County in 2009, as a purportedly humane way to control an estimated feral cat population of 110,000. Despite the program, residents say they still see cats being fed on their street which do not have tipped ears (small triangular cuts made in the outer edge of one year on a feral cat when it is surgically altered) and they also notice kittens still being born.
Animal Services notes that there are other people on Stella Street and streets nearby that also feed cats but are not trying to bring them in for the TNR program to control the feral cat population. Between August of last year and this year, 878 cats have gone through TNR. In that same time, over 1,800 cats - including non-feral also -have been euthanized at the shelter.
Residents point to the accumulations of cat feces as a big component of their frustration - as it draws flies, causes foul odor, kills plants and grass and frequently gets trampled on. "They poop in my lawn continuously," Stella Street resident Judy Mahon told NBC, "I don't even own a pet, and yet I'm dealing with the pet problem."
"As soon as the lease is up I do plan on probably moving," Mahon said. "Obviously the Spay, Neuter, Release program is just not working - cause where are the kittens coming from?"
Animal Services really did not counter with any assurances for the future that would change the mind of anyone planning to leave this area: "We don't want to impede on the quality of people's lives," said Dave Harner, interim director of Animal Services.
Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada
Parry Sound is a picturesque town located on the eastern shore in Northern Ontario, Canada. On October 15, ParrySound.com wrote, “Town Council Tires of Feral Cat Problem,” and explained that the town of Parry Sound is hoping to solve its feral cat problem once and for all.
The issue was agenized by the Town Council after a complaint letter from a town resident prompted Councilmember Bonnie Keith to bring the long-standing issue up again for consideration.
Four years ago the town launched a pilot program, the Animal Management Plan, that would TNR (Trap, Neuter, vaccinate and Return) the cats in the community. However, at Tuesday’s Town council meeting, Keith said the number of feral cats appears to actually be increasing under the program –along with the noise, smell and general nuisance.
Keith introduced a motion directing staff to prepare a report outlining the number of feral cats, the number trapped this year and the cost associated with the program in 2014, ParrySound.com reports.
“The number (of cats) has increased in the last couple of years,” Councilmember Brad Horne said of the feral cat issue near his Salt Dock Road home, “I don’t know if that’s a cyclical function of their population, but certainly at nighttime when you’re in the area that I live in, you go down the road at 9 or 10 p.m. and there’s any number of feral cats. Now they’re becoming more brazen.”
He added that the cats are now jumping and resting on people’s cars and trailers and causing damage not only to people’s real property, but vehicles as well. In terms of how we stop increasing the population, he admitted he was “not sure,” reports ParrySound.com.
Councilmember Paul Borneman just wants to see an end to the issue, “We’ve been playing cat and mouse – so to speak – with this for a good number of years,” said Borneman,”We spend money on it, we take up staff time. I don’t think we should restrict ourselves to Ontario for a solution.”
Borneman pointed out that, “Places like Australia have gone to a real extreme by euthanizing feral cats; we need to come up with a solution that works. Wherever it comes from, I’m good with that.”
Horne suggested the town include surrounding municipalities in discussions. “I think that some felines are dropped off in town and they do come from other municipalities,” said Horne.
Pam Williams of Valparaiso writes a response to The Times on October 17, the day after the National Feral Cat Day celebration, and asks:
“To the people who want no-kill shelters for cats, what do we do with all the feral cats hanging around our homes?” She described issues that are shared universally, i.e., feral cats spraying doors and property and scratching on screens by aggressive ferals trying to get to indoor cats.
She concluded, “No, I'm not going to catch them and spend my money to fix them and turn them loose because my neighbors are too lazy to take care of their animals!”
Feral Cats Impact the Environment
In addition to the destruction of birds and other small wildlife populations, feral cats have a devestating impact on marine mammals and pose a health hazard to humans. Every year, 1.2 million metric tons of cat feces are deposited in the US, raising the risk of infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, researchers from the Stanley Medical Research Institute and Johns Hopkins University Medical Center reported in Trends in Parasitology (July 10th, 2013 issue).
Feral cats contribute heavily to that 1.2 million metric tons, much of which finds its way into waterways and the ocean, according to experts.
For more facts and observations on the impact of feral cats, read: