A recent report by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests feral cats be shot or be captured in body-crushing traps as a means to “control” them. Not surprisingly, this report, which began as an exercise for an undergraduate class, has caused a predictable firestorm, and rightly so.
The Nebraska report (PDF) has, in the aggregate, some sensible information and advice concerning feral cats. But it is completely and utterly wrong to suggest that shooting and kill-trapping of cats is either acceptable or appropriate. The report misconstrues the recommendations of the American Veterinary Medical Association panel on euthanasia in a way that would have many readers believing that shooting and body-gripping traps are endorsed by the veterinary profession. This is not so.
The issues some people have with cats are nothing new. For more than a hundred years there have been periodic calls for the eradication of cats, emanating largely from those who are passionate about protecting wild birds.
The HSUS mission includes protecting both cats and birds, and the challenges in balancing such goals are not trivial. Our staff has engaged in heated and soul-searching internal debates about the proper management actions. While we all largely agree that we should manage domestic cats so both they and wildlife are safe, we struggle in how best we should get there. We feel that those who care for cats—both animal advocates and the 10 million householders who feed stray cats—and those who care for birds would agree that we must find a humane way to reduce the number of unowned and homeless cats. That's why The HSUS supports cat rescue, adoption, spay/neuter, and, in many instances, trap-neuter-return programs, as a means of humanely reducing feral populations.
The HSUS is currently working with local, state and federal groups and agencies to help create the road map needed to take on this issue. We are committed to reducing the numbers of cats who roam outdoors, but only through humane means. Problems associated with feral cats will not be solved by mass killing. The solution will come both with humane population control and with a change in the culture of cat ownership—when people do not allow cats to produce litter after litter of kittens destined to become homeless, and when owners restrict their cats from roaming for the animals’ own safety as well as the protection of wildlife.