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Humane cat control
Article Index
Humane cat control
Why killing doesn't work
Human bonds with cats
Examples of desex and return
Maximising policy effectiveness
Community benefits
Health of cats in colonies
References
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Humans form a bond with cats

Large numbers of people feed free-roaming cats and have a bond with them, even if the cats are too wild to approach. In the US, various studies have found that between 9% and 22% of households feed such cats (7). The reasons given by the majority include sympathy, affection or a sense of responsibility for hungry animals (8).

So, it is not surprising that when lethal methods are used to remove cats "... public sympathy is invariably in favour of the feral cat, because he appears identical to his pet counterpart. Strong protective emotions are aroused in most animal lovers ..." (6).

CuddleWB

Lethal methods lead to public opposition and sabotage of programs. One example of sabotage occurred when cats were trapped and removed from hospital grounds in Louisiana:

"The patients' long-standing practice of feeding leftover food to the cats was discouraged by issuing regulations against removing food from the cafeteria, but these regulations were consistently ignored or circumvented by the patients. In addition, cats that were caught in traps were frequently released by the patients. Even so, several cats were successfully removed from the colony every year, but a noticeable reduction in overall numbers was never achieved." (5)

The same happened on the campus of the University of Central Florida:

"Attempts to control populations by removal of cats are often met with opposition and sabotage by cat feeders who have formed an attachment to the cats; in our study, employees and students openly violated policies against feeding the cats and interfered with trapping efforts by university officials during removal campaigns. In contrast, programs that control the population and improve the well-being of cats via neutering frequently have the support of cat feeders who may be recruited to assist with trapping and management." (7)

At both these institutions, authorities now use a desex-and-return program to stabilise cat numbers and minimise cat-related problems. The patients and students support and cooperate with this program rather than trying to sabotage it. “Engaging cat feeders in solutions for feral cats will undoubtedly be more productive and economical than warring against them.” (9)

To summarise why removing and killing free-roaming cats is a bad approach:

  • It doesn't reduce cat numbers in the long-term and has to be repeated every 6 or or 12 months. This increases the costs.
  • It arouses public antagonism and leads to sabotage of schemes.
  • It produces unstable colonies with a high turnover of cats, and consequently a lot of fighting and other behaviour that humans find objectionable.
  • It is not humane. As US veterinarian Dr Rick Wulff has said: "I do not understand how it can be said that euthanasia is a humane solution. Although it can be done humanely, I don't see it as a humane act for a healthy cat." (10)