What To Do About All Those Cats?

For years the war has raged on.

On one side, those who love cats, and want to help those who are homeless have a better quality of life.


Photo posted at Aljazeera America.  Photo by Vernon Ogrodnek/AP
Photo posted at Aljazeera America. Photo by Vernon Ogrodnek/AP

On the other side is a coalition of wildlife enthusiasts and animal abolitionists.

And what are they fighting about? What to do about the estimated 50 million unowned cats that roam the US.

In theory, the proposals made by the pro-cat side, which includes major animal welfare groups such as Alley Cat Allies and the Humane Society of the US, should work wonders. They propose TNR, or trapping the cats, spaying our neutering them, and then returning them to the area they came from to live out their lives. And since the estimate life span for a feral cat is 1-3 years, their numbers should slowly die off.

And in some communities it’s working.

And yet the cats keep coming.

The problems created by outdoor cats are many. Wildlife enthusiasts remind us homeless cats kill millions of birds and other small creatures annually. Abolitionists state the cats spread disease to owned animals. Also, the cats suffer the pain of injuries or illness for which they cannot be treated because they cannot be caught. To many, those that care for feral cat colonies are seen as little more than hoarders of outside cats.

And we cannot forget about the problem of dumpers- those who release cats in established, cared-for feral cat colonies. These include nuisance cats, cats that were abandoned or homeless in the neighborhood, and pet cats that are no longer wanted. Often the dumpers think they are doing a good thing for the cat. After all, it won’t be euthanized in the colony like it will at the animal control shelter, and it will be cared for.

Despite the battles and occasional success stories, inaction seems to be the rule. Why? Money.

Some local governments have no problem with TNR programs, and they contract with groups to provide the service to the community. Other local governments have no problem with the service being provided as long as they’re not paying for it. In areas such as where I live, where there is a lack of will AND a lack of money, the homeless cat population goes unchecked.


Photo from http://advocacy.britannica.com/
Photo from http://advocacy.britannica.com/

Personally, I don’t know what is the right approach for homeless cats. I want to see no creature killed. But the piecemeal approach of today simply is not working. And since our society is so deeply divided on the subject, it’s unlikely there will be a workable solution anytime soon.

In the meantime, the cats keep coming.

30 thoughts on “What To Do About All Those Cats?

  1. Indeed they do. We have several such groups like Allies Cats that target cat populations around the city. Just when they get one group under control, some jerks dump out non-spayed, non-immunized cats and there you go again. Education, awareness, compassion are the keys along with people who know what they are doing. but then you have these other people who just truly don’t care. they really don’t. tired of your animal? just dump it, someone else will deal with it. it is an ongoing problem. I don’t think it is one that will ever be solved as long as you people with the “dump” mentality. I’ve read of wild dog/cat populations though various decades/cultures. I can’t save them all. I can help do what I can, be responsible, and take care of my SamCat – one of those dumped cats.

    1. You’re fortunate. When I contacted Alley Cat Allies, I was directed to connect with local folks, none of whom had funding to provide TNR services. Granted, that was a few years ago.

      1. They have a good support system here. There are some newer groups that seem to be ocalized to a particular area w/o funding, who act with volunteered services or self fund. It is just a hard situation.

  2. its a hard one to deal with,My dad is trying to deal with them in his area and nearly all are dumped and unwanted pets tht have been kicked so he is trying to feed the cats and trap them and get them neutered and spayed,he found a great play where it cost 10 bucks because the surgery is perfomed by college students that are nearly qualifyed and need the experience before they can finish there degrees like an internship like doctors do at hospitals,xx Rachel

  3. We have almost the same feral cats problem here….I think it happens all over the world….and yet we haven’t found the best solution….I feel very sorry for those cats because what I can do is very little things….

  4. It is a real problem in many areas of the country. I don’t know what the solution is either except to keep trying. I just wish the general public would be more humane with how they treat their animals. They should not be dumped off in the country when the human is tired of caring for them – which is what often happens.

    1. And yet why do they dump them? Because they’re afraid the animal will be killed if surrendered to a shelter. And why do they have that fear? Because of folks like us. So we’ve helped to create this problem also.

  5. It is a difficult problem but I think TNR is the best solution for everybody. Many people who are willing to help out by donating to animal shelters may not even be aware that they could donate to a TNR program. Perhaps an awareness campaign might help. I know this will lesson the money coming in for the shelters but with a good TNR program the shelter will have less cats to care for. I do not expect the government to help. It is good citizens that care about cat who will eventually solve this problem. There are plenty of people who take care of strays but don’t have the money or knowledge to get them fixed. With a little more money, TNR programs could train and provide financial support to these people.

    1. The thing is TNR doesn’t get the media attention that local shelters do. And local shelters get attention thanks in large part to the breeder industry, not because they care, but because if you give your money locally, you DONT give it to national groups that can actually do something about them.

    1. Think tanks for animals? Yes, that is what the HSUS, ASPCA, and PETA do, among other things. And that’s why the breeder industry is so dead-set against you supporting those groups financially.

  6. The solution is to make people responsible using laws we already have on the books. We’re not going to see a reduction in outdoor cats–and very few are truly feral and unable to be handled–until we enforce existing humane laws that make it a punishable crime to abandon an animal. If people payed a fine for dumping a mother cat and her kittens at the rate their rescue and care cost the community and even did jail time for repeat offenses. The humane law in nearly every municipality and state includes abandonment as a punishable offense, but it’s rarely enforced.

  7. Charles Huss has a very strong point when he says that people done’t know they can donate to TNR programs. That should be promoted and advertised. Having said that, there is not enough money to put an end to the over population of cats and the suffering they experience.

  8. Purrime Ministerettes believing this is purroblem everywhere on Purrth. But still we thinking that hoomans should be more luvvin. Kitties should be in every household!

  9. The problem is almost overwhelming to think about, isn’t it? I’m fortunate to live in an area where the efforts are having some impact. But you are right … the answers for one area do not fit everywhere. 😦

  10. We’ve also got mixed opinions. While we feel those articles of cats being solely responsible for the decline of small wildlife isn’t fair—look at how humans poison the air, water and trees, etc.—TNR doesn’t seem to be the whole answer. TW feeds a colony in a local park. She keeps trying to find out who’s responsible for the colony. She feels terrible cos one little guy who is all skin and bones has an eye infection which he can hardly open his eyes. Without proper care, he will go blind but there is no one to care for him. TW can’t afford to take him to the vet. She can’t even afford to pick up meds for him. The TNR who got him neutered should be caring for him. Is it better to euthanize the cats or leave them to suffer and die on their own?

  11. We work hard in town here caring for feral/dumped cats. We have a TNR program in place. We have rehomed quite a few which has been a lovely bonus. Just when we thought we had the situation ‘under control’ we found out there is another feral colony…..
    We also think the ferals I am feeding on my patio after dark might be a part of the new colony…we are not sure what else we can do but TNR & hope for the best. However I have combed thru the Kijiji ads (like Craigslist) & there are over 100 kittens available in my area alone!!! Multiple that by each area & there are thousands & thousands of kittens all over the province….so sad. I think we are on the losing end no matter how much good we think we are doing. What a sad state of affairs!!!! 😦

  12. We have a feral colony that live out at the San Diego River jetty. I can go out there and get pictures of 15-20 cats on any given day. However, during the height of the Great Recession, I counted 157 cats one day. Cats are TNR, which I’m sure helps, and there are many of us who go on a regular basis to leave food and water, and bring attention to any that need medical assistance.

    When I was out there two weekends ago, even the seagulls were getting in on the action of helping the cats. They would pick up clams out of the water, fly high, and then swoop down to the cat colony and drop their prize. The clams would break open upon impact and the cats would rush in to enjoy the fresh food.

    I spent hours trying to get a good picture or video, but it’s hard to track seagulls through a camera viewfinder to know which one is going to drop a clam.

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