We all have a feral cat problem.

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly:

It’s clear, we have a kitty problem. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t see one of our city’s thousands of feral cats. Feral cats are house cats gone wild. Originating from domesticated cats, reproducing as strays in the outdoors, feral cats are not socialized and are not native to the US. They live around humans yet are not anyone’s pets.

It’s not just Dallas, that has a rise in feral cat populations. The ASPCA estimates the feral cat populations are in the tens of millions across the country. The problem is everywhere.

Feral cats wreak havoc on native wildlife. Outdoor cats (feral and pet outdoor cats combined) kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals per year, according to a 2013 published study by scientists from two of the world’s leading science and wildlife organizations – the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Life on the streets isn’t easy for feral cats either. They live short hard lives due to spread of diseases such as feline herpes and feline leukemia, urinary tract infections, infections of wounds and my least favorite… parasites such as fleas. As if the flea population isn’t big enough in Texas, we have thousands of feral cats providing fabulous host duties for the quick reproducing fleas. In recent weeks, the flea problem in my neighborhood has become rampant.

I know the cats are cute and I know their kittens are irresistibly cute. Their furry faces bring out my emotions as well. But I have to think about the bigger picture. If we want to preserve local native wildlife, feral cats are not helping. Derek Broman, Urban Wildlife Biologist in DFW Metroplex forTexas Parks & Wildlife Department, made the comparison, “they (feral cats) are no different than feral hogs, causing just as much destruction to our wildlife.” Broman went on to explain, “Feral cats are a threat to the persistence of our wildlife.”

The best and easiest solution is to keep your cat indoors and don’t add to the feral cat population by doing what Bob Barker has been telling us for years… spay and neuter your pets.

But what about the thousands of cats already out there? Good question. One I emotionally struggle with answering. Here’s why:

The feral cat nonprofit organizations of DFW support the Trap Neuter Release (TNR) method. Cats are trapped, spayed or neutered and released back to where they were captured to live out their hard lived days. When cats are spayed or neutered they are given a rabies shot as well as get their left ear notched (a universal symbol letting everyone know that cat is sterilized).

There are several feral cat organizations spread across the Dallas/Fort Worth area and making one connection is often a connection to the entire network. They all work together acting as “bargain shoppers” they know who has traps closest to you, the cheapest clinic to spay/neuter the cats and if they are young kittens a place that could socialize them into being adoptable animals. The problem is it’s always changing. Clinics run specials, some foster groups fill up, a nonprofit gets a grant to trap an area, etc.

The bigger problem is, peer reviewed scientific studies do not support TNR. Yes, there are few scientific studies that support TNR under the study’s unique situation but there are more substantial amount of studies that demonstrate TNR fails to humanely stabilize and decrease cat populations. The Wildlife Society states, “While TNR promoters claim it will reduce cat populations, the science tells us that TNR puts wildlife in peril while failing to bring cat populations under control or address related health concerns.”

If you have feral cats in your area, it’s up to you to improve the situation. First, stop feeding the cats. The more food you put out, the more cats your area can sustain. Feeding cats is also not shown to reduce the amount of wildlife they kill. A new study in Georgia utilizing cameras on free roaming cats, they found that of the 2.4 average animals killed per week by each of the 55 cats, 23% were returned to the household, 49% were left at the site of capture, and only 28% were consumed. These were free roaming cats, which were also fed at a household. Cats are shown to kill for sport beyond their sustenance to survive.

Cats bring out emotions in all of us. You can see it from all directions involved, including me. The best place for your cat is inside spayed and neutered.


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