I read the letter from Andy Arledge regarding feral cats and the Catch Neuter Return program proposed in the July 17th issue of your publication. I wish to offer a different perspective.
When I purchased acreage just on the south side of Kuna in the mid 90’s I saw the need for wildlife habitat. I worked with Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game in their HIP (Habitat improvement project) to develop several acres of habitat for pheasants and quail. I very quickly learned just how detrimental not only feral cats but also house cats were to ground nesters like quail, pheasant, and killdeer. Not only game birds are affected, as I have learned from the research by the American Bird Conservancy millions of songbirds are killed by outdoor cats every year. Seeing the damage well fed cats, some with bells, did to the project was a real eye opener.
I was sickened more often then I wish to remember seeing people bring cats out to dump them on the edge of town. When I spoke to a few of them they all seemed to rationalize they were doing me a favor and the animal a favor by locating them at my farm. Nothing could have been further from the truth; seeing the poor animals abandoned from their family to fend for themselves.
Life for outdoor cats is risky. They can get hit by cars; attacked by dogs, other cats, coyotes or wildlife; contract fatal diseases, such as rabies, feline distemper, or feline immunodeficiency virus; get lost, stolen, shot, or poisoned; or suffer during severe weather conditions. Outdoor cats lead considerably shorter lives on average than cats kept exclusively indoors. I often hear “We need our barn cat to control mice.” There are safe ways to control rodents without loose cats. While they may eat mice they are also killing songbirds and other game birds.
Free-roaming and feral cats also pose a health hazard to humans from the spread of diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis. In April 2010, the Volusia County Health Department in Florida issued a rabies alert for 60 days following two unprovoked attacks on humans by feral cats within a month. Two cats had tested positive for rabies in the area. The CDC states “Unvaccinated dogs, cats, and ferrets exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately.” Even in ‘managed’ colonies all cats cannot always be vaccinated, and infected animals may be even harder to catch in a timely manner before they infect other animals
Cat owners should keep their cats indoors. There are a number of ways that people can help their cats adjust to an indoor lifestyle, and the American Bird Conservancy provides a wealth of resources to help them. Many veterinarians and animal welfare organizations support keeping cats indoors for their own safety, as well as to prevent them from killing wildlife. Outdoor cat colonies, sustained through the practice of Trap Neuter Return are also bad for birds, do not help reduce the overpopulation of feral cats, and are inhumane for the cats, who lead short, harsh lives. Instead, feral cats should be kept in enclosures, trapped and adopted to loving homes, or euthanized.
I urge all animal lovers to look at the research and to please keep your cats indoors. More information can be obtained at http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/index.html
— Jeff Welker