Humane Society launches feral cat initiative

Published 9:46 am Friday, October 16, 2009

We’ve all seen them as they run across the road in front of us, dart down an alley or run into an abandoned garage or building. We call to them “Here, Kitty, Kitty,” and they run away sometimes just far enough to stop and give us a look.

“Why won’t they come to me?” you ask when you call to them or you put out a dish of food on a cold winter day. The answer is simple: They are feral cats. Feral cats are cats that have either been born outside or a family pet that has strayed or been dumped outside that over time has become fearful of humans. Feral cats are unadoptable and prefer to live outside verses inside with us.

Feral cats are happy outside and they always live close to a source of food, water and shelter. They are as disease free as a house cat and they can and do live just as long. Feral kittens born outdoors if caught at a very early age can be socialized to humans and can make very good house pets.

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Feral cats have gotten a bad rap in recent years. Some people have started to blame them for our song bird loss and other wildlife loss.

“This is false,” said Dee Amberg, feral cat intiative coordinator for the Humane Society of Freeborn County. “The reason for the loss is us. We destroy the bird and wildlife habitat by logging, crop farming, livestock grazing, urban sprawl, industrial and residential development, dam building, road building, mining, chemical pollution and pesticides. Think about this the next time you spray your lawn or the next time you drive by a housing development. What is the one thing that is always missing? Trees. We all need to think about our impact on the birds and wildlife.”

Amberg said some people still believe feral cats should be caught and killed, moved to a different location or taken to the pound. But feral cats that enter most animal shelters or pounds are killed. Catch and kill doesn’t work is very costly to taxpayers.

“It’s very cruel to kill a cat simply because it prefers to live outside your home rather than in it,” Amberg said.

The most effective way to deal with feral cats is TNR, which is trap-neuter-return, she said.

When this is done correctly, feral cats are trapped taken to a veterinarian, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and then returned to the location where they were trapped. The cats are ear tipped so the caretaker of the colony can easily recognize all the cats in the colony and know when a new cat comes in.

“TNR is clearly the best method for dealing with feral cats and has a proven track record in the communities that use it, there are no more kittens, numbers of cats gradually go down, lives improve, fighting and yowling stop, it’s less costly to taxpayers and reduces the need for animal control,” Amberg said.

Alley Cat Allies did a recent poll. They asked people if they thought feral cats were better off living outdoors or being taken to shelters where they were killed. Eighty percent of the people polled said feral cats were better off outside. Also, it is against the law in all 50 states to intentionally kill a cat, including ferals, Amberg said.

In honor of National Feral Cat Day today, the Humane Society of Freeborn County is introducing its feral cat initiative.

Its mission statement is: “The Humane Society of Freeborn County is committed to end the cycle of killing of feral cats by setting up a special fund to spay and neuter feral, stray and barn cats.”

To be part of the solution or if you have questions or would like more information on how you can help feral cats, call 377- 8501. If you would like to donate, please send you donation to: Humane Society of Freeborn County, Feral Cat Initiative, P.O.Box 423, Albert Lea.