Sunday, October 16, 2011

A day for feral cats

Today is national feral cat day, and it would be great to be able to say, “Happy feral cat day!” – except that for many or most ferals, life is uncomfortable, unhealthy and short. Too many people hear “feral cat” and think trouble; too many animal control officers and shelter staff hear “feral” and think euthanasia.

In reality, of course, feral cats are a human creation, and the least humans can do is protect and take care of them.

The word “feral” means (1) existing in a wild or untamed state; (2) having returned to an untamed state from domestication. Feral cats, therefore, were either felines born in the wild to existing ferals or strays, or domestic cats who were abandoned or lost. In both cases, they are now wild animals, living outdoors and fending for themselves.

The best known way to care for ferals is through Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) because without spaying or neutering and basic shots to help them survive in the wild, feral cats are the often-unhealthy-but-fertile parts of an ever-growing problem.

Right now, according to stray and feral cat advocates Alley Cat Allies – the group that started National Feral Cat Day 10 years ago -- “feral cats taken to animal shelters are almost always killed. Being killed in an animal shelter remains the leading documented cause of death for cats. TNR ends the breeding cycle and stabilizes the population, halting further deaths,” according to ACA president Becky Robinson.

Today is dedicated to raising awareness of feral cats and the ways they can be protected. Living outdoors and typically not socialized to humans, many or most adult ferals can’t be adopted – but TNR would allow them to return to their colonies and live out their lives without reproducing.

They deserve at least that much.


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