In my last blog entry, I wrote about how friend and poet, William Reichard, and his partner, Jim, came to live with 7 cats. But the real story is how they began working with Feline Rescue, Inc., in St. Paul to make a genuine difference.
The population of stray cats exploded in Bill’s neighborhood when the economy took a downturn and foreclosure signs started popping up everywhere. Cats are the most popular pet in the United States, but they are also a large portion of the 2.7 million healthy, adoptable pets euthanized in shelters each year. They are far less likely than dogs to be adopted or reclaimed by their owners. In fact, the Humane Society lists “Euthanasia—often of healthy, unwanted cats [as] the #1 cause of death” for cats. That number is rising, even as the number of dogs euthanized each year declines.
When it comes to honoring our 10,000-year relationship with cats, it’s clear, we’re not holding up our end of the bargain.
Bill gets frustrated. “People hold on to this weird myth that domesticated cats are more wild than dogs, so you can just throw your unwanted cat outside and it will be fine. You would never do that to a dog! Cats who have been raised in a home don’t know how to hunt or where to find water.” Basically, owners who abandon their cats are dooming them to a long, slow, and painful death, and impacting the entire neighborhood.
This only tells part of the story. Some estimate that the feral cat population in the United States is equal to or well beyond the number of cats living in households. Assuming ideal conditions, one pair of breeding cats can lead to 400,000 kittens being born over the course of seven years. Overpopulation is a genuine problem, and one that falls through the cracks of most legal systems.
The good news is that there are solutions—some of them easy.First, have your pets spayed or neutered, and encourage every pet owner you know to do the same. Second, adopt your next pet from a shelter. According to the Humane Society Fact Sheet quoted above, only 30% of pets in loving homes have been adopted from shelters—we should all be aggressively encouraging the practice of shelter adoption for new pet owners.
Finally, support the great work being done by Feline Rescue, Inc., of St. Paul and other organizations across the country. Feline Rescue is dedicated to a no-kill approach. Their mission is “to provide safe shelter, veterinary care, and socialization for stray, abandoned, or abused cats until good permanent homes can be found for them”. They also believe all tamed cats should be kept indoors.
Along wih the help of many volunteers, like Bill, Feline Rescue uses the Trap-Neuter-Release approach popularized twenty-five years ago by a grassroots group out of the Adams-Morgan neighborhood in Washington, D.C. call the Alley Cat Allies who had success bringing their own feral cat population down to zero and convincing communities across the country to join their efforts.
TNR not only reduces the rate of breeding, but leaves the existing cat colony in place, keeping new colonies of cats from moving in. While costly and labor intensive, a recent study released by the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) found that spaying or neutering only 35% of the cat population caused a significant decrease in population.
Give them a call, write them a note of encouragement (feel free to include a check!), or find the TNR program closest to you. Any society that has an entire TV channel devoted to cat videos needs to step up and care for their pets.