According to the El Paso (Texas) Veterinary Medical Association, Feral Cats are wild, unowned, outside cats that cannot be handled. There are an estimated 120 to 150 million feral cats in the United States. One unspayed female and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years.
New Jersey 04/26/10 nj.com: (M)any studies show that trap, neuter and release (TNR) programs do not work. They do not protect local wildlife from cats, and they are an ineffective and an inhumane way of dealing with the feral cat problem. They invariably fail to capture and neuter all the cats in the colonies, which also act as dumping grounds for unwanted pets. Colonies, therefore, often grow in size rather than diminish.
Feral cats present a public health threat from rabies, cat-scratch fever, toxoplasmosis and other diseases. Feral cats also typically face unpleasant deaths from predators, disease and automobiles. Hence, feral cats have about one-third to one-fifth of the life span of indoor, owned cats. Perhaps that is why the National Association of Public Health Veterinarians, the Wildlife Society and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals all oppose TNR programs.
Cats kill an estimated 1 million birds each day in this country, along with a variety of small mammals and other wildlife. Local government policy should develop strong regulations that penalize people for abandoning cats, mandate neuter/spaying, and support pet adoption schemes. California municipalities such as Los Angeles County and Santa Cruz County have had success with such approaches.
For more information on TNR and cat colonies issues, watch a recent informative video at youtube.com/abcbirds. Darin Schroeder is vice president of conservation advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy
Florida 04/23/10 orlandosentinel.com: From the Journal of Mammology:
Catch-and-release is a familiar concept in fishing, but is more contentious when it comes to cats. To deal humanely with feral cat populations, some advocate a trap-neuter-release approach. Wild cats are allowed to continue living freely, with food provided for them, but have been sterilized and will not continue to reproduce and add to the unwanted pet population.
The April 2010 issue of the Journal of Mammalogy reports a study of feral cat populations conducted on California’s Santa Catalina Island. For more than 20 years the Catalina Island Humane Society has practiced trap-neuter-release at designated “colonies” in Avalon and Two Harbors, the largest communities on the island.
From 2002 to 2004, researchers tracked the movements of 14 sterilized and 13 reproductively intact cats with radio collars in the Middle Canyon and Cottonwood Canyon watersheds on the eastern half of Catalina to determine their home-range and long-range areas.
Contrary to expectations, the study showed that sterilization did not keep the cats “close to home,” defending their territory against the influx of more cats. Both sterilized and intact cats roamed over long distances, traveling between the island’s developed areas and wildland interior.
In places such as Catalina, where ecologically sensitive areas abut urbanized areas, this raises questions about the impact of feral cats on native wildlife. The presence of the cats could threaten efforts to protect vulnerable species and restore native ecosystems. These cats can act as predators and food competitors of native species. With no protection from disease or parasites, the cats are susceptible and can transfer these illnesses to wildlife, humans, and pets.
The feral and stray cat population on Catalina numbers in the range of 600 to 750 animals. Even with a high rate of sterilization, it could take more than a decade for a colony of cats to become extinct. Rather than trap-neuter-release, the authors of this article recommend that, on Catalina, cats trapped in the island’s interior should be removed and delivered to a shelter where they would be adopted or euthanized.