Feeding feral cats
photo by amalthya - this is New York
Feeding feral cats is the humane thing to do. That act will help the feral cat to survive in a hostile environment. The feral cat lifespan is short at about 3 years.
There is more to do beyond feeding however. And lets remind ourselves that helping feral cats or feeding feral cats is putting a sticking plaster over the problem. It is clearly not tackling the root cause of the problem. Are feral cats a problem. Most people think so and in the USA 2.2 million are euthanized each year so I guess that confirms that people think them a problem or is there some money in killing feral cats (see this -these are entirely my ideas)? In which case are they a problem? Yes in one way, the spread of disease and the killing of wildlife. Do they spread disease and kill much wildlife? Have reliable assessments been carried out? Not sure. The Australians think that feral cats kill precious wildlife but humans kill more and for less good reasons (see Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong).
A true feral cat is not a stray cat. A feral cat was born feral (wild essentially) whereas a stray cat's offspring if the cat remains stray will be feral cats.
In the USA there are specific laws in some States that affect how one deals with feral cats. The individual laws need to be checked (boring I know but essential) before taking action in feeding feral cats or more. In fact a planned strategy generally needs to be considered because feeding feral cats in isolation of other considerations is naive and careless but hugely humane and caring nonetheless.
In the UK I know of no laws governing the treatment of feral cats so I'll stick my neck out and say we can do what we like to help. There are laws, though, against cruelty to animals.
But feeding is one thing. That perpetuates the "problem". It is it seems relatively easy to create a colony of feral cats if one feeds one or two. The others will join. Some kind of protection from the elements may also help. Cats need cover obviously.
Beyond food and accommodation feral cats need to be spayed and neutered to prevent an extension of the colony. That will mean seeking out an organization that will desex the cats for free (unless you can pay for it). Some veterinarians offer reduced fees to spay/neuter. Then there is the question of catching a stray cat (or feral cat). This requires a considered technique. Feral cats are essentially wild.
Then you either return the spayed/neutered cat to the colony or re-home. Or yes, euthanize, true but very sad but very real. Cats for euthanasia will be selected - yes we play God. Sick cats will probably be euthanized. Old cats too perhaps.Young healthy cats pass the test and might get re-homed. That's the reality. (see no kill cat shelters)
Feeding feral cats is great but there is a massive responsibility beyond that generous and tender act that will test.
Photo published under a creative commons license - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
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