Sunday 1 April 2012

Four ways to reduce the high feral cat population

If we agree that the high feral cat population is a problem then here are four pointers to reducing it. They are actually common sense, well know ideas but I think it helps to restate them.

Firstly, it is worth making the point that cats are good rodent catchers. It is the reason why wild cat domestication took place about 9,500 years ago. I think we forget that. Might it be that feral cats provide a useful service in keeping the rodent population down and that we don't realise it? We might discover that this is happening if we got rid of the feral cat.

Four points to reduce the feral cat:
  1. Increase trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs. Make them more widespread. This will need government funding. When conducted in a coordinated and widespread way it can be successful but the TNR process is open to criticism if conducted piecemeal. I have a lot of admiration for the volunteers involved in TNR programs.
  2. All domestic cats should be identifiable so that if they become strays they can be returned to their owner. Owners who recklessly allow their cats to become strays and ferals should be punished and forbidden from keeping cats. Only highly responsible cat caretakers should be allowed to keep cats. Strong stuff, but do we really want to reduce the feral cat population? If, yes, something tougher needs to be introduced.
  3. All domestic cats should be sterilised. This should be obligatory in law. It is regrettable that we need to neuter the domestic cat. Personally I like the whole cat. It is more natural and fair. But practicalities need to take over and idealism placed on the back burner.
  4. Education, education, education...obligatory cat caretaking classes should be in place for people who keep cats. People have to pass a driving test for the safety of other drivers. Perhaps there should be a cat caretaker's test and license. Enforcement and management of such a program is its biggest obstacle. But car owning is managed nicely by government bodies so why can't cat ownership be managed in a similar way?
There is a distinct lack of will to deal with the high feral cat population. Lots of people moan about it, mostly the bird lobbyists. Yet there is no commitment to resolve the problem. If it is a problem.

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