Thursday 25 May 2023

When you shoot feral cats, you psychologically harm the people who care for them

Even in Australia where the feral cat is a pest to be killed in any way possible (irrespective of whether it's cruel or not), often by shooting, there are volunteers who operate TNR programs to manage feral cat colonies. One of these is in Newcastle, Australia and this study refers to them as the 'Stockton Breakwall' cats. Under the orders of the local authority the feral cats were shot at. The intention was to kill them but when you shoot at feral cats you don't always kill them cleanly; in fact probably hardly ever. You leave them severely injured and dying slowly. Barbaric, I say. Unforgivable.

When you shoot feral cats, you psychologically harm the people who care for them
When you shoot feral cats, you psychologically harm the people who care for them. Image: MikeB

This study says that the culling process was mismanaged. They say that it was mismanaged in two ways both in the intended euthanasia (laugh) of the feral cats concerned and in the psychological harm that this process caused to the TNR volunteers.

And I love this study because it looks at the effects of shooting feral cats from the standpoint of the people who want to care for them and who do the right thing. TNR volunteers are great people because they deal with feral cats humanely.

Nathan Winograd, one of America's great animal advocates, sets out six reasons why TNR programs are good for the community. A TNR program:

  1. Improves the health of community cats;
  2. Reduces intake and killing of community cats;
  3. Reduces complaint calls to animal control;
  4. Reduces illness in the shelter;
  5. Reduces waste of taxpayer money on impound and killing; and, 
  6. Increases opportunities to expand the lifesaving of other animals.

By contrast, he says that "lethal methods not only harm cats, they also harm people". The study I'm referring to is "The Impact of Lethal, Enforcement-Centred Cat Management on Human Wellbeing". Link:

In summary, they found that the bond between caregivers and cats was "as strong as the bonds with their own pets" and that the "the cats looked to them (the caregivers) to keep them safe and fed".

“I had a favourite called (Nala) and she was one of the ones that got killed… There’s people that really, really had such strong feelings for these animals… They are very loved.”
“They’re not feral. They’re pets waiting to go home, they really are. They’ve proven that to all of us that care for them. They just deserve better.”
“…the worst area. There was blood everywhere. All over the rocks, all over the pathway, like drag marks. So, once I’d sat with them, I’m going, ‘far out!’—something horrendous has happened here… I just started crying because the realization that out of the cats that were there, they probably only spotted about five. It was like, oh my God, what the hell has happened out here?”

“… two men came back in sort of like council suits, and they had some wheelie bins with them. They proceeded to scrub the blood away. They had cleaning products, and they were cleaning up the mess. We asked them what they were doing, and they laughed at us. That’s when we knew that this was something way bigger than we ever imagined.” 

We know that TNR volunteers give names to the semi-domesticated feral cats. They treat them as domestic cats and some of them are. They are adoptable. But they are living good lives in a feral cat community. The arrangement is beneficial for the human and the cat community. Why destroy that? And why destroy it in such a brutal and insensitive way?

I'll tell you why. It is because the Australian authorities across the continent have got it into their heads that they have to eradicate feral cats because they are preying upon their small mammal and marsupial native species. They want to conserve these small native species and of course I strongly agree with that objective.

But they can do far better in their objective if they looked to themselves and their behaviour. Human behaviour is far more destructive of Australia's native species then feral cat behaviour. Prioritise the most damaging cause of the gradual extirpation of native species which is human activity both in building new settlements as Australia is always doing to improve the economy and in terms of their contribution to global warming through the exportation of vast amounts of coal to China.

Australia has suffered from horrendous global warming events such as massive floods and intolerable heat waves. Look to yourselves I say and stop harming the kind and generous people who care for feral cats that were put there by human negligence.

It is unsurprising that feral cat caregivers suffer psychologically when their cats are shot brutally. The suffering was described as "significant". It led to "grief, trauma, poor physical health, and long-term psychological distress, including profound guilt, loss and the ability to eat" in the words of Nathan Winograd. Stop it!! You are insensitive and frankly ignorant when you order shooters to kill feral cats.

And what about the mistakes? Shooting someone's pet cat which must happen. Then you harm the owner psychologically as well. 

And what about shooting millions of kangaroos? 

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