I work as a bird conservation biologist and I’m cat lover. I own a beautiful indoor feline. When I moved to a new home, I noticed many cats roaming my new neighbourhood, even young kittens. The area is semi-rural and has many lower income families. It’s very difficult to tell whether these cats have homes, are stray, or are completely feral.
The local municipal humane society is nearly an hour away. Wanting to be a good neighbour, I didn’t want to risk capturing a neighbour’s cat and sending them to the humane society where a family pet might be euthanized if it couldn’t be rehomed. I wanted to do something good for the community and my neighbourhood environment (i.e., the birds that live here).
I contacted a number of animal welfare groups and feral cat rescues to see if they could help. Most were unable to offer any assistance. However, one particular rescue group decided that they could, despite not having any space to shelter the cats. They lent me humane traps and subsidized spay and neutering the cats that I captured. I’m writing this blog post anonymously as I realize that the topic of trap-neuter-return for feral cats can be contentious amongst the bird conservation and sometimes the animal welfare community. I would like to remain anonymous in order to ensure that I’m not the recipient of personal attacks from those that disagree with my approach. Part of my decision is related to my personal values and ethics to remain respectful of my neighbours but also attempt to do something good for the welfare of both cats and birds.
When I started trapping, I documented 8 cats. What I didn’t know is that their number was in fact much larger, since many of the cats looked alike. To date, I’ve spayed and neutered 23 cats in my neighbourhood. Some cats that I caught were already fixed and might be owned cats. The cats that were already fixed were scanned for a microchip and examined by a vet. The majority were returned to the location where they were trapped. I was able to find homes for a few of the kittens and a friendly adult cat that were clearly homeless.
Today, there are less cats roaming in my neighbourhood, only a year after starting my backyard spay-neuter project. I probably couldn’t have done it without the help of the animal welfare group. My neighbourhood would still have a large number of feral cats breeding and multiplying. The vet that fixed the cats admitted that they were healthy, breeding and that neighbours were likely feeding them. I understand that the neighbours are responding to the cats’ hunger, but it’s really important that these cats get fixed if we’re going to reduce cat overpopulation and the associated suffering.
The alternative would have been to ignore the cats that roam the neighbourhood while they keep on proliferating – which is what most people do. These cats live in harsh conditions and they’re typically scared. I would rather not see any more cats born outside (nor do I like them hurting wild birds). My small project simply demonstrated that bird enthusiasts as well as animal welfare activists need each other and can work together towards an end goal that we mutually agree upon: fewer outdoor cats.
Together, we can accomplish even greater things.
– Anonymous Guest Blogger