They’re called many things, but they have one common thread – the outdoors is their home. Some were born into the wild from wild parents. Some are the progeny of family pets either allowed to run loose or abandoned by uncaring and irresponsible human owners. Others were once family pets, either lost due to some misfortune or discarded by their irresponsible families.
Some people consider them the unfortunate while others consider them to be pests or vermin. But, what they truly are, is a group of animals which, for whatever reason, lives without human shelter. Now, this does not mean they are truly homeless nor does it mean they are starving and suffering, popular images put forth by traditional shelters and organizations who, misguidedly, want to promote the attitude that they only happy cat is one lounging on a human being’s couch.
Yes, we have met cats who prefer the safety and creature comforts of our human environments. They are human companions and would choose to be part of our lives given the opportunity. They like food and water in dishes and big, cushy pillows to stretch out on. And, to the best of our ability, we should try and provide them with this living situation. But, I have also met cats who prefer to have absolutely nothing to do with our artificial environments and comforts. When placed into homes or catteries, they are unhappy; they hide, they do not eat, are potentially aggressive and often actively seek to be removed from the indoor environment. They are, however, entirely content to live outdoors and some are even completely friendly in the outdoor environment in which they are comfortable. They, too, deserve to be afforded the ability to live the way they choose to.
Humans, as the controlling species on this planet have a responsibility to recognize that these individuals exist and to support their right to live as they have chosen. At Animal CARE Foundation, we do not support relocation of feral colonies, trapping for humane euthanasia of these animals, or even aggressive adoption of these animals.
There is a viable, workable alternative to all of the above which better respects the rights of these cats to live happy lives. It is called Trap/Neuter/Return and involves supporting a colony of these outdoor cats by a feral cat colony manager or “caretaker” as they are more commonly referred to. Feral cat caretakers are a small, discreet group of very dedicated people willing, every day, to go out to feed, bring fresh water to and generally care for these animals. This is a 365 day a year job, a daunting task for the most stalwart of people. There are no holidays off, no “rain call” and no sick days. The animals are there and they need these wonderful people and the caretakers are there for them.
And, the care they give extends well beyond simply providing food and water. Caretakers actively trap these cats in order to get them spayed and neutered so that they don’t produce large number of the next generation. Estimates note that 2 of these feral cats, one male and one female, are capable of producing over 400,000 offspring in a 10 year period so you can see the value of the service these caretakers provide not only to the animals, but also to the community at large.
Additionally, caretakers provide medical care for these cats to the best of their ability and will remove abandoned cats which join their colonies to try and return them to the human companion life that they are more comfortable with.
What’s more, they do all of this with minimal assistance from outside organizations and often, face active opposition from local authorities and even traditional shelters which hold to the belief that these cats are better off dead than living outdoors.
Again, Animal CARE Foundation supports feral cats’ rights to live and supports the caretakers who so unwaveringly assist both animal and community and we thank them for the unconditional support they give to those animals in need.