Feral cat solution should not turn colonies into a nuisance

Jun 26, 2014

Haywood County is really lucky to have several organizations that care about animals whether their mission is to nurse them back to health, spay and neuter them to prevent overpopulation or adopt them out to a loving home.

There are so many volunteers who donate their time to give helpless animals a chance no matter the circumstances. The last thing we want to do is undermine their efforts.

That said, solutions that address animals’ needs should not become problems for neighborhoods such as in a situation that has come to light in a Balsam area mobile home park.

Here a feral cat colony has been trapped, neutered and released, all at the expense of the Haywood Spay/Neuter program. In addition, food is delivered to several park residents so the colony will be fed.

Pets can be rehomed and strays can be conditioned to be comfortable with humans again even if they’ve been abused. But feral animals are a completely different story.

Feral cat colonies can easily become nuisances in local neighborhoods where they can damage people’s personal property, including their vehicles, yards and homes.

These animals aren’t socialized to people and they won’t ever make good pets. The purpose behind the Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) program is to prevent the female wild cats from having up to three litters of kittens a year, with each litter bringing in two to five new kittens that will be as wild as their mama.

While the TNR program solves the breeding problem, it doesn’t help rid residents of the nuisance. These cats’ ears are tipped so residents can easily distinguish between a stray and a feral cat. But returning the colony to a neighborhood where it is unwanted doesn’t seem to be a productive solution.

Of course a colony of feral cats will hunker down in a particular neighborhood if someone is feeding them. Just like any wild animal, including the elk and bears in the area, they will keep returning to a particular home if they know they will find food there. But TNR organizers argue that even if no one is providing food, the cats will continue to stay there for shelter because they can scrounge for their own food. Maybe, maybe not.

If the county’s animal services department becomes involved, the answer is euthanization. That seems like a waste, too, since so much has been invested in fixing and vaccinating them.

Hats off to the Haywood Spay Neuter program for realizing the overpopulation of cats is a significant problem and for having the interest in attacking it head-on.

However, there needs to be a more realistic and common ground solution that will allow the animal advocates to continue their work and also allow residents to enjoy their property without the nuisance of animals that don’t belong to anyone.

The very best solution of all is for pet owners to do the responsible and right thing by having all pets spayed or neutered as soon as they are old enough or that they become part of the family.