Letter to the Editor

Published 12:24 am Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dear Mayor Jennings and Council Members:

Most municipalities are overflowing with cats, and Washington is likely no exception. If what I have learned is accurate, that the town has prohibited further feeding of a managed feral cat colony downtown, then I hope you will consider my comments.

You are fortunate that the community group, Cats About Town, has managed the cats. Without their efforts, there would be many more unsterilized cats today and nuisance complaints about behaviors common to intact cats, such as yowling, fighting, and spraying urine. It is my understanding that CAT removed kittens young enough to be socialized. This resulted in an immediate reduction in the number of existing cats and prevented the birth of many more kittens.

Feral cats are initially drawn to an area by food sources, such as dumpsters and garbage cans, and places that provide shelter, such as abandoned buildings. Even if you were able to enforce a feeding ban, the cats would not go away because it’s practically impossible to eliminate those resources that first attracted the cats. Thus, to those who just “want the cats gone,” they need to understand this concept.

Decades of trapping and removing cats or instituting feeding bans has not resulted in a reduction in their numbers. If you thwart caretakers’ efforts to effectively manage feral cats, you’ll have more cats in town. Caretakers may be reluctant to pay for neutering, feeding, and other expenses if they know that they will be threatened with punitive actions. They will multiply because there is no dedicated caretaker monitoring the environment.

Feeding is essential to get an accurate number of cats, inform caretakers of the number of traps and veterinary appointments. Feeding them is to maintain their health.

Fears that the cats will attack people are unfounded. The cats will always run away.

Nevertheless, it is understandable to be concerned about potential health risks to the community. Although cats are a potential vector for transmission of rabies to humans, it has not occurred in the US for the past 35 years. It is the case that all cases of rabies contracted by humans in the US are transmitted from wildlife, not from cats. That makes vaccinating feral cats against rabies, an integral part of any TNR program, even more important.

To avoid attracting wildlife, caretakers should feed only what the cats can eat in a short period of time. Uneaten food should be removed.

You are fortunate to have a population of feral cats that is spayed and neutered, vaccinated against diseases, and provided for by dedicated caretakers. I urge you to support their efforts rather than make it more difficult to perform this community service that has saved the town time and money. If there is an ordinance that prohibits feeding animals outdoors, I hope you will consider an exemption for managed feral cat colonies.



Nancy Peterson

Cat Programs Manager

The Humane Society of the United States