With the very concerning letter to the editor from my friend, Robin Truax, I’d like to address what may not solve her problem, but advise that there are ways to control the cat population – and I’m not talking about the means that many people do (poisoning, shooting, mutilation, dropping in deserted areas). Cruelty to animals is a crime and those who commit these atrocities will be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I understand his concern on the side of those whose health may be affected by cats. For decades, cats in rural and urban areas across the country have been a concern due to their population and the lack of care or attention they receive from people.
If someone has found a stray cat and called one of our local animal shelters, the response was likely that they are full and cannot take the cat in at that time. Although many rescue groups dedicated to trap, neuter and release exist in the tri-county area, they can only handle a limited number of cats. And, while TNR isn’t the answer everywhere, it does work for some regions.
Cats control rodent populations and discourage new rodents from moving into the area. According to the CDC, rats are also known to carry diseases, many of which can be transmitted to humans, such as leptospirosis, murine typhus, and salmonellosis. Rat populations are steadily increasing due to climate change and increased urbanization. Major cities in the United States (Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore) are using community cats for a chemical- and pesticide-free solution to rat infestations by adopting “work cats” in businesses such as restaurants, where the cleanliness is very important for public health. According to the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, breeding female rats will move away from an area inhabited by resident cats that would clearly pose a danger to their litters. When the breeding females come out, the male rats follow.
Although not everyone has the ability to neuter or spay feral/tame cats, help is available in our area with coupons to help pay for spaying/neutering from Spay Today and Animal Welfare Society of Jefferson County as well as very reasonable surgical rates through Promise League of Animals in Boonsboro. Since cats are territorial, an established, stable, spayed, and vaccinated group of feral cats will deter other strays and feral cats from moving into the area. This decreases the risk of residents encountering an unvaccinated cat and will virtually eliminate problematic behaviors like fighting, spraying and meowing.
I realize this does not solve the problem of cats arriving on properties, but it would be a start to reducing overcrowding in our areas.