Testimony on behalf of feral cats presented at IL State Legislature 1/23/17

My name is Anne Beall and I’m a researcher and business owner in Chicago.  My firm, Beall Research, does research for Fortune 500 companies around the world.  Our research is used to make major business decisions such as to acquire existing companies or to launch new products and services.  We’ve done work for some of the major consumer goods and retail companies and private equity firms in America.  I’m also an author and have written several books and numerous articles. The last two books I authored were about animals and their role in our lives.  My book, Community Cats: A Journey into the World of Feral Cats, is a book about my personal journey as a colony caretaker as well as an overview of research that my firm conducted with a representative sample of Americans about their attitudes toward stray and community cats.

My message is simple: the majority of American feel sorry for stray and feral cats and they support TNR programs.

My firm surveyed a representative sample of 1,500 Americans around the country about their attitudes toward stray and feral cats (Beall, 2016).  The predominant attitude that most people have toward these creatures is one of pity and concern.  Over half of respondents (51%) say that they feel sorry for these cats and about one-third (37%) wish they could help them.  The majority of people have a live-and-let-live attitude toward these cats with three-quarters (73%) of them preferring to leave the cat where it is versus having it caught and euthanized.   And this is the case when respondents know the cat will have a shortened life; Americans prefer leaving unowned cats outside versus euthanizing them.

We asked our respondents if they were familiar with TNR programs and most (71%) were not.   We described TNR to them as follows:

“There is a simple program to help feral cats.  It’s called the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program.  With TNR programs, feral cats are humanely trapped and then spayed or neutered so they can’t have kittens.  After they have recovered from surgery, they are relocated or returned to their original location.  The program stabilizes and reduces feral cat populations and improves cat’s lives.  The behaviors associated with mating such as yowling, spraying and fighting stop after the cats are spayed or neutered.”

We asked how positively or negatively people feel about TNR programs after reading this description and over half (54%) said they felt extremely positive about this type of program.  And that’s only after reading a short paragraph!

We then provided some additional information about the benefits of TNR such as:

  • TNR programs have been shown to stabilize and reduce feral cat populations
  • Cats in TNR programs are regularly vaccinated and are not at risk to transmit rabies or other feline diseases to other cats
  • Cats in TNR programs are monitored for diseases and have not been shown to be a health hazard
  • Cats in TNR programs are less likely to fight because they have been spayed and neutered and are less likely to be injured by other cats

We found that over two-thirds (64%) of people felt even more positively toward TNR programs after learning this information.  And when we asked how likely Americans would be to support a TNR program in their area, well over half (58%) said they would.  But the most surprising thing we learned was that one in 5 of those surveyed (20%) said they would be willing to become a colony caretaker for a TNR program in their area.  And by the way, being a colony caretaker was described as feeding the colony twice a day and monitoring the cats’ health.  For those of us who have done this for many years, we know it’s a lot of work!

People care about stray and community cats.  And Americans support TNR programs.

Cats kill how many birds?

Another area that we researched was the number of birds who are killed by cats.  I care about this issue personally because I saved birds for many years with the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and I now do emergency rescues on occasion.  We asked respondents who have stray and feral cats near their home, or who have cats that go outdoors, whether they kill birds, mice, rats and other animals.  We then asked how many of these creatures the cats kill.   We found that the average number of birds killed by each cat is between 1.2 and 1.4 birds annually.  The outdoor owned cats kill about 1.2 birds a year and the stray and feral cats kill about 1.4.  You can take the number of outdoor cats for each household and multiply those numbers to come up with a rough estimate of how many birds are killed.

With that math, you come up with about 21 million birds per year.  However, that number can’t be right because not all birds who are killed are seen by humans.  In fact, we know from a research study conducted by the University of Georgia (Lloyd et al, 2013), that cats bring back about a quarter of their prey.  So, if our numbers are off by a factor of 4, the total number of birds killed would be about 86 million.  And that number is a far cry from the 3.7 billion birds estimated by the Smithsonian article that is often published (Loss, Will & Marra, 2013)

And like all animals, cats are opportunistic predators. They’re more likely to take the weak or sick animals that are easy to catch (Baker et al, 2008, Moller & Erritzoe, 2000).  These scientific findings have even led the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to declare on its website: “Despite the large numbers of birds who are killed, there is no scientific evidence that predation by cats in gardens is having any impact on bird populations….”

References

Baker, P. J., S. E. Molony, E. Stone, I. C. Cuthill, and S. Harris. 2008. “Cats about Town: Is Predation by

Free-Ranging Pet cats Felis catus Likely to Affect Urban Bird Populations?” Ibis 150: Supplement 1, 86–99. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bsc/ibi/2008/00000150/A00101s1/ art00008.

Beall, A. E. 2016. Community Cats: A Journey Into the World of Feral Cats. Bloomington: iUniverse.

Loyd, K. T., S. M. Hernandez, J. P. Carroll, K. J. Abernathy, and G. J. Marshall. 2013. “Quantifying Free-

Roaming Domestic Cat Predation Using Animal-Borne Video Cameras.” Biological Conservation 160: 183–89.

Loss, S. R., T. Will, and P. P. Marra. 2013. “The Impact of FreeRanging Domestic Cats on Wildlife of the

United States.” Nature Communications. 4: 1396.

Moller, A. P. and J. Erritzoe. 2000. “Predation against Birds with Low Immunocompetence.” Oecolgia 122 (4): 500–504.

 

Calculation for number of birds killed by indoor cats that go outdoors

121,122,161 * Number of household with indoor cats that go outdoors and kill birds (4.67%) = 5,652,367 households

5,652,367 * Number of birds killed by indoor cats that go outdoors in one year (1.2) = 6,782,841

Calculation for number of birds killed by outdoor cats

121,122,161 * Number of household with outdoor cats (including stray/ feral) who kill birds (8.93%) = 10,820,246 households

10,820,246 * Number of birds killed by indoor cats that go outdoors in one year (1.37) = 14,823,737

Total number of birds killed = number of birds killed by indoor cats (6,782,841) + number of birds killed by outdoor cats (14,823,737) = 21,606,578

 

 

Why Only 5% of Americans Know about TNR and What We Can Do About It

For the book, Community Cats: A Journey into the World of Feral Cats, we conducted research about how Americans perceive TNR (Trap Neuter Return) programs for feral cats.  By way of background, I own a market research firm that does complicated, strategic market research studies for Fortune 500 companies. We help major corporations answer major business questions, such as whether they should acquire another company, what products to launch, which advertising they should use, what segments they should target in a market, and what the size of a market is for a potential product. We conduct qualitative and quantitative research such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and surveys to help companies make major strategic decisions (Beall 2010).

My firm, Beall Research, created an Internet survey that covered attitudes toward cats, TNR, and spaying and neutering and was answered by a representative sample of 1,500[1] people in the United States. We weighted this data so that it represents the US population in terms of age, gender, Hispanic origin, and race. Thus, the final data represents what Americans think and feel about these issues.

Awareness of TNR

We shared a description of TNR programs and asked if Americans were familiar with this program. Below is the description:

Some of the cats you see outside are feral cats. Feral cats are cats that are born in the wild. They are different from stray cats, which are pet cats that have been lost or abandoned and were not born in the wild. The two types of cats do not look different.

There is a simple program to help feral cats. It’s called the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. With TNR programs, feral cats are humanely trapped and then spayed/neutered so they can’t have kittens. After they have recovered from surgery, they are relocated or returned to their original location.

This program stabilizes and reduces feral cat populations and improves the cats’ lives. The behaviors associated with mating such as yowling, spraying, and fighting stop after cats are spayed/neutered.

The majority of Americans had not heard about this program or knew very little about it. Almost three-quarters (71 percent) had never even heard of TNR. And only 5 percent of the respondent had heard of TNR programs and were very familiar with them.

Why have so few Americans heard about TNR?  Organizations like Alley Cat Allies have been in existence for 25 years, people who feed cats are not rare, and people within the TNR world have been trapping, neutering and returning cats for at least a decade or more.  Why don’t Americans know about TNR?

Secrecy Rules in the Cat World

After immersing myself in this world and interviewing many caretakers, it has become clear to me that those who are involved in TNR tend to be secretive.  It’s understandable why.  Many people have been harassed and threatened with criminal charges.  More importantly, they have thought that not telling others what they do will protect the cats.

I was amazed to learn that even in Chicago where we have an ordinance that protects those colony caretakers, that many of them refused to be interviewed for the book.  Some of those interviewed asked me not to reveal their true names.  And no one wanted the location of their cats revealed.  Given the protection that Chicago offers these caretakers, they are not at great risk, but they still worry.  And they care for their feral cats.  So they err on the side of secrecy.

But as with all movements, we need to come out of the closet.  That’s how we will bring about change.  We need to educate those around us about what we’re doing and why.  As I learned from my research, the majority of Americans actually support TNR when they know about it.

It’s All about Marketing

In our survey, we asked how positively or negatively respondents felt about TNR programs, given the description we provided, and to indicate using a 10-point scale where a 1 indicated they felt “extremely negative” about TNR programs and a 10 indicated they felt “extremely positive” about them. The majority of respondents were extremely positive about TNR, and just over half (55 percent) gave the program a rating of 8, 9, or 10.

The answer is for us to market TNR like other social programs such as gay rights, women’s rights, and the rights of animals, which are currently being actively marketed by organizations around the world.  That’s why I wrote the book Community Cats.  And that’s why I educate everyone I come across about the Cats at Work program in Chicago.  Once the movement goes from the shadows into the limelight, we can begin to see real change.  And more cats will be saved.

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What my feral cat, Duke, taught me

In Honor of Duke
Recently my feral cat, Duke, showed me how strongly humans and animals bond with one another, how much they love and trust us, how much we communicate with them, and how we are really there for one another.

I had become a colony caretaker for a group of feral cats in November of 2013 as part of the Cats at Work program, which is run by TreeHouse Humane Society.  We got the cats in order to deal with the rats that have overrun our neighborhood.  Our 3 cats were Duke, Eloise and Allie and they completely solved our rat problem. They got rid of rats for the whole neighborhood.

Duke was actually a kitten when she came to us and she was always the most vivacious.  She was the first to greet us when we came home from work and she would meow and chirp at me as I pet her. She was also the first to run to the food bowl. It had always been that way right from the very beginning. Duke was the least fearful, the most engaging, and the most energetic of the bunch. She was always climbing trees, running around the yard chasing things, and she was always the one who got into trouble.  Initially we thought she was a male and when we learned she was a female, we thought her name suited her just fine.

Over the course of 2 years we had a couple of scary situations with her. On one occasion, she managed to get perilously sick and almost died. She stopped eating and drinking. She spent 4 days at the emergency vet and they saved her life. When she came home, she was a changed cat. The first night she was home, she ran around the yard meowing loudly and rubbing against us. She asked to be pet over and over and over. The next time she scared us was when she disappeared for 3 weeks. I had no idea where she went, but one day she emerged and was very thin and hungry. She meowed and meowed at the edge of our property and then ate 2 cans of cat food. She seemed confused but happy to be home.

The last time she gave me heart palpitations was after I returned from a business trip and went down to visit her in the area where she lived. I moved toward her and she meowed in a way that told me she was hurt. She moved away from me and I saw that she was not using one of her paws. I knew I had to get her to the emergency vet as soon as possible. The only problem was that I didn’t have a humane trap and I didn’t have a cat carrier. I didn’t know what to do so I ran to the pet store that is 2 blocks from my home and got a cat carrier. I put it together and threw a towel into it and went to see Duke. She had been howling and had made her way along the side yard. From there, she became scared and had wedged herself into a storage area in the neighbor’s basement. As I came near her with the cat carrier, she became very agitated and growled. She was in a lot of pain and she was very scared.

I slowly removed the things that were around her that she was hiding behind. And I talked to her very gently. I moved the carrier close to where she was and I just sat with her and asked her to go into the carrier. This was a carrier she had never seen or smelled before. I continued to talk to her and I asked her to go into the carrier. I told her everything would be OK and that we would take care of her. I asked her again and again to go into the carrier. And after 15 minutes, she slowly limped into the carrier. I never touched her or made any movement. She did it on her own.  Feral cats do not go into cat carriers on their own–Duke did something completely amazing that day.

I took her to the emergency vet and I stayed by her side. I noticed that when I wasn’t talking to her, that she howled and seemed scared. At one point, she was shaking. I stayed with her and talked to her after that. I told her silly stories in a soothing voice and she put her head down and closed her eyes on her towel. Whenever I was near, it seemed that she was calm and unafraid.The vet examined her and told us there was no hope. She said that Duke had probably been hit by a car and had a broken jaw, a broken paw that would have to be amputated, and internal injuries. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I never expected this news. I wanted so badly to do anything to save her. I completely broke down.

I had to do what was right for Duke and let her go. I decided to euthanize her and put her out of her pain. But before she died, I realized that the relationship I had formed with Duke was incredibly deep. Even in her terror and pain, she had trusted me enough to go into a pet carrier. And she had been comforted by me in the alien environment of the vet’s office. Although I was upset, I tried to be strong for her when she was scared. And I had done what was right by her and not put her through an amputation and several surgeries because I couldn’t let her go. Duke and I had both done a great deal for one another.

I miss Duke a great deal. They say our pets cross the rainbow bridge when they die and that we will see them again. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But the other night, I had a very vivid dream about Duke. She came to me and assured me that she was fine and that she had crossed over to the other side. She stayed with me for a while and meowed and chirped at me as she always did. And I realized that those noises were her way of saying that she loved me. It was a wonderful dream.

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A lovely story about a feral cat, LouAnn by Joanne B.

Once upon a time (a perfect opening when you don’t know where to begin a story) there were two feral cats living in the woods behind our neighbor’s house. Our neighbor, Muriel, often watched them and worried about them as they seemed not to belong to anyone. I would visit her and we would see them come into her yard looking for food. We gave them names, Louie and Lulu and Muriel began feeding them. You couldn’t get near them but they got very near each other and one day they became fruitful and multiplied. We named the two kittens LouAnn and Louise and the two kittens, once past nursing, showed up daily for food, always accompanied by mama Lulu carefully guarding them and affirming their feral status.

During that first year Louise stopped showing up and Muriel and her husband put their house up for sale. When they finally moved I began coaxing LouAnn with food  to come across the street so I could continue to feed her. She was tiny but appeared to be healthy. When the weather got cooler Larry built her a house and put it on our open porch. It had an open door and a plexi-glass window. We put blankets in it and a cushion on top of the house so she could rest comfortably inside or out. It only took about two days for her to explore the interior and by the third night she slept inside her new home. We still couldn’t get near her. I would put a plate of food for her outside her house in the morning. She would come out but not eat until I was back in our house. We respected her need for space but kept hoping we could win her over. I would spend a little time each day sitting on the porch and talking to her but any attempts to get near her were always met with a mad dash under a nearby bush.

Mama Lulu never followed LouAnn across the street. She had staked out her territory and rarely ventured from the wooded area. We know she had one more litter because she showed up one day with two weaned kittens and left them in our yard. We never saw her again. Perhaps she observed that we were feeding LouAnn and our territory would be a safe place. Lulu had looked like she lost weight when she brought the kittens to us and I suspected she might not have been well.

The new kittens arrival was problematical. We already had three inside cats and now LouAnn living on the porch. After  several weeks I reluctantly called an animal shelter and they came by and picked them up. As I watched them drive away I cried buckets. I still feel it was a lousy thing to do. Lulu had entrusted us with her babies and we gave them away. In my darkest moments I conjure up Dante’s Inferno and the special place in Hell reserved for people who can’t find room for one more kitten in their life. I should have been an actress so I could draw on all those  deep emotional wells full of guilt and remorse.

Thank goodness LouAnn thrived in her new environment. There was some redemption for me in that fact. She was small, with pretty blue eyes, had white fur with non-strategically placed patches of charcoal grey and the tiniest mews. She was not necessarily cat pageant beauty material but attractive enough to catch the eye of several local stray Tom cats…which of course meant kittens the following Spring. When birthing time came she disappeared. We looked all over and couldn’t find her. A week went by and no LouAnn. Then when Larry was mowing the  lawn one afternoon he spotted her in some dense bushes on a side of the house we rarely frequented. He came to tell me and we looked closer. She was nursing two tiny kittens. We kept our distance so as not to frighten her. In a few days she started coming to the porch twice a day to eat again. But she slept in the bushes with the kittens until they had all their fur and were able to walk. One morning when we went to check on them we found a large dead rat just a few feet from the bed in the bushes. She had obviously killed it. We had never seen a rat on our property before but he must have sniffed out the vulnerable litter. We told her we were so proud of her.

As the little ones grew and LouAnn was back on the porch we started handling the kittens. We thought this might encourage her to let us handle her but that was not to be. She didn’t fuss when we picked up the kittens, she just watched. When the kittens were eight weeks old we found homes for them. I was delighted that a cousin of mine and her friend were eager to adopt. They were both on a professor track at Rutgers University and both loved cats. I knew Beth and Joe would give them loving homes and we would get to see photos from time to time. The day they came to take them home was traumatic. I was happy to know where they were going but I had no idea how it was going to affect LouAnn. For days she wandered around outside the house calling for her kittens, loud mournful cries, pacing the property. It was awful and we couldn’t comfort her as we still couldn’t get near her. I had to remember that as they were getting older she would sometimes start swatting them when they tried to eat before she did, so we had done the right thing. Cats do not seem to be interested in nurturing strong family ties. There will be no annual feline family reunions.

The following year LouAnn was pregnant again. We knew we had to try and catch her and have her spayed. We got a have-a-heart trap and after many days finally managed to get her in it. I was nervous for her. She was so frantic being confined. At the vet’s I told him her history and that we had never touched her. I was afraid he would get clawed and bitten when he tried to get her out of the cage so I told him if it was too difficult he could call us and we’d come and get her. He said not to worry he thought she would be fine. When the office called later in the day I was sure it was to tell me that she was too wild to work with and we’d have to come get her. But what I heard was, “The operation went well and she’s doing fine.” Without thinking I asked how many kittens there were. There were three. It was a healthy pregnancy. Then it hit me…I was responsible for the death of three healthy kittens. Over the next few days I filled several buckets with tears. I should have let her have this litter, then taken her to the vet for spaying. I couldn’t believe how terrible I felt. We brought LouAnn home the next day and , as per the vet’s request, brought her “house” into the  garage  and kept her confined while she recovered. At least now her little body would not be going through multiple pregnancies every year.

In time a stray male, black cat began courting LouAnn. Her dowry of two meals a day and a mortgage free furnished home I’m sure influenced his ardor. They became a couple. We called him Mr. Blackwell. He moved into her house with her, the two of them sleeping inside curled up together when the weather was cool and on top of the house when it was warm.

Mr. Blackwell, we believe, was gainfully employed as he would leave after breakfast every morning, walking down the driveway and disappearing until dinner time. I think he may have worked for the CIA as he was quite secretive about his comings and goings. Around five o’clock in the evening he would appear, walking up the driveway and LouAnn would meet him halfway . They would touch noses and come have dinner together. This went on for about a year and then one day he left and never came back. LouAnn would sit on the driveway, waiting and then finally come back to the porch alone. It was so sad to watch. She really missed him. He must have been her one true love because she never invited another stray to share her quarters.

As LouAnn aged we worried that the winters would take their toll on her. One particularly cold winter we ordered a pet heating pad for her to put in her house. This made it really toasty but one day I noticed that the fur on her belly was disappearing. She was going bald on her belly. I finally figured out that the heating pad was creating too much heat and we removed it. Her fur grew back. We were, in effect, killing her with kindness.

One night the following Spring, I went to check on her before turning in and heard a loud cry as I opened the door. In the dark I saw a raccoon dragging her off the porch and down the driveway. I ran and got a broom and charged down the driveway and hit the raccoon until he dropped her. She took off across the street and into the woods. Two weeks went by and there was no sign of her. We were sure she had been injured and went off to die. Then one day she showed up looking thinner but hungry and anxious to eat and drink.  She had a silver dollar sized open wound on her side but it looked like it was clean and healing. It did heal without infection and in a month she was her old self again.

One thing that always nagged at me as she got older was knowing that when her end time came she would probably just go back to the woods to die and we would never know what happened to her. It seemed so sad, caring for her for so many years and never being able to hold her. But life is not predictable. One Sunday afternoon when my brother and his wife were visiting, someone opened the front door and LouAnn, then in her 15th year, ran inside and under our dining room table. We left the door open so she wouldn’t panic if she wanted to leave. And she did leave after a few minutes. We were amazed. She had never ventured in before.

The next week when I opened the door one afternoon she wandered in again. This time she jumped up on  the loveseat in our living room. We  noticed she was losing weight and had not been eating much lately. Over the next two weeks she came in for a short while each day. We would sit on the sofa and just watch her and talk to her. We were overjoyed to see her come this close to us but didn’t want to frighten her by making any move that might be threatening. Then one day she came in and while Larry and I were sitting on the sofa  she jumped up between us. She looked at me and climbed into my lap and went to sleep. When she woke she let us both  hold  her and pet her and she was calm. She did this for several days . Each visit would be relatively brief and she would always go back to her house on the porch. When she stopped drinking we realized the end was near and when it seemed she was beginning to struggle we took her to the Vet. She lay peacefully in my arms as he put her gently into her final sleep.

In the end, when she needed help, she trusted us. It didn’t have to end that way but it did. Sometimes there are no words to express what the heart feels. LouAnn gave us one of those “heartfelt” experiences. We will always be in awe of that gift.

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LouAnn in front of her home

Humans are Killing The Most Birds–Not Cats

Recently CBC News in British Columbia published an article with the sensational headline that Cats are the number 1 killer of birds in Canada.  We have seen some other sensational claims such as one from a Smithsonian article that estimates that cats kill approximately 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds every year in the United States (Loss, Will, and Marra 2013).  However, these estimates have some major issues.

The first problem with these estimates is that the total number of birds that cats are estimated to kill appears to be implausible (Wolf 2013). The current number of birds who reside in North America and in the United States is currently estimated by researchers, specifically Partners in Flight Science Committee. Partners in Flight estimates that the total number of birds in the United States is 3.2 billion and in North America, 5.8 billion (Partners in Flight 2013). The Smithsonian article (2013) estimated that cats are killing 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds annually in the United States. If cats were killing this many birds, they would be killing 43 to 100 percent of the US birds each year. If that situation were an actuality, the bird population would be entirely wiped out within one to two years.

The research evidence shows that cats kill mammals (for example, rats and mice) more than they do birds (Crooks and Soulé 1999, Kays and DeWan 2004, Mitchell and Beck 1992). The question is, how many birds and which ones? Cats tend to prey on animals that are weaker and sicker because they are easier to catch (Baker et al. 2008, Moller and Erritzoe 2000). These scientific findings have led the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to declare on its Web site, “Despite the large numbers of birds killed, there is no scientific evidence that predation by cats in gardens is having any impact on bird populations UK-wide. This may be surprising, but many millions of birds die naturally every year, mainly through starvation, disease, or other forms of predation. There is evidence that cats tend to take weak or sickly birds” (RSPB 2014).

What is killing the bird population?  We are.  Habitat loss, global warming and collisions with buildings are killing more birds than cats.  A recent article in the Washington Post claims that about 1 billion birds die annually in window collisions.  And according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/conservation/planning/threats) the major threats to native birds are: habitat loss and degradation, increased numbers of competitors, exploitation (hunting, pets), chemical toxins, and pollution.  It’s time to take a look in the mirror and be honest about what’s killing birds.  We are.

–Anne Beall

Author of Community Cats: A Journey Into the World of Feral Cats.  Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Community-Cats-Journey-World-Feral/dp/1491742364/ref=zg_bs_5045_48

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TNR is the way to save more lives and is part of the no-kill solution

There is an overpopulation of cats in the U.S. and 1.5 million cats or 70% of cats in shelters are euthanized each year.  And sadly, there are very few no-kill shelters in the U.S.

These statistics are astounding.

Last year, my company, Beall Research, conducted a large survey with Americans that showed that these statistics are unknown to most people, but are extremely important to the average American.  In fact, we discovered that individuals who learned this information were more motivated to spay/neuter an unfixed house pet after learning these grim facts.

Obviously having more no-kill shelters would decrease the number of cats that are euthanized each year.  But an additional solution is to enact TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) programs.  Feral cats are more likely to be euthanized in shelters because they are classified as inappropriate for adoption.  Community cats, however, can have a tremendous function.  In Chicago, we have the ‘Cats at Work’ program, where Tree House Humane Society traps, neuters and then relocates them to an area where there is a rat problem.  This program is so successful that there is currently a waiting list in Chicago for these feral cats.

Let’s make TNR part of the no-kill solution.

–Anne Beall

Author of Community Cats: A Journey Into the World of Feral Cats.  Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Community-Cats-Journey-World-Feral/dp/1491742364/ref=zg_bs_5045_48

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Cats are a health hazard?

Not according to the Centers for Disease Control.

One of the criticisms leveled at outdoor cats is that they are a health hazard and are a great risk for rabies. The data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1995 to 2011 reveal forty-nine documented cases of rabies in humans. Thirty-five of these cases were linked to bats, eleven to dogs (these cases occurred in countries other than the United States), and the remainder listed causes unknown or a fox or raccoon. None were linked to cats (CDC 2014a). A further exploration of the CDC data shows that, in 2010, there were two cases of human rabies and 6,690 cases of rabies in animals. The vast majority of these animals were raccoons (37 percent), skunks (24 percent), and bats (23 percent). The rest were foxes (7 percent), cats (5 percent), cattle (1 percent) and dogs (1 percent). Thus, cats do not appear to be a significant threat when it comes to rabies.

There are some other diseases associated with cats; one is cat scratch disease, which is a bacterial infection that can occur if a cat scratches you. And there are a few other bacterial diseases that cats can carry, such as salmonella, and parasitic diseases such as toxoplasmosis, tapeworm, and hookworm, which are transmitted through touching cat feces. For those of us who don’t touch cat stool directly, there is almost no risk. According to the CDC Web site, you are more likely to get toxoplasmosis from gardening or eating undercooked meat than to get it from cats (CDC 2014b). The only major disease that cats can carry and easily transmit to humans is ringworm, which is a fungal infection. That disease can be transmitted by touching a cat who is infected. My cat, Duke, was diagnosed with ringworm, but neither I nor the other cats were ever infected with it.

I believe the more serious issue is the diseases associated with rodents, who can easily infect humans and other animals. One of these diseases is leptospirosis, a bacterial infection spread through rat urine, which can get into water or soil and can survive for weeks to months. Animals and humans can get infected with leptospirosis through contact with this contaminated urine, water, or soil. This bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. This disease is apparently on the rise. Outdoor cats could have a significant role in reducing this and other diseases if they’reused for rodent control.

Excerpt from Community Cats

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Feral Cats & Vets

Duke

A few days ago our colony cat, Duke, got very sick. She stopped eating and drinking and would not come out of her cat condo. She looked terrible. We finally managed to get her out of the condo and into a trap and took her to our vet. They did a bunch of tests and said they were unsure what was wrong. They said that if she was not better by the morning, to let them know. And she wasn’t. She was worse. When we brought her back to the vet, they said that she needed to be hospitalized and that she was not a good candidate for hospitalization because she needed to be watched 24/7 and put into a quiet place given that she’s feral. It seemed like they were saying there wasn’t anything they could do. At that point, I started calling vets around the area and they suggested the local Emergency vet. She stayed there for 3 days. She was terrified, but underwent treatment and is now back with us. They still aren’t sure what was wrong but a treatment of antibiotics, fluids, anti parasitic treatment, etc brought her around. They told us she would have died if she had not gone there. And how she’s back and has completely changed. When she was brought back to the house, she was so happy, she ran around the yard, meowed and asked to be pet over and over again. And now she’s the most affectionate cat in the colony.

Dumping Cats

Over the course of studying community cats, it’s become apparent that some people dump cats and kittens when they don’t want them. This dumping creates more stray/ferals in the world and doesn’t help us achieve the objective of reducing the current cat population. It’s also inhumane. People put kittens into boxes and dump them into trash bins and dumpsters all over. My level of outrage over that behavior cannot be expressed. There are solutions to the problems of unwanted cats and kittens. But dumping them isn’t one of them.

Dying of dehydration in a box is a horrible way to die; it’s painful and it’s not immediate.