Human Behavior and the Feral Cat Population

The act of being human depends on our ability to respond with reason to life issues, opening our hearts to creation in our midst.

by Vonda Sines


It’s not their fault; yet domesticated animals often pay the ultimate price when people are irresponsible and careless with their pets. The impact of abandoned pets cannot and should not be ignored in our society. When people disregard such basic human instincts as to care for their environment, the community at large must respond effectively to the situation. Otherwise, things can quickly end up out of control, causing an imbalance in communities and posing numerous avoidable dangers and unwarranted risks to the rest of their citizens.

The act of being human depends on our ability to respond with reason to life issues, opening our hearts to creation in our midst. Our unique ability to solve problems, not by instinct and reaction, but with thorough consideration, using our intellect, while thoughtfully trusting the emotions of our hearts, make us capable of serving a greater good, thereby living up to the standard of our very existence. Since ancient times, people have deigned to ignite their cultures with the knowledge that being effectively human means being placed in a hierarchy above all other animals. With this recognized position comes an expected responsibility to care for the rest of creation.

It is not acceptable to shirk our responsibilities and release ourselves of them on a whim, particularly when we become pet owners. Yet, millions of feral cats create colonies in our neighborhoods and communities because of this very issue, leaving it up to other, more responsible human beings to disseminate and work tirelessly to solve the problems stemming from such reckless human behavior. Vonda Sines and her husband are two such individuals. Their story is repeated several times over across the United States. It is a story that needs to be shared, because feral cats impact communities in many ways, and through no fault of their own suffer the consequences of careless human behaviors.

Thank you, Vonda, for sharing this important story with us.

M. J. Joachim

Facing Issues on Respecting Animal Life

By Vonda Sines

Since 2007, my husband and I have been volunteers with the trap/neuter/release(TNR) movement.  We have probably managed to trap and spay or neuter at least 25 members of the feral cat population roaming our neighborhood.

Several members of this group have been socialized and grown fat living in our home.  Others were adopted.  The rest are released into the neighborhood after being spayed or neutered.

Two had to be euthanized, lest they pass along feline leukemia.  All of the cats have worms after being outside even weeks.  One of those we adopted also had giardia and Bartonella, both illnesses that can infect humans.  One cat who was euthanized also suffered from toxoplasmosis, which is transmissible to humans and can live without a host for many years in soil.

Having cats around with these conditions means that we need to take special precautions.  For any outdoor cats that permit handling, this means wearing gloves, which are also a necessity when shoveling or cleaning litter boxes.  We also wash the floors and sink of the litter box area with detergent and bleach weekly.

Despite all this bother, our objective is to help these cats, most of which only live two to three years outdoors.  After all, they didn’t ask to be born. We give then gender-neutral names because it’s often impossible to know if a feral cat is a male or a female before the animal arrives at the feral spray/neuter clinic. 

As we became acquainted with how the TNR process works, we quickly realized that if a female cat arrived pregnant at the clinic, the unborn kittens would automatically be removed and discarded.  We wouldn’t find out what had occurred until we received the cat’s paperwork after the fact.  Most clinics also remove the tip of the cat’s ear to show that it’s been spayed or neutered and aren’t willing to forego this procedure.

Fortunately, only one cat, which we sent to a local vet since the clinic was full, turned out to be pregnant.  She was near enough to the end of a cat pregnancy—63 days—to deliver the kittens and spay her.  Another volunteer was able to locate a nursing cat in the next state who accepted the kittens.

Destroying kittens doesn’t seem to bother many TNR volunteers because the objective of the movement as we understand it is zero feral or unneutered cats on the streets.  This recently became a problem for us when we tried to find a foster home for a cat we believe is female and potentially pregnant.  A local vet had agreed to neuter the cat if a male or spay it if female. However, he cautioned that if pregnant, the cat would need to be in foster care (since we have no more room) until she delivered.  Then there would be the matter of getting her kittens adopted.

When we attempted to find other volunteers willing to house the cat should it turn out to be a pregnant female—kitten season is almost here—we got a flat turndown and an admonition that our efforts to save any kittens that we don’t even know exist were counterproductive to local TNR efforts.

We also received an offer to trap the cat—which we can do ourselves since it eats here—and transport it to a feral cat clinic because it “probably isn’t pregnant yet” this season.

This is just one instance in which efforts to respect the life of the unborn in the cat world encounter a lot of difficulty.  Most volunteers don’t share our belief that saving three or four kittens is a good thing while making sure mama cat doesn’t have 20 more.  They believe a success means mama cat never gives birth.

So for now, our furry friend remains unspayed.  He or she has outmaneuvered us during two prior attempts to trap her.  Now that kitten season is nearly upon us, we will try again in the fall and help her as we can if she shows up with a line of little furballs behind her.  We continue to maintain that sending this cat, who looks and behaves like a female, to a feral clinic because she “probably” isn’t pregnant is a big gamble.

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Photo Credit: Vonda Sines (top), Wikipedia, Public Domain (bottom)

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