Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Here Kitty, Kitty! Should "Housecats" Be Hunted?


Wisconsin is allowing legislation to allow hunting of what are essentially feral cats. These are cats that look like Fluffy and Miss Boots but are meaner than -- okay, let's just say it -- cat shit. They are cats that belong to no one in any real sense. The neighbors might feed them out of a sense of compassion, but they are not being allowed in and are un-handleable.

While I cannot condone the hunting of these cats, I fully agree that something needs to be done. These cats ARE the descendents of house cats (common domestics) that were allowed to roam and procreate until the situation became out of hand. They pose a danger to humans and other animals and cause real problems for the community.

Anybody who's worked with ferals will tell you that they are dangerous. Even feral kittens can do great harm if they perceive a threat. There are many people who would rather go up against a vicious dog over a truly feral cat. These felines fight like the wild animals that they've needed to become in order to survive.

In my many years working with animals I've come to admire the fighting spirit of these animals. The fact that they exist is proof that humans continue to fail to be responsible for domesticated animals; they allow them to run loose and procreate at staggering numbers.

While I agree that they behave like wild animals, I cannot condone hunting an animal descended from our pets, which has become a fighter out of a survival mechanism that we all have. On the other hand I know how dangerous these animals can be, and something must be done to curb the unchecked population growth.

It's my belief that the surplus cats should be trapped and evaluated by rescue groups. The unhealthy and most dangerous should be humanely euthanized. The friendliest should be allowed to have a chance to become companion animals or be allowed to remain outside, although sterilized.

Instead of shooting these animals -- and you cannot convince me that all these "hunters" are acting out of a sense of compassion -- we should do the humane thing for the cats that only exist because of human failings.

Some of the people opposed to the hunter position are worried that pets might be inadvertently killed. As much as I don't want the hunting, I'm having trouble with this argument. Study after study has shown that cats allowed to roam, in general, don't live as long. They have to face all the outdoor dangers. You can't ignore the myriad of risks that your cat faces roaming loose and then only become concerned when the hunting issue is raised. And if your animal roams unspayed and unneutered...

(I'm not debating the indoor/outdoor issue - merely saying unless an owner that let's their cats roam wants to take on drivers, and the Rottie down the street, and malicious children, I don't think they can complain about the possibility of hunters.)

If you are claiming ownership of a cat and allowing it out, it needs a tag. Probably a microchip. If you are not willing to tag the cat than you cannot scream bloody murder that someone hurt your pet -you never claimed ownership in the clearest way possible. (If the cat isn't yours when it comes time for shots and sterilization and basic care - do not call it yours when it's dead in the street.)

What this comes down to is responsibility and compassion. Take care of your own pets and do the humane thing for these cats who are descended from these pets. Most of us wouldn't shoot our own pets, let's not shoot these descendents. But at the same time - let's not sit on our asses and do nothing! Humane euthanasia, rescuers willing to rehab some, and trap, neuter, and release for some.

The reason why neuter and release is advisable for the community is because a stabilized community is a lot more cost-effective than repeated attempts to kill them. The sterilized cats will not breed, much of the negative behavior will be eliminated, and there will be less room for more un-sterilized animals to move into the community. When you merely "hunt" the current cats you are just hanging our "vacancy" signs.

This is a call for those who love animals to act compassionately, and for those who do not love them to behave responsibly. Even if the cats seem like another form of vermin, they are there because of a marked lack of responsibility on the part of humans and aiming a shotgun at them doesn't change that fact.
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