In last week’s column…

In last week’s column I explained volunteer efforts to reduce our burgeoning population of feral cats. Here are shortened versions of a couple of reader responses.

My wife and I live with two formerly feral cats. Domita had been born wild but in contact with people early on. Ossie (with clipped ear indicating feral neutering) was part of the “collection” of a neighbor, living with 17 cats in a tiny apartment. Ossie escaped from that home. After the next summer we brought [her] inside. I suspect the neighborhood birds breathed a cheep of relief; despite feeding her, Ossie was a successful predator. Ossie and Domita both sit on our laps sometimes and get cuddly

I realize that you’re likely to get some responses that favor trapping and killing feral cats, and my wife and I would like to counter that notion by pointing at a happy, healthy cat who would have been dead long ago if those folks had had their way about it. Instead she is taken care of and brings joy to people who love her. Thank you for all you do.

What you are saying by releasing fixed cats back to “their turf” is that you mind actively euthanizing non-native species, but as long as the torture and death of native species is out of your sight you are not bothered by those cats’ behavior.

Free-roaming house cats kill an estimated 4 billion wild animals across the U.S. every year, including birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. [According to] George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy, “Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline.” If well-fed house cats are such accomplished predators, do you really think that those that you neuter and release are any less adept?

In The Wildlife Professional the editor’s note is titled “Crimes Against Nature?” She states that “…though the cats are innocent creatures doing what comes naturally, people who allow cats outdoors are effectively complicit in crimes against nature, defying the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.” As a cat owner with a completely happy, healthy, well-loved, totally indoor cat, I strongly disagree with your stance.

Dr. Nichol:
I can think of no logical argument against your well-founded points. Protecting our ecosystem is essential to our future. It’s just hard to know how best to help. Is it better for a well-intentioned veterinarian like me to do what he can with the immediate issue (rampant reproduction of a predatory species) or to simply refuse to help? Carrying out wholesale euthanasia of feral cats would be against my nature as well as that of most of my colleagues. And who would volunteer to trap dozens of cats and deliver them to us for that purpose? I don’t mean to be glib, only pragmatic; this is an emotion-charged topic.

Advising cat owners to humanely confine their pets inside is among my more frequent recommendations. Encouraging the passage of laws that would prohibit pet cats from running loose could be the other component of the solution.

Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). He cares for the medical needs of pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). Question? Post it on or by US Mail to 4000 Montgomery Blvd NE, Albuq, NM 87109. Unpublished questions may not be answered individually.