Q: The cats in my neighborhood are wild. I’m afraid they may be carrying a disease or may harm my children or pets. What should I do about them?
A: In cases like this, the best thing to do is often nothing! You are describing feral cats, which are essentially wild animals. While a few people believe that they are a danger to some wildlife, the truth is that that they fill a predatory niche in our ecosystem once occupied by predators no longer in existence in our area. They are important to the health of prey species, as are all predators. Because they are essentially wild, like many truly wild animals, they are often very healthy without the benefit of human care. Feral cats are all around us all the time. We generally do not see them, except by quick glimpses and stolen opportunities. Feral cats, like wild animals are afraid of people and want nothing to do with us. They will keep their distance and are of no real health concern to you, your children or your pets. Confirmed cases of rabies or other serious illness are exceptionally rare in feral cats likely due to their aversion to people and other animals.
Q: But I worry about them being out in the cold. Isn’t it cruel to leave them to freeze and starve?
A: Of course it would be cruel to let an animal to freeze or starve and we do not by any means suggest leaving a domestic animal outside in severe weather (HSHC does not advocate allowing cats unattended outside access, at all). As with any wild animal, winter can be hard on feral cats. Also like wild animals, a healthy colony of feral cats are well equipped for survival. With a constant food source and shelter against the wet and wind, feral cats survive quite well.
Q: I live close to a main road, I’d rather trap the cat and bring it to a shelter where it can be humanely euthanized, then allow it to be injured or killed on the road or subject to some other horror.
A: We applaud your compassion, but think about it from the cat’s perspective. This cat does not know there is any other way of life and is not suited to being indoors. It does not want to sleep by a fire or lounge in a lap. While life outside can be challenging, a feral cat is not a domestic animal and is well suited to this life.