Free-roaming or “community cats” include stray cats which were one-time pets but are now lost, missing, or abandoned, and feral cats. Stray cats are typically accustomed to human contact and tame enough for re-homing. Feral cats are defined as those cats which are the offspring of stray or feral cats and are not accustomed to human contact. Ultimately, all community cats are domestic animals that, due to human neglect, have been forced to live as wild animals. As such, their care is society’s responsibility.
The RHS believes that community-wide initiatives are needed to address the issue of community cats. Such initiatives may include programs such as affordable and accessible spay/neuter; Trap Neuter Release (TNR) programs; public education on responsible cat ownership; information about responsible sources for obtaining cats; and promotion of permanent identification of cats to increase the number of strays returned to their owners.
Given the origin of community cat colonies, the RHS strongly believes that the management of these animals is a responsibility to be assumed not only by the RHS but also by the municipality and the community. It is imperative, however, that cooperation and collaboration of key stakeholders is sought, in order to manage the community cat situation effectively in both the short and long-term. Coordinated action by the RHS, the City of Regina and Cat Rescue Groups will lead to a solution for the City of Regina.
The RHS believes that, given the poor quality of life community cats typically lead, as well as broader concerns such as the environmental impact and public health, the goal of community cat management programs should be to gradually eliminate free roaming cat colonies by a process of “aging out” their members. In this scenario, colonies would be maintained in a healthy state where their quality of life is maximized and they are prevented from reproducing, leading to the eventual attrition of members. Demonstrable signs of a successfully managed colony include colony stabilization and an on-going decline in colony cat numbers, especially kittens.
Unfortunately, animal-loving community members may inadvertently create more animal suffering by feeding unsterilized stray cats, who then breed, and create more homeless kittens. Should a caring individual wish to feed a stray cat, that individual must also be willing to accept life-long commitment to that animal including sterilizing it and providing lifelong shelter and veterinary care. If an individual does not wish to make that lifelong commitment, they should work with the RHS or a cat rescue organization who will do the best for that animal and ensure that no new stray kittens are born.
The RHS supports community cat management programs that adopt a ‘stabilize and maintain’ approach. This approach provides a multi-faceted way of dealing with the issue, including:
- the diversion of cats and kittens deemed suitable for rehabilitation and eventual adoption;
- the maintenance of healthy cats deemed unsuitable for adoption through a ‘trap, spay/neuter, vaccinate and release’ program, including subsequent monitoring and care under the following guidelines:
- Detailed descriptions of trapped cats would be reported to local humane societies/impound facilities and listed on Petlynx automated global recovery system.
- Trapped cats would be sterilized, tattooed, vaccinated as required for the lifetime of the cat, and tested for commonly found infectious diseases.
- Trapped cats are released/returned to their colony only if the colony is managed in compliance with municipal bylaws and the *Animal Protection Act of Saskatchewan*(http://www.qp.gov.sk.ca/documents/English/Statutes/Statutes/A21-1.pdf) to ensure that no animals experience distress.
- the euthanasia of diseased animals whose health is deemed unrecoverable or whose illness poses immediate jeopardy to other cats (specifically, felines with infectious disease).
The RHS does not support managed colonies in areas where endangered or threatened prey species are present; in areas where it is likely that the cats themselves may be subjected to harm or abuse; or where there is little or no community acceptance, as this too could jeopardize the safety of the animals. In such cases, the RHS recommends capture and adoption, or where adoption is not possible, euthanasia.
The responsibilities of a feral cat colony caretaker include ensuring that all cats in the colony are feral and not simply someone’s pet. They are to be humanely captured, sterilized, vaccinated, tested for infectious disease and provided with a sanitary feeding station with fresh water and food, given access to an insulated and heated shelter, treated for illnesses and injuries, and accepted by neighbors and landlords. A properly managed feral cat colony is healthy and stable. It must be impeccably managed to ensure no new kittens are born.
Local residents, animal welfare organizations and municipal agencies should be informed of the activities of the Trap Neuter and Release program and the location of urban colonies. The location of urban colonies should be away from residential areas. Cats should be appropriately managed and maintained so they do not become a nuisance to neighboring properties. Representatives of the Trap Neuter Release organization should be available and accessible if questions, problems, illnesses, or injuries arise.