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April 23, 2014

Creating Safer Communities for Cats and Wildlife

Every year, spring delivers babies. And these newborn birds and mammals are particularly vulnerable to predators, including outdoor cats. Too often, folks have lined up on one side or the other – for feral cats or for wildlife. 

Yellow warbler
John Harrison
Whether you’re a 'bird-person' or a 'cat-person' there is a common ground that will create safer communities for all animals.

Here’s where we stand: We’re for both.  All animals deserve protection. And in terms of the debate and on-the-ground care of cats and wildlife, we have experts and professional staff in both realms dedicated to finding humane solutions.

Our broad engagement for all species is one reason we’re involved in a broad public debate over outdoor cats, as in a recent op-ed exchange in the San Diego Union-Tribune that included a submission by The HSUS’ Wildlife Scientist John Hadidian and San Diego Humane Society CEO Gary Weitzman, and another by a representative of the San Diego Audubon Society. 

The HSUS aggressively promotes public education programs and humane management practices, including spay-and-neuter programs for owned cats as well as colony management programs like Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).  These programs reduce the number of outdoor cats by urging people to keep pet cats indoors, thereby cutting down on reproduction among free-roaming or community (feral and stray) cats and stabilizing and reducing their numbers over time.  This, we believe, is the only positive way forward, since the vast majority of citizens will never accept mass round-ups and euthanizing of feral cats.  Our approach is the best practical option. 



Cat
iStockphoto
Indoor cats can live long, healthy, happy lives and keeping your cat indoors can save the lives of other animals.

The outdated strategy of trapping and killing feral cats is generally ineffective. Moreover, if that were the only alternative, we’d lose overnight the enormous investments in cat management made by TNR practitioners and cat lovers.  And they would never participate in a round-up and kill approach, so there’s no way such a round-up could ever succeed.

While TNR and other sterilization projects may not produce substantial results overnight, they can reduce impacts over time.  What’s more, the vast national community of cat lovers can make the largest possible difference of all to help baby wildlife– simply by keeping their cats indoors or safely confined to their property.

There are more than 70 million owned cats in the United States but only 60 percent of these live safely indoors. Indoor cats can live long, happy, healthy lives, and keeping your cat indoors can also save the lives of other animals. Getting cats spayed or neutered and keeping collars and visible identification on them at all times can help decrease the overall population of community cats, keeping both your cat and wildlife safe.   If your cat really wants to explore the great outdoors, consider building or buying a catio or screened-in porch area for them to relax and bird-watch at their leisure.  Many adventurous cats can also be trained to enjoy walks on a harness and leash.  

Even if you don’t live with cats, there are many things you can do to protect all animals. These include:

  • Getting involved with a local effort to boost indoor cat programs.
  • Promoting the use of collars and visible ID.
  • Supporting programs that work to manage community cat populations.
  • Spaying and neutering any unowned cats that you or your neighbors may be feeding.
  • Subsidizing the cost of spaying or neutering for cat owners who cannot afford it.
  • Supporting local wildlife rehabilitation facilities to help injured birds and other animals.
  • Making your backyard safer for wildlife by using humane deterrents to keep outdoor cats out of your yard.

Whether you’re a “bird-person” or a “cat-person” there is a common ground that will create safer communities for all animals. An easy first step is to sign The HSUS’ pledge to keep cats and wildlife safe. 

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