Sunday, January 28, 2007

Managed Cat Colonies: The Wrong Solution to a Tragic Problem

The founding theory behind TNR is based on perpetual maintenance of cat colonies. Although proponents often claim that cat colonies die out in just a few years, it is now common to hear of “managed” cat colonies that have existed for 10 or more years. For example, when the Stanford Cat Network began TNR in 1989, they claimed there were approximately 500 cats on campus. Fifteen years later,they claim there were originally 1,500 cats on campus in 1989, and now there are approximately 200 cats on campus. Whichever number is believed, TNR has not eliminated the stray cat population on the Stanford University campus. Cat colonies perpetuate themselves because they often serve as dumping grounds for unwanted cats and the food attracts more cats. Colonies often contain cats too wary to be caught. Cats that have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and regularly fed will also live longer. In a study of managed cat colonies in two Florida parks, Crandon Marina and A.D.Barnes Park,the cat colonies did not decrease in size, and the cats did not keep new cats from joining the colony, or away from food. The well-fed cats in both colonies were observed stalking and killing wildlife, including a Common Yellowthroat (Castillo, D.and A.L. Clarke. 2003. Trap/neuter/release methods ineffective in controlling domestic cat“colonies”on public lands. Natural Areas Journal23:247-253).
RISKS TO HUMAN HEALTH Cat colonies,even managed ones, pose a serious human health risk. Diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as ringworm, cat scratch fever, and toxoplasmosis, cannot be controlled in managed cat colonies. Rabies is a very real threat. Raccoons and skunks are common visitors to feeding stations, as well as foxes, opossums,and rats. Raccoons and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies in wildlife, and cats are the domestic animal most commonly reported rabid in the U.S. Feeding stations artificially put these animals in close contact with each other. Cats are rarely caught for follow-up vaccination, de-worming or other health concerns. The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians passed a resolution opposing TNR because it poses a health risk.
DEADLY TO WILDLIFE There is extensive documentation that free-roaming cats are efficient predators of birds and other wildlife, even if well-fed (see Domestic Cat Predation on Birds and Other Wildlife American Veterinary Medical Association’s position statement on managed cat colonies states, “The colony should be restricted to a well-defined relatively safe area, and not on lands managed for wildlife or other natural resources (e.g. state parks, wild life refuges, etc.).” However, cat colonies are common in public parks and beaches, despite the presence of sensitive wildlife species.For example, in 1994 Alley Cat Allies sought an injunction tostop the National Park Service (NPS) from removing a


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