Free-roaming cats no different than free-roaming pythons
I’d like to acknowledge and clarify my “personal bias” in the matter of what to do about stray cats in our community. I, as a city councilman, welcome your feedback if you are not in favor of this “bias” being the manner in which you are represented.
Stray/feral cats pose a public health risk to you, your family and your pets. Intestinal parasites, rabies and toxoplasmosis are all issues you should legitimately be concerned about. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has various resources available on this. The more cats that roam our neighborhoods, the more risks we are exposed to.
Quality of life
The city has received numerous reports from citizens about their quality of life being negatively impacted by unwanted cats on their property. Ranging from urinating and defecating on front porches, in gardens, in garages, to issues with interactions with pets.
Humane treatment of animals
Advocates for Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR), which is more aptly known as Trap, Neuter, Re-abandon, insist that it is somehow more humane to capture animals, fix them, then turn them back out to wild to be on their own — leaving them exposed to the elements, to find food on their own, to be subjected to predators and humans, diseases, and more.
I fail to understand how dying a slow, miserable death on the streets is more humane than a simple poke from a veterinarian and falling asleep.
TNR advocates make a case that fixing cats and returning them to the wild will reduce the population over time. Fluffed data, pseudoscience and cherry-picking of information are methods used to make this case.
In actuality, there is no legit, peer-reviewed data that has been accepted by the vast majority of human health, biology or veterinarian professional fields that show sustained success with TNR programs anywhere.
Responsible pet ownership
All of us, as pet owners, need to be reminded of what makes a responsible pet owner. This includes keeping pets up to date on shots, having them fixed, registering them with the city, containing them to our own property, and keeping them on a leash if leaving our property. Cats and dogs are under the same requirements in Jefferson.
This also means not dumping animals.
If, for whatever reason, your pet is no longer a fit for your home, it is your duty as a responsible citizen to find a home for your pet or to have it humanely euthanized. Dumping animals is against the law and cruel to the animal.
Free-roaming cats are no different than free-roaming dogs, pythons, Norway rats or any other pet animal that humans are the sole cause for existing in places they would not naturally occur.
If we were discussing any of these other animals, rather than cats, would there be much question as to how aggressively action should be taken to remove them from our neighborhoods?
Cats are not native to here and do not have the same rights as native species of animals in regards to utilization of natural resources and habitats. No matter how well fed a cat is, it will still hunt and kill native wildlife; being well fed does not turn off their natural instinct to kill.
Responsible pet ownership will be one of the biggest keys to success moving forward as we work on getting the cat situation under control.
I am an animal lover. I am a vegetarian. I am an environmental educator by trade.
I have been working on the issue of outdoor cats for 15 years. It is not an easy topic to handle, but we must.
Pets are an amazing addition to our families. Just like our kids, they deserve to have a healthy, safe community to live in. Keeping unowned animals off the streets and out of our neighborhoods is indeed a necessity, and will be a priority of the city moving forward.
Lastly, please support the building of our new animal shelter in any way you can. A larger shelter means more of the animals on the streets will have a place to go and await adoption by a family of their own.
For more information on how you can support the shelter, or if you’d like more information about the risks of outdoor cats, please stop by the Jefferson City Hall.
Matt Wetrich serves on the Jefferson city council and works as a naturalist for Carroll County Conservation.