Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Public Service Announcement about Feral Cats and Outdoor Pets

■ The domestic cat is a prolific hunter of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. When a cat is employed to keep pests at bay, know that it is also harming native wildlife. Keeping a cat well-fed does not stop it from hunting. In fact, results of a study published in 2004 by Hawkins, et al. stated: The presence of homeless house cats that received supplemental food had a negative impact on native California rodents and birds and yet... the house-mouse was found to be more abundant in areas where cats were being fed.

■ Furthermore, cats are the only species to shed the parasite toxoplasma gondii in their feces. According to the CDC, this parasite can live in the environment for many months and contaminate soil, water, fruits and vegetables, sandboxes, grass where animals graze for food or any place where an infected cat may have defecated (your garden…your kid’s sandbox…the grammar school play ground?) Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by this parasite and can cause severe illness in infants infected before birth (when their mothers are newly infected during pregnancy), or in persons who have a weakened immune system. That would be why pregnant women are cautioned not to clean the family pet’s litter-box! Cats get Toxoplasma infection by eating infected rodents, birds or other small animals, or anything contaminated by feces from another cat that is releasing the parasite.

■ Don’t use pesticides and don’t rely on cats. Use natural predators, make your home inviting to owls and hawks and keep it inhospitable to mice and rats. For help, read: Minimizing Mouse Madness, perhaps erect a 15’ platform on which birds of prey can perch to hunt and don’t kill snakes, which are excellent mousers. Feeding pets outdoors actually attracts unwanted pests like rats, raccoons, skunks, possums, wild dogs, and nuisance birds which can run off cats and harass grazing animals.

Outdoor cats are short lived cats, vulnerable to internal parasites such as roundworm and hookworm and external parasites such as fleas and ticks and may be exposed to fatal feline diseases and predation by foxes, coyotes, loose dogs, and death by automobile. Domestic companion animals permitted to roam freely are not safe themselves and are more apt to carry diseases that are transferable to humans. Responsible pet owners keep their cats indoors for the protection of the felines and the preservation of wildlife. It’s fine that some cats are kept as working cats or barn cats or mousers, but they should be kept indoors. Cats are not wildlife and their home is not outdoors. I like cats; keep yours safe! The average lifespan of a feral cat, if it survives kittenhood, is less than two years. An indoor cat will stay healthier and can live sixteen years or more. I've known many that live well into their mid-twenties.

If you think that merely having a pet neutered or spayed before letting it outside is the answer, or that the infamous Trap-Neuter-Release policy is a good idea, visit this facinating page: Trap-Neuter-Release Reality Check. It's full of excellent information you might consider.

All photos on this post are from the free Wikipedia.


Melissa said...

I have four INDOOR cats. The world is entirely too dangerous for them to be outside. They aren't meant to go outside and roam around. We live in the country (just moved here a year ago) and there are several cats that come onto our property. I've chased one in particular away from the birdfeeder several times (including this morning). Every so often we find an area strewn with feathers. I wish people would realize cats are not meant to live outside this way, are destructive to other people's property, and to the environment (including other animals).

Last year, we found a cat in the parking lot of our apartment complex. A one year old beautiful, loving boy. Turned out he had feline aids. We had him put to sleep a month later because he was so sick. Poor little thing. And all because human beings are irresponsible and just don't think or care enough. Grrrr.

Thanks for talking about this issue.

~Fuzzy kitten hugs~

Beverly said...

Melissa, thanks for that.

Hey, you're the first person I've 'met' who knows of SARK! Isn't she great?! I like her work.

Lisa K. Walraven said...

Thanks for your wonderfully diplomatic blog on keeping cats indoors. I get so upset by the topic, as birds are dear to my heart and so many folks just don't get that cats are not native predators, but are natural born killers. I used to work in wildlife rehabilitation, and 90% of the injured birds we got in were cat related. It was a constant battle trying to teach folks to keep their cats inside.
It looks like you live in a wonderful area! Thanks for sharing your experiences with nature.