In a community located in the heart of California, battle lines have been drawn between city council members and feral cat advocates. According to the Hanford Sentinel, the Lemoore City Council is considering an ordinance that would make it a crime to feed feral cats. The proposal has many animal lovers up in arms, especially members of organizations that feed and provide shelter for the homeless creatures. When feral cats wind up in shelters, they often face a quick and certain death. Feral cats are rarely adoptable, since most have had little socialization with humans. Prior to 2015, the Kings County animal shelter took in between 300 and 400 feral cats annually. The shelter no longer accepts healthy adult feral cats, due to the strain they place on the shelter’s resources. As of 2016, the city of Lemoore pays the Kings County animal shelter $120,000 per year to impound around 800 stray and homeless animals.
When large colonies of feral cats settle in residential communities, complaints about noise, urine marking, fighting, soiling, and harassment of domesticated pets frequently ensue. Opponents claim that feeding feral cats encourages the spread of disease and flea infestations. They also argue that cat lovers with good intentions encourage more feral animals to settle in the community by providing them with ready access to food. On the other side of the debate, feral cat supporters say that starving the cats out of their colonies is cruel and inhumane.
To help combat the complex problems associated with cat overpopulation, the Humane Society advocates “trap, neuter and return” (TNR) programs. Under these programs, the animals are captured, taken to a vet for vaccinations and neutering or spaying, and returned to their feral cat colony. This approach prevents unwanted litters while improving the health of the animals. Over time, the TNR sterilization program ensures that the population of a cat colony dwindles as animals age and die.
As the debate over the proposed feeding ban in Lemoore heats up, nearby Hanford is also grappling with the problem. A feeding ban proposal is expected to be considered in Hanford in the upcoming months. Many feral cats face precarious lives due to the neglect of former owners who abandoned their pets to fend for themselves. Read the story of Kiki, a stray cat that found a happy home in Wisconsin.
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