Feral cats are viewed by many as a nuisance. Many cities around the world have tried to cull their feral cat populations, but Jerusalem is taking a different approach.
Compassion is not something feral cats are used to, but the city’s new mayor, Moshe Lion, is changing that. Feral cats spend their days searching for food scrapes in garbage cans or finding food some good samaritan left out for them. Jerusalem’s feral cats were just surviving this way, but a change in garbage containers eliminated their main food source.
Local cat lovers raised their concerns to the mayor and he responded with a generous plan. He recently announced that the city will build cat feeding stations to provide food for all the starving feral cats. He even allotted $27,000 in the budget to purchase cat food for the year.
“The Jerusalem Municipality will maintain the balance between the quality of life of the residents and that of the street cats, through care rather than neglect. We will soon put in place organized feeders and the budget will provide backup for those who do sacred work with the animals of the city,” Mayor Lion said in a statement.
A special meeting for cat supporters will be held to inform them of the new plan and to reimburse individuals that were personally feeding the feral cats. This new plan does not sit well with everyone, as some are concerned it will cause more problems.
“It’s really crazy,” Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Yoram Yom-Tov told Haaretz. “The density of cats in Jerusalem is the highest ever recorded anywhere in the world — about 2,000 cats per square kilometer. That’s around 1,000 times the density of cats in the wild. The more cats are fed, the more cats there will be.”
Idit Gunther, a veterinarian, told US News, “Because there are so many cats, it’s become so emotional in both ways. You have people who spend their whole salary on feeding them, then you have people who think of the cats and the feeders in a bad way. And whether you are a cat lover or a cat hater you can see that something needs to be done.”
Israel used to cull feral cats but in 2004 it became illegal, unless the stray cat was a direct threat to human life. There are concerns that the new feeding stations will increase the number of feral cats. City officials have argued that the feeding stations will make it easier to catch and spay/neuter the stray cats. On average, the city captures 2,500 cats every year to spay/neuter. The vet makes a slit in one ear of the cat to mark as sterilized.
While the city is still divided on the feral cat issue, it is refreshing to see officials choose compassion over death. Many locals have personally fed and cared for the city’s feral cats and are looking forward to the positive changes. Hopefully, this is the start of compassionate solutions of feral cats around the world.
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