Cats have been domesticated for thousands of years. According to smithsonian.com , perhaps as long as 12,000 years. It is thought domestic cats have descended from the Middle Eastern wildcat “Felis sylvestris” or “cat of the woods”. Common thought is that cats were originally domesticated to rid farms of rodents and to keep mice and rats out of grain storage warehouses.
The relationship between cats and humans evolved until cats became primarily pets, mostly within the last century.
Approximately 37% of households in Canada have at least one cat. Many families have several cats. Sadly, each year hundreds of thousands of pets are put into animal shelters and most of these pets are cats. A few cats are surrendered to shelters by their owners who can no longer care for them but the vast majority of them are cats that are lost strays or cats dumped by careless guardians who mistakenly think they’ll be fed or that the animals can fend for themselves.
Feral cats are domestic cats that have gone wild or were born in the wild. Feral cats can cause considerable losses to small wildlife populations. Different research studies (including University of Nebraska and Avian Conservation and Ecology) estimate the loss of bird life to be in the billions North America wide - from cats, both owned and feral.
Feral cats transmit disease i.e.: rabies, toxoplasmosis, feline AIDS; to other animals including owned cats. Some of these diseases may be transmitted to people.
Managing feral cats populations has become very controversial. People love their pets and don’t want to see any potential pets or any animal “put down”. Many people are sympathetic to the plight of the feral cat and will feed and try to care for these cats. There are now many organized cat charities all across North America to care for the cats who advocate for Trap, Neuter, Release Programs (TNR). Volunteers from these charities trap feral cats, bring them to a veterinarian to have them neutered or spayed, vaccinated, them released back to where they were trapped. In doing this they save the life of the cat and let it live out its life without reproducing. One pair of cats can apparently produce as many as 62 cats in 2 years. Feral cats live an average of 3 to 4 years before it dies of starvation, cold, disease, animal attacks, and injury. Compare this to owned cats that live an average of 15 years.
Animals rights activists such as PETA, have a different outlook on feral cats. They believe TNR and managed feral cat colonies are not in the cats best interests. (peta.org) PETA says “cats suffer and die gruesome deaths because they are abandoned to fend for themselves outdoors.” Homeless cats don’t die of old age. PETA and other wildlife proponents advocate for Euthanasia being the kinder option. Many research studies have shown that TNR does nothing to reduce the feral cat populations and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue their programs.
As feral cat populations in Southern Ontario continues to expand Hawkeye Bird And Animal Control has researched the SPCA and Humane Society Policies of different Municipalities in Southern Ontario. Some animal shelters will not take in any obviously feral cats. They do take in strays and lost cats to see if they can find the owner or adopt the cat to a new family. Other shelters will take in any cat - sometimes for a very small fee - and they work with cat charities to assist in caring for these animals. The Canadian Federation Of Humane Societies advocates and promotes TNR programs across Canada.
Hawkeye Bird And Animal Control will work with you, the homeowner or business, and the municipal animal control to come up with a solution to your needs regarding feral cats on your property.