There will be some people who have serious disagreements with this post. But I’ve kind of reached a bit of saturation on the subject and feel the need say something. If you can come up with a better solution, I’m sure many would be interested.
In this small city, in this residential neighborhood, we live on a street filled with diversity. There are people from all walks of life, different races, different nationalities, different ages, some with disabilities, employed and unemployed. One thing the majority of us appear to have in common is that we are pet owners. For the most part (aside from the occasional inconsiderate), people leash, confine and pick up after their dogs, save for an infrequent escapee. This is not the case regarding some of the cat owners, and honestly, there needs to be some brainstorming and a solution to this problem. Because it is a problem.
Of the cats that are not feral, most of them are indoor pets (again, with the sporadic escapee). However, there are a few owners who don’t seem to understand that are pushing the feline envelope, with multiple cats which they indiscriminately allow to run freely throughout the area. Aside from leaving them at risk to be run over by cars, getting into fights with other cats, attacked by dogs, raccoons, fox, coyotes or fisher cats, a few months back one of these neighbors experienced the horrifying situation of having six of their ten (or maybe it was eleven) outdoor cats suddenly dying within a very short period of time, and without explanation. They were convinced that the cats were being poisoned and contacted the police and whoever else was necessary to make that determination.
When it happened, we pet owners, both of dogs and cats, went into panic mode. Who would do such a terrible thing? We started to look at everyone with suspicion, imagining some evil person sitting in their basement mixing up toxic chemicals and rubbing their hands together with demented delight. We scoured the sidewalks and our yards looking for dangerous material. Was somebody spreading poison all over the neighborhood? Was it a deliberate act or was it actually an accidental something inside their very own home that caused this?
There is some background that possibly lends to this situation. The people who were losing their pet cats let them roam freely outside. They all seemed to be healthy, well-cared for and loved, and supposedly had regular vet checkups and neutering, which seems contradictory to compromising their well-being by letting them out. I don’t know how far the prowling territory for these cats reached, but I did a little research and was surprised to discover that the home range of a domestic house cat who goes outside is actually almost five acres! That covers a significant amount of area, especially in a tightly packed neighborhood. Domestic cats also tend to lurk within about 980 feet of a building when they are out there cruising their range.
I was familiar with most of them, as they were a regular fixture (and nuisances, yes) around our house and yard. No doubt they were also visiting other people’s property, considering a five acre range could take them blocks away, making it likely they were doing the same thing they were doing on ours. Spraying all over and beneath our porches. Sharpening their claws on the outdoor furniture. Using our gardens as one giant litter box, including around the entire perimeter of the house. Killing the birds that came to the feeder with regularity. Leaving bunny ears and dead baby chipmunks on the stairs. Getting into fights and stand-offs in the back yard. One of them even rushing out from the bushes to attack our very small dog – while I was walking him on a leash!
Even though the cat situation was aggravating, I did actually have a few favorites out of the pack that would come around. Some of them were friendly, some were beautiful – I used to photograph the one I liked best, who was engaging and often tried to sneak into our house when I opened the door. Looking at this face, I have to wonder why anyone would not realize it was endangering him, or any of them, to roam the streets, and it saddens me that he was one of the first ones that died.
Although I didn’t encourage them and I wasn’t happy about the lack of response from their owners after mentioning it (“Um, hi, you know your cats have been using our yard as a litter box…”. “Um hello, did you know your cats are living on our porch?” ) in order to avert them we gave up planting flowers and put down slabs of stone around the house over the now former flower beds in the areas they liked to defecate. We periodically sprayed down the porch and furniture with lemon scent in hopes they wouldn’t like the smell, and would aim the garden hose or plant mister with dish soap at them if we happened to be standing outside when they came by. I will say that these methods did not discourage them at all, as they would look at us with impunity and often return in less than an hour. I used to think to myself that they were lucky we liked animals.
So it is highly possible that they infringed on the property of someone who doesn’t like animals, or someone who was eventually just pushed over the edge by their intrusions and finally had enough. I can easily see that happening. There are children who play in their own backyards. There are people who enjoy digging in their gardens. There are neighbors who like to sit outside on their decks and porches. There are people who have businesses around here, including a bed and breakfast. I imagine multiple cats using their property as a toilet would be construed as a major negative. It’s a health risk, among other issues. Who wants that in their child’s sandbox? What pregnant woman working in her garden wants to risk toxoplasmosis? Who wants to sit on their own patio and smell cat urine?
So the cats mysteriously started dying. Not disappearing, but actually found sick or dead in their own yard or house. It was baffling. The tests run by the local ASPCA were inconclusive. At first it was thought that they had gotten into some kind of garden pest poison, but last I heard that was not the case. I have no idea what they keep in their home or if anything like that might have played a part in it or not. There was a large container of antifreeze on their porch at the time but they said it was not the cause. After the loss of so many cats so suddenly, they decided that it might be safer to keep their remaining cats inside. A good idea.
Although I was sad knowing my “favorites” had met such a sad end, I have to admit that the absence of so many cats has actually been rather nice. Of course we are still plagued by the woman across the street who feeds the feral ones, of which she has attracted many (and, come to think of it, they seem to have not fallen victim to the supposed poisoning). Her house and property reek of urine and excrement, and when the west wind blows, the immediate area is bombarded by the stench. Almost everyone in a three street vicinity hates it and complains to each other about it. She has been spoken to and someone from the city even came out to investigate, and yet nothing has been resolved with that, which is a whole other story. Anyway, there was no more peeing on our porch. No more cat crap in the garden. No more bird massacre.
Things have quieted down. Aside from the ferals, we haven’t seen any of their cats. They started replacing them with a number of new ones. I think maybe they are even back up to ten again. It seems that over the last couple of weeks maybe one or two cats are appearing outside again. The other day one of them left this in the driveway, which is actually what has prompted my lengthy post:
I don’t know if it is disrespect or cluelessness that causes people to be so disregarding of their neighbors regarding loose pets. This goes for unleashed dogs as well as outdoor cats. Given they are animal lovers and are fairly friendly, I am going to go with the hopeful assumption they just didn’t understand the scope of the problem.
My thoughts on all of this: If you live in a rural area, having barn cats is a whole other topic. But anyone who owns a cat in a city or a busy suburb municipality should be required to license their cat the same way dogs are required to be, with micro-chipping and proof of vaccination provided at the time of licensing. They should not be allowed to roam free. If you want your cat to experience the outdoors, install an enclosed cat-patio (a “catio”) or take your cat out in a harness and leash.
Animal control should be called for cats running loose the same way as for dogs. The cat can be identified by microchip and the owner contacted. No chip – to the pound. If the owner repeatedly lets their cats out, they should be fined, each incident fined more heavily. Repeat offenders – massive fine. If you can’t keep your cat from roaming the neighborhood you shouldn’t have a cat. Feral cats need to be trapped, vaccinated and neutered, but in cities and more heavily populated areas not re-released. In this case, the younger or more docile ones would be made available for adoption at pet stores or humane societies. Feral cats that are sick or dangerous would be euthanized.
End of story.
I imagine this might not be a popular sentiment with some cat lovers, but it is a responsible one.