Rescuing Cats

In addition to misconceptions about cats themselves, many folks also misunderstand what rescue is all about. Unless they are familiar with the plight of cats living in frightful homes or those trying to survive outdoors with no assistance, most people regard rescue as simply gathering up excess cats and taking them to a shelter, where they will languish for a time in cages, and then be put down if no one comes forward to adopt them. (We have actually heard people say such things as, "Well, it's better than going to the shelter." Or, "Please don't put my cat in a shelter!"

While there are many such "shelters" and so-called humane societies where animals do, indeed, live out their last few days or weeks in a jail cell before being euthanized, a new trend has been growing in many communities to provide sanctuary, at least, or to actively find new homes for those cats that are able to adjust to a new life.

Some people, in a misguided effort to "save" the cats from being rescued, put out food for the hapless, homeless ones that populate alleys, fields and neighborhoods. They don't realize that this is not helping them, for as they become well fed and healthy, they reproduce at faster and faster rates. This is self-defeating.

When such a colony becomes large and unmanageable, it's not uncommon for local authorities to step in and "manage" the problem themselves by eliminating the little darlings. Then the good hearts who thought they were taking care of them become upset and angry, not realizing that they themselves contributed to the problem.

So what is the answer? Certainly, it's equally heartless to ignore these outcasts, just leaving them to starve or die at the mercy of the many hazards that exist outdoors. The most responsible approach is to manage these colonies. That takes dedication, time and money. Just tossing the strays a bag of food every week is just as heartless and irresponsible as it is to dump the animals outdoors in the first place.

The answer lies in a multi-pronged approach:

  • Trap each cat
  • Take the cat to the veterinarian for examination, spay/neuter, vaccinations, treatment for any wounds or parasites, etc.
  • Return the cat to its location, if safe to do so. (Sometimes a relocation becomes necessary.)
  • Monitor the cats at this location on a regular basis, retrapping any that need further attention.

The most important part of this procedure is to be sure all the members of the colony are spayed and neutered. This is the most effective way to diminish the stray population problem. Learn more about Spaying and Neutering.

Copyright 2006 - 2007 - RJ Peters 
Dr. R.J. Peters, a retired physician, established an animal rescue shelter in 2002. She has worked with hundreds of dogs and cats and shares much of what she's learned, at The Problem Cat.