Community cats are a community issue. Ongoing cooperation among various members of the community is critical to successful community cat management; however, the topic is often highly debated and emotionally charged when humane, conservation and scientific communities perceive their interests to be pitted against one another.
Fortunately, the San Francisco SPCA believes that all parties can – and should – work toward common goals of reducing the number of community cats and treating all animals humanely. As such, the SF SPCA eagerly took part in a progressive conference held last week that brought together scientists, technical experts and others with an interest in the issues tied to free-roaming, abandoned and outdoor cat populations.
The SF SPCA, like many other animal protection organizations, strongly supports community-based Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) with ongoing management as the most humane, effective and viable approach to managing and reducing feral and free-roaming cat populations. Since its launch in 1993, the SF SPCA’s revolutionary citywide TNR program has served as a model for outdoor cat management. Through our TNR efforts, the SF SPCA constantly endeavors to maximize the quality of life of, and to stabilize and eventually reduce the population of, feral and free-roaming cats in San Francisco. The topics of discussion at last week’s conference clearly underscored the importance of our organization’s continued TNR efforts, not only in San Francisco, but also in other communities looking to emulate our approach to community cats.
The benefits of an effective TNR program in a community are, simply put, enormous. By permitting healthy cats to live out their natural lives in managed colonies, TNR spares the lives of unadoptable adult community cats that sadly face death in shelters. The truth is, community cats living in a supportive environment tend to live full, healthy lives outdoors, and they are nearly always killed in shelters across the nation. TNR therefore offers a creative solution to an otherwise vicious, endless cycle of reproduction and euthanasia. TNR also allows America’s humane ethics to be reflected in its animal control policies, since more than 80% of Americans believe that it is more humane to leave a cat outside than to have the animal caught and killed. Importantly, TNR helps to mitigate the potential negative effects of cat predation on birds and small wildlife populations by stabilizing and ultimately reducing the number of cats living outdoors.
Of course, no one agency, organization or individual can be expected to tackle the issue of community cat management alone. Thankfully, TNR offers a progressive approach to community cat population management – one that ideally engages various stakeholders in the community, reduces euthanasia rates, helps to protect birds and small wildlife, effectively allocates limited economic resources and creates a supportive physical and political environment that enables community cats to contently live out their natural lives in managed colonies. To join the SF SPCA’s ongoing efforts in community cat management, please visit our Community Cats webpage.