With the very concerning Letter to the Editor by my friend, Robin Truax, I’d like to address what may not help with her issue but inform that there are ways to control the cat population — and I do not mean the ways that many people do so (poisoning, shooting, maiming, dropping in deserted areas). Animal cruelty is an offense and those committing these atrocities will be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I understand her concern from the side of those whose health may be affected by cats. For decades, cats in both rural and urban areas throughout the country have been a concern because of their population and the lack of care or attention they receive from people.
If anyone has found a stray cat and called one of our local animal shelters, the response has most likely been that they are full and cannot take the cat at that time. Although many dedicated trap, neuter and release rescue groups exist in the tri-county area, they can only handle so many cats. And, although TNR may not be the answer everywhere, it works for some areas.
Cats keep rodent populations in check and discourage new rodents from moving into the area. According to the CDC, rats are known to carry diseases too, many of which can be spread to humans such as leptospirosis, murine typhus, and salmonellosis Rat populations are steadily growing due to climate change and increased urbanization. Larger cities in the U.S. (Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore) are using community cats for a chemical- and pesticide-free solution to rat infestations by adopting out “working cats” to businesses such as restaurants, where cleanliness is very important for public health. According to the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, breeding female rats will move away from an area inhabited by resident cats that would clearly be a danger to their litters. When the breeding females move out, the male rats follow.
Although not everyone has the ability to spay or neuter feral/tame cats, help is available in our area with coupons to help pay for spay/neuters from Spay Today and the Animal Welfare Society of Jefferson County as well as very reasonable surgical rates through Promise Animal League in Boonsboro. Since cats are territorial, an established, stable, sterilized, and vaccinated group of feral cats will deter other stray and feral cats from moving into the area. This decreases the risk that residents will encounter an unvaccinated cat, and will virtually eliminate problem behaviors like fighting, spraying, and yowling.
I realize this does not solve the problem of cats coming onto properties but it would be a start to decreasing the over-population in our areas.