The problem & Catnippers approach to controlling it:
Feral cat colonies are the result of pet cats that are abandoned or allowed to reproduce by irresponsible pet owners. Neither pets nor wildlife, they often lead bleak and short lives without the protection of traditional animal welfare societies.
Feral cats arise from these "throw away" cats. They roam farms, alleys, parks, hospitals, restaurant dumpsters, schools, or any other sites that might provide a source of food and shelter. Raised without human contact, they avoid people and form colonies in which they reproduce further. It is estimated that up to 50% of cats euthanized at many shelters are feral or offspring of ferals.
In addition to the challenge of the cats living a subsistence life-style, they may also become a public nuisance and public health concern. Trying to control these cats by eradication can consume a significant portion of local animal control budgets. Even young feral cats are difficult to socialize enough to be adoptable, so they are usually euthanized at shelters. The traditional approach to controlling feral and stray cats is repeated extermination attempts. This is often a futile strategy, since other unaltered cats quickly replace the killed animals, moving in to take over the food source and to begin the cycle of reproduction again. Public support for lethal measures is often lacking, and caretakers may interfere with official trapping attempts.
Best Friends Catnippers believes that all cats deserve a safe and caring home. Unfortunately, many of the cats born each year are destined to be homeless. Many will be killed at animal control facilities; others will lead dismal lives as unowned strays.
The usual approach to controlling feral cats is repeated extermination attempts. Long-term studies have demonstrated the futility of such a strategy, since other cats simply replace the killed animals and begin the cycle of reproduction again. On the other hand, trap-neuter-return programs are a very successful method of decreasing stray cat populations. These programs succeed at the least cost to the public and provide the best possible life for the cats themselves. Therefore, Best Friends Catnippers devotes all of its resources, both personnel and material, toward increasing the number of unowned feral cats sterilized at our clinic.
Local animal control agencies routinely euthanize feral cats without making any effort to effect adoption or sanctuary placement. Extermination is thus the official public policy of the vast majority of cities and counties throughout the U.S. In Los Angeles, feral cats are routinely euthanized if brought in to local shelters, but, to its credit, the City of Los Angeles in June of 2004 began to offer, for the first time, discount vouchers redeemable for the $20 (now $30) toward the cost of spay-neuter for feral cats, thus implicitly endorsing the concept of TNR in the City. Best Friends Animal Society and Best Friends Catnippers were instrumental in bringing about this change in policy, and Catnippers was the first organization to be designated as an authorized distributor of the new vouchers. This represents as major first step, but with over 1,000,000 feral cats still in Los Angeles County, we still have a lot of work to do.