Feral cats, or a better name, community cats, exist in every community. They are the same species as domestic cats, but because they are not socialized to humans they can't be adopted into homes. They live a happy, content life outdoors in family groups called colonies. You may see them ducking behind supermarkets and restaurants, or sunning in your yard, and many of us dig into our wallets to feed them.
The most cost-effective, humane method to help feral cats is through a program called Trap-Neuter-Return. The cats are humane-trapped, surgically altered, vaccinated and returned to their outdoor home. This ends the breeding cycle and helps deter the unwanted behaviors of unfixed cats such as spraying and fighting. Outdoor cats and humans can co-exist peacefully like they have for thousands of years.
Contrary to what some people would like to believe, outdoor cats are not the reason for songbird decline in our country. Loss of habitat due to human encroachment, rampant development and related pollution cause far more bird deaths than cats. An Ohio State University study concluded that urbanization is the chief cause of declining populations of migratory birds. A 2005 study by the U.S. Forest Service estimates that six times more birds are killed annually by flying into buildings and power lines than by cats.
You may be shocked to learn that being killed in an animal shelter is the number one documented cause of death for cats in the United States. Milwaukee is no exception. Approximately 50 - 60% of all the cats that enter Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission are killed. In 2011 6818 cats entered the "shelter". Of those, 4235 were killed - or 62%. You can see all of the statistics at this link.
The traditional method of "catch and kill" has not worked to reduce the feral cat population. It is cruel, expensive and our tax dollars are funding it. A study done by Alley Cat Allies shows that the majority of Americans do not support the "catch and kill" method of animal sheltering.
Cities across the country are realizing that rather than the endless catch and kill, our tax dollars and donations would be much better spent on Trap-Neuter-Return programs for outdoor cats and low-cost spay and neuter for all cats. Isn't it time for Milwaukee to join the ranks of humane, cost-effective animal control?