Compassion is allowing cats to live out life in managed colonies
To the Editor,
I’m writing to contribute my two cents to the ongoing discussion about roaming cats in Tecumseh. To recap, we are faced with two separate issues here:
1. Some cat owners let their animals roam freely outdoors, all the time or part of the time; the owners provide food and shelter.
2. Some cats don’t have owners and live outdoors, all the time. They have no food and shelter except what they can provide for themselves.
In the first case, it’s undeniable that some people are more responsible than others with their pets. But I question whether Tecumseh has the money and manpower to enforce a roaming cat ordinance. In our present economy, when every community has more priorities than it has tax dollars to address, are our resources best spent on what may be termed “legislating common sense?”
I don’t think so. I’d certainly rather see them fix the roads with my tax dollars.
For those cat owners who let their pets roam outdoors, here’s a fact to consider: According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, outdoor pet cats have an average lifespan of three years, while indoor cats live 12–18 years
. That alone should be enough incentive for anyone who cares about their animals to keep them safely indoors.
So cat owners, please do your pet and your neighbors a favor: keep Fluffy indoors, all the time, even when she would prefer to be let out. She’ll live a longer, healthier life, and you’ll be part of the solution, not part of the problem… which brings us to the issue of un-owned cats. Some of these cats are strays that once had homes, while some are feral (wild). Since feral cats are not socialized to human contact, they are not good candidates to be rescued and adopted.
Un-owned cats tend to self-organize into small groups called colonies. Tecumseh is fortunate to have a number of residents who supply food, shelter, and medical care to several of these colonies. Each of the cats living in these colonies has been vaccinated and spayed/neutered under the colony-management practice known as trap-neuter-return (TNR).
These people are motivated by compassion for the animals and their efforts are entirely self-funded (there are no grants for such a thing, nor is there a rich out-of-town benefactor, as has been rumored). Several area veterinarians generously provide medical services at reduced cost.
Let’s take a closer look at that word “compassion.” Webster defines it as “a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.” It is among the most noble of human emotions, and is what differentiates a caring person from an uncaring one. Mahatma Gandhi, known for his compassion as well as his commitment to nonviolence, famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Allowing stray and feral cats to live out their natural lifespan in a well-managed colony is the compassionate choice. The alternative – trapping and euthanizing them, since most are not adoptable – is not only inhumane, but also ineffective. There will always be more stray cats! The best we can do for them, and for our community, is to control their numbers using humane methods like TNR and to manage their health by providing vaccinations, food, and shelter.
In many ways, Tecumseh is a good place to live. We can make it a great place to live by making compassionate choices about our four-legged residents.
Source:  Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 228, 568–571. Online at veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/early/2013/08/02/vr.101222.long (accessed Dec. 8, 2013).
Lee L. Walsh