Cat crisis - a human created problem

2019-07-04 06:01
=Cats becoming a nuisance in residential areas is a direct result of pet abandonment, irresponsible breeding and unmanaged feral colonies left to fend for themselves for survival.                                      Photo:ILLUSTRATION

=Cats becoming a nuisance in residential areas is a direct result of pet abandonment, irresponsible breeding and unmanaged feral colonies left to fend for themselves for survival. Photo:ILLUSTRATION

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THE ever increasing population of cats in towns and townships is becoming an issue of major concern and is a direct result of human negligence.

This was recently highlighted on Facebook, where residents of Despatch were making threats of animal cruelty because of the cats becoming a nuisance in residential areas. It is a direct result of pet abandonment, irresponsible breeding and unmanaged feral colonies left to fend for themselves for survival.

“One unsterilized pair of cats and their unsterilized offspring, multiplies to 20 000 cats in only five years,” said Deirdre Swift, chairperson of the managing board of the Uitenhage & District SPCA.

“The issue is complex and involves several parties. Cat owners need to be responsible and sterilize their pets and organisations sterilizing feral colonies need to take responsibility and ensure these colonies are managed.”

The public should also refrain from threats of animal cruelty and instead contact the municipality’s Animal Control Unit to assist with the removal of feral or stray cats.

“We all need to do our bit and work together. That is the only way we can try to eliminate the problem,” said Swift.

Cats are prolific and highly precocious breeders. Thus, cats roam - it is in their nature - hence the reason why cats are a bigger problem than dogs in residential areas. They cannot be fenced in or caged. Male cats will spray to mark their territory and to communicate their reproductive status.

All cats need to be sterilized

Marion Diener, Manager at the Uitenhage & District SPCA said it is a misconception that only female cats need to be sterilized.

“People often say, but it is a male, why does it need to be sterilized? Well, it breeds. They will impregnate female cats that are not sterilized. Therefore, all cats need to be sterilized, earliest at five months of age. This is the only way to control the breeding issue,” said Diener.

There are too many cats left to survive on their own, whether sterilized or not. Swift said this results in sourcing of food becoming a problem.

“They will gravitate to residential properties in search of food where they become labelled as ‘nuisances’. Residents should also be cautious and not assume that a roaming cat is a feral or stray cat. It might be a domestic cat belonging to someone in the neighbourhood,” said Swift.

Feral colonies must be managed

Compounding the problem is the continued sterilization of feral cats by organisations and individuals, with a “no kill policy”.

Cats are trapped, sterilized and then released back into the community. Feral cats cannot be successfully contained in kennels as they become traumatised and injure themselves in their efforts to escape.

“Continuing to put more and more feral cats back into the community after they have been sterilized is not a solution to the growing population of cats,” said Swift.

“Realistically this cannot happen. Unfortunately, one must face the reality and choices need to be made. It is in the best interest of the animals that they need to be controlled and unfortunately this means that there are incidents where cats need to be euthanized.

“This might sound as if we do not care, but it is because we care, that these decisions need to be taken. The impact of hundreds of feral cats on the balance of the ecology and environment also needs to be considered. Food resources for natural predators such as owls and raptors are greatly reduced and this threatens their existence,” said Swift.

Over-population of cats

It is impossible for the SPCA to keep all the cats being brought there daily.

Diener said, “There are so many cats in shelters looking for good homes. During breeding season boxes full of kittens and mother cats are regularly dropped off at the SPCA. In addition to this, the ‘free to a good home’ give-away cats, also escalates the cat crisis.”

This does not mean that all feral colonies should cease to exist.

“It is widely recognized that some factories/businesses are happy to have cats on site. In these instances, these colonies are managed on site with responsibility being taken to control the number of cats, sterilization, feeding and the monitoring of health to prevent the spread of diseases such as snuffles.

“Unmanaged feral colonies can put domestic cats at risk as many diseases are air borne and communicable,” said Diener.

No feral cat municipal by-laws

Currently, there are no municipal by-laws that deal with the existence or control of feral cat colonies.

The over-population of cats and the matter of feral colonies was brought to the attention of the Municipal Animal Control Unit by the SPCA in a recent meeting.

  • Residents are requested to report any nuisance animal related issues, pet hoarders or those housing far more cats or dogs than they can afford to take care of to the Municipality’s Animal Control Unit at 041 506 5232 or 041 506 1743.
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