We are a nation of animal lovers. Nearly seven in 10 Americans own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association, and 16% of pet owners feed stray and feral cats. To clarify, feral cats typically have little to no human interaction and are born from other feral or stray cats. Stray cats, on the other hand, had owners at one time but have become separated from them. One in 10 of us feed these cats, which is why they’re often referred to as “community cats.”
Community associations often craft rules to accommodate pets. But stray or feral cats can sometimes fall outside the scope of these rules, resulting in confusion and tension between neighbors.
Before considering how best to manage these cats, it’s important to recognize that this is an issue faced by virtually every community association in the country. Cats are found almost everywhere humans are; just because the issue hasn’t come up in your community doesn’t mean there are no stray or feral cats.
The traditional way of managing stray and feral cats—a quick call to the local animal control agency, often resulting in a one-way trip to the shelter—has done nothing to reduce their numbers. It’s increasingly unpopular, too.
There’s a better way.
It’s called trap-neuter-return, or TNR. The process is simple. Cats are caught, evaluated by veterinarians, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and returned to their original habitat. Numerous research studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these targeted sterilization programs to reduce local populations of cats.
When considering rules for managing stray or feral cats:
- Encourage residents who feed stray and feral cats to have the cats sterilized and vaccinated. Providing resources to facilitate these efforts, including educational materials and funding, will help ensure their success.
- Avoid restrictions that would impede residents’ efforts to sterilize and vaccinate stray and feral cats (e.g., feeding bans, “leash laws” for cats, etc.). Such restrictions tend to be counterproductive, resulting in more cats rather than fewer.
- Recognize the value of cats who serve as effective pest deterrents and eliminate the use of toxic pest control methods, which can pose a threat to children and pets.
- Make it clear that stray and feral cats don’t count against the number of pets a resident can have.
- A number of humane deterrent devices like motion-activated water sprinklers are commercially available for a reasonable cost. This can be very effective at keeping cats away from specific areas in the community.
A local group, Town Cats, enriches the lives of free-roaming, feral, or abandoned cats in the Ocean City, MD and surrounding communities by limiting the population growth and providing medical care through Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR), and affordable adoption services. Community association rules that accommodate, and even encourage, TNR are better for cats, and for the entire community.
Source: CAI Online – HOA Resources