I would like to respond to the May 2 letter by Sam Brown titled "Wrong approach to feral cat issue." As someone who has personally trapped thousands of feral and abandoned community cats here in Berkshire County for spay/neuter/vaccinations, it is clear to me that Mr. Brown does not understand how effective, humane and successful Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is in combating the overpopulation of cats and epidemic of cat abandonment. His letter is typical of the propagation of myths and fear which those opposed to TNR put forth, despite well-documented accounts of what truly happens in feral cat colonies.
Cats are returned to their home territory, not abandoned in random locales to fend for themselves, as he suggests. They are brought food and water daily by volunteers who care very much about those cats -- and yes, they are provided warm insulated shelters to sleep in. The rate of disease in feral cats is no higher than in house cats, and every cat in our program receives rabies vaccinations, unlike far too many owned cats.
As to his claim that feral cats’ life span is 2-5 years, one crucial distinction must be made. A free-roaming cat (pet or not) with no veterinary care may live that briefly, but the span for managed colonies (those that are spayed/neutered/vaccinated/fed) is the same as house pets who are well cared for by responsible owners.
Twelve years ago, I trapped my first feral cat. Every one of our colonies still has some original cats, in excellent health, aged 12 and older. Last year, our eldest feral cat was humanely euthanized by a veterinarian at age 14 after developing cancer, just as any loved pet would. (And yes, we do retrap them for vaccinations or if they should become injured or ill.)
The sad reality is that feral cats are out there because people abandon their unwanted cats that then start breeding. It is not the cats’ fault. Every year Animal DREAMS rescues many pet cats and feral kittens that are then socialized and adopted to indoor homes, further decreasing the number of cats out there, at great expense of time and money.
After over 3,000 interactions with these elusive felines, I invite Mr. Brown to visit us at 441 North Street in Pittsfield or to go to our website BerkshireAnimalDREAMS.org to learn the facts (and reality) of feral cat work in the Berkshires. Animal DREAMS is committed to excellence and responsibility as stewards of cats and the environment we share. We hold high standards for the care these cats receive and are ardent advocates for their humane care. Our not-for-profit organization actively tries to bring down the population of free-roaming community cats (feral or abandoned). We believe in education and action, and have a stellar reputation as Berkshire County’s champions for community cats.
The writer is founder/director Animal DREAMS.