Don’t Turn the Cats Loose

Drawn to the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands and a desire to explore a less tourist-filled spot, my husband and I visited Molokai in 2000.  That was by far one of our most memorable trips.  We rode mules down the mountain and visited some wonderful birding hotspots.  Knowing what a special place Molokai is, I am saddened when I read how some folks feel that the best solution for feral cats is to alter and release them back to the wild.

Employing a non-native, invasive predator to control a problem species can have unintended serious consequences.  A good example of this is the introduction of the mongoose to the islands of Hawaii.  Instead of controlling non-native rats, the mongoose preyed upon native nene birds and ate nene eggs and young.  This endemic Hawaiian goose faced extinction due to relentless predation by the mongoose and other non-native mammals, as well as habitat destruction and hunting.  Fortunately, a long-running captive breeding effort and predator control have reversed this near tragedy.  But, what about the impact of the domestic cat?

Cats kill much more than just rats.  Not unlike pesticides, cats are a serious secondary cause of wildlife mortality since many non-target species are affected.  TNRM may be a violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

TNRM, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, will not result in statistically significant reductions.  TNRM has not been proven to be effective and colonies can exist for decades.  Cats that evade capture are fed and better able to breed and they do not defend their territories or prevent new cats from joining the colonies.

Feral cats are not wildlife – their home is not outdoors.  Releasing a domestic companion animal to the wild is not an act of compassion.  They face many hazards and do not die from old age.  Many feral cats can be socialized and adopted.  Visit www.tapworks.org for more information.  Cat removal has been proven to work when the food source is also removed.

We must consider all aspects of this issue, including public health.  The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians has stated that there is no proof that colony management programs will reduce diseases.  Cats are the only species to shed the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.

Cats are wonderful animals that need our help, but native wildlife needs to be the priority.  Releasing cats as if they were part of the ecosystem shifts the burden onto the natural world.  Wild birds and other critters already have enough worries.

Learn more at www.TNRrealitycheck.com

Linda Cherkassky

Voorhees, NJ

NJ State Apprentice Wildlife Rehabilitator

cat rescuer

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