As a concerned citizen and resident of Walton County, I would like to respond to a recent article in the “Opinion” section of the Walton Sun.  In doing so, I would like to offer some educational information regarding feral cats.



We all know that they are not the cats that come running when you call “here Kitty, Kitty.”



They are the ones darting through the nighttime shadows, keeping their distance from humans. Most of the time people don’t even know they are there. But the vacant lots and back yards of our neighborhoods are full of them.



They are unsocialzed cats — cats that were born outside and never lived with a human family — never knew the touch of a human or the love and compassion of a human. Some are cats that have strayed from their home or been abandoned and over time reverted to a wild state in order to survive, usually living in groups called colonies.



They make homes wherever they can find food — in a dumpster, under a porch, in an abandoned house.



Female cats that are not spayed spend most of their lives pregnant and hungry, as will the female kittens that survive. Unneutered tomcats roam to find and fight to win mates and often suffer severe wounds in the process. Half of all kittens born in feral colonies die within their first year. Two cats with two litters (six kittens per litter) per year: first year 12 kittens; second year 66 kittens; third year 382 kittens and by the sixth year 73,041 kittens are born. These are startling statistics.



Feral cat control is important and can be accomplished through the nationally recognized program referred to as TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return). This is a solution, although not a quick solution, that reduces feral cat population of colonies. TNR is the full-scale sterilization (spaying or neutering), vaccination, micro chipping and management program that reduces feral cat numbers, both immediately and for the long-term.



The unadoptable cats are then returned to their familiar area where a feeder feeds them every day. They live out their lives without producing any additional unwanted kittens. TNR averages one-third to one-half the cost to animal control agencies to trap, hold, euthanize and dispose of feral cats. It also frees up animal control resources for other work.



Studies have proven Trap/Neuter/Return to be the single, most effective method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least cost to government and residents. At the same time, it provides the best life for the cats themselves and creates harmony and goodwill within communities.



 TNR is not the same as Trap and Remove. Trapping and removing feral cats sounds like a simple operation but as a nation we have been trapping and removing (and killing in shelters) feral cats for decades with no effect whatsoever on reducing their numbers. No one knows exactly how many feral cats live in the United States, but the number is estimated in the tens of millions. Communities that practice the outdated “trap and remove” approach have as many or more feral cats as ever.  When feral cats are removed from an area, other cats move in to take advantage of any food source. 



Surrounding counties, such as Okaloosa and Bay, support TNR programs for the control of the feral cat population. Residents of Walton County should spend their time and energy constructively encouraging our County Commissioners to establish a TNR program in our county. 



TNR and the animal cruelty case in Freeport are two totally different entities, and it is unfortunate that they are being seen as the same and as a way to rationalize the shooting of a helpless cat. Shooting and killing a helpless animal is not acceptable under any circumstances unless a person is threatened with bodily harm. 



Residents should become more knowledgeable about TNR and make every attempt at controlling the situation in their neighborhood in a positive, civilized, educated manner. Animal cruelty is not acceptable and certainly not the answer to controlling feral cats.



Animal cruelty is against the law and no rationalization will ever excuse this brutal, senseless act. 



 



Linda Hodges



Miramar Beach