Home > Pets > Arizona, the Land of Cats. Part 1: The Player

Arizona, the Land of Cats. Part 1: The Player

In a state where cats are unregulated (meaning cats don’t have to be licensed, altered, or contained by their owners) cats have taken over many neighborhoods, leaving residents frustrated and angry. At least once every day, we respond to an ambulance call for a sick cat.

When we arrive, we find a feral cat suffering from severe upper respiratory symptoms. These include thick eye and nose discharge to the point where the cat can’t see or smell. This lack of sight and smell has led to a loss of appetite so the cat has lost weight and is severely dehydrated. Upper respiratory infections (URI) are extremely contagious to other cats, so there’s usually a significant portion of a colony that’s all sick at the same time. URI are like head colds in an elementary school. With a high concentration of bodies sharing a small space, disease spreads. And while URI is easily treatable when caught early in cats that can be handled, in feral populations it can be devastating.

The person who has called us to get the sick cat is on one or the other side of the argument. He is either the person in the neighborhood feeding the cats, thus encouraging them to stay around and new cats to arrive, or he is the grumpy neighbor of the person feeding the cats, and does not want any of the cats to stay around. Either way, as we pick up the sick cat (with a net, because even though these cats are sick, they still try to bolt and then bite) we explain the person’s options to him, which are limited.

If you feel the need to feed your neighborhood cats…

Realize the enormity of the task you’re about to take on. Like adopting any other animal, you’re making a commitment for that animal’s lifetime. There’s no such thing as feeding a single cat outside for a couple weeks and then stopping. That single cat will realize the good fortune he’s found, and he won’t leave. He’ll also call his friends, and they’ll come over for food like a pack of teenage boys. Other cats will sniff out the easy meal and they’ll arrive too. Before you know it, you’ve got a frat party of cats in your backyard, complete with fighting, sex, and poop on the patio.

Take early steps to prevent pregnancy. If you want to take care of the cats, get them fixed. Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) is a popular and common program available to trap feral cats, have them spayed or neutered, and return them to your property with a promise from you that you’ll care for the colony. There are a couple benefits of this. Obviously, keeping your numbers down is one. Another benefit is that the decreased levels of testosterone in male cats mean less fighting and territorial spraying on their part.

If you see illness or injury among your colony, address it. Trap the sick cats and either treat them or have them euthanized. Allowing diseases to spread amongst your colony is dangerous and unfair to those cats. It encourages predators to come in, because slow cats are easy targets for a snack. It also adds danger to your neighbor’s cats that go outside once in a while. And you don’t want to anger your neighbors.

Recognize that you’re neighbors may not love cats as much as you do. Take steps to minimize the impact that the cats make on their property. Put litter boxes on your own property to help keep cats from using your neighbor’s yard. Keep food and water dishes clean to prevent insects from invading. And be open to hearing your neighbors’ complaints. Courtesy begets courtesy. They’ll be much more likely to work with you if they know you’re sympathetic to their issues.

See Arizona: the Land of Cats Part 2, the Bystander

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