You may have encountered stray cats in your neighborhood, took pity on them, and gave them food. These stray cats have been socialized to people and had owners before but may have gotten abandoned or wandered off. These lost or displaced cats eventually become feral cats if they are homeless for a long time.
It is not bad to feed stray cats and it is a humane act to feed homeless and hungry cats. However, many vets and cat experts do not encourage feeding them. This is because they need health care and should be checked to ensure that they are not carriers of diseases or even rabies.
Reasons why it is bad to feed stray cats
They may multiply a lot.
Most well-meaning cat lovers tend to feed the cats but have no intention to keep them under control. The more you feed the cats, the more they thrive and multiply. Female cats normally have 2 or 3 litters annually so that in 7 years, a female stray cat and her offspring may produce more or less 420,000 cats.
Animal rescue groups suggest that the only way to address this is the trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. Most animal shelters and rescue groups work with communities to provide these programs so that stray cats may be spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies.
Animal rescue groups also monitor stray cats in colonies to ensure that they are well-fed, healthy, and provided with shelter. Usually, they snip the tip of the ears during surgery so stray cats may be identified if they are already fixed. Check out our article on how to tell if a cat has been spayed for a more insightful discussion on this.
You may gain the ire of your neighbors.
Some cities and localities have laws against feeding stray cats. Moreover, your neighbors may not like the idea of seeing stray cats in the neighborhood. This may foster arguments between you and your neighbors.
They may spread diseases.
Since stray cats wander around and do not have owners to care for them, they become prone to diseases and parasites. The stray you feed on your porch or backyard may be infested with fleas or worse, has rabies. Fleas in cats may lead to tapeworm infestation which is transferable to humans in rare cases. Should you feed stray cats in your area, you can place flea medicine like crushed Capstar flea control pills into their food as it effectively kills fleas in a matter of hours.
They may affect the wildlife in your area
One major disadvantage of a stray cat population in your area is that they threaten the local wildlife. The US alone has an estimated number of 70 million stray or feral cats according to National Geographic. Since these cats do not have owners or permanent homes they end up hunting for prey, usually the local wildlife such as birds and small mammals. As a result, wildlife may become depleted and unbalanced.
What should you do with a stray cat?
Here are some options that you can do instead of just feeding stray cats:
- if you decide to keep the stray cat, you should see to it that the cat has proper veterinary care
- you may enlist the cat with the TNR program to make sure that the cat population will not get out of hand
- you may try to find a good home for the cat after making sure that has received proper veterinary care including flea and worm treatment and has already been fixed
- you may take the cat to the local animal shelter where it will be taken cared of and be put up for adoption
Feeding stray cats is not necessarily a bad idea and it is a humane thing to do to feed homeless and hungry cats. However, you can do better than just feed them by proactively having them trapped, neutered, and returned to their colony to control the population with the help of animal rescue groups. You may also reach out to your local pet shelter so that these stray cats may be re-homed or put up for adoption.
For information on what to feed the strays should you decide to do so, see our article on what to feed stray cats.
Image: istockphoto.com / Vlad-Romensky