In this corner, Neighbor A, who has been feeding stray and feral cats. In that corner, Neighbor B, who wants the cats gone.
Round 1: Neighbor B is tired of the cats using his flowerbed as a litterbox and creating a noise with their fighting.
Neighbor A feels bad for the cats, who seem hungry and without homes. He isn’t crazy about their fighting and outdoor bathroom habits, either, but he doesn’t mind too much and kind of likes having them around.
Round 2: Neighbor A notices more cats. Here and there, adults have added themselves to the mix, and litters of kittens keep being born by females who are already part of the group. He’s becoming a little overwhelmed now.
Neighbor B is really getting annoyed now; there are so many cats!
Round 3: Neighbor B has started trapping the cats and taking them to the shelter, where they will very likely be euthanized, especially at this time of year.
Neighbor A doesn’t want the cats killed, but he doesn’t know what to do.
After 3 rounds, is there a winner? No.
Neighbor A’s compassion is admirable, but he’s not helping the cats in the long run.
Neighbor B won’t reduce the cat population by trapping them to be killed. There are always more cats, and as long as at least a few who can reproduce are left, there will be more to come.
The cats are being fed but as their numbers multiply, there is more competition for food and other resources. Their numbers are not sustainable in their current situation or in a shelter.
Round 4: Neighbor A finds help from our organization. We show him how to trap the cats, so that they can be spayed/neutered, ear tipped, and vaccinated, then returned to their home environment. This is TNR (trap-neuter-return). He talks to Neighbor B about TNR and how it can help control the cat population. He also offers deterrents that will keep the cats out of Neighbor B’s yard.
After 4 rounds, we’re closer to having multiple winners. With time and effort, Neighbor A can help both the cats and his neighbors. Though not taking an active role in a solution (yet?), Neighbor B has more information and a better understanding of the solution. The cats have a better informed caretaker and their population is on the way to being controlled humanely.
This entry was inspired by conversations SpayHR volunteers have had with residents in Norfolk Pet Project neighborhoods, spay/neuter clinic participants, and people visiting local shelters.