Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Little More About Cats

I mentioned that we're having a problem with pet cats roaming the neighborhood and litters of kittens hunting in our yard (and on our patio, until Paul resecured some screens that Ellie enjoys loosening). An interesting discussion followed via comments.

There are a couple of separate issues here.

1) Roaming pets. If my dog is outside my yard without a leash and scares someone who is afraid of dogs, even if she does not physically harm anyone, I'm being negligent. If I walk my dog around the block and let her defecate in my neighbor's yard without cleaning up after her, I'm being a negigent dog owner. (Or it's intentional, mild vandalism, depending on your political signage.)

I understand that many people feel that their cats are different, need to get out and hunt, hate to be cooped up in the house all the time, or are impossible to pen in with a typical fence.

I'm not sure that freely roaming cats are completely harmless, however. I'm a little afraid of cats, particularly around my children. An unknown cat might have claws and teeth and be aggressive, especially if she has a litter of kittens nearby. I'm also very allergic to cats. Further, I don't enjoy the smell of cat piss, and sometimes neighborhood cats seem to enjoy marking the same spots over and over again.

2) Spaying and neutering. I feel a little like Bob Barker here. I understand that surgery costs money, but when adopting from The Humane Society, most local shelters will help with the cost. At the least, it seems only responsible to me that if you have a pet that might be fertile, that pet should be kept inside or otherwise confined so that she can't have a litter of kittens in the wild.

I am totally willing to hear how I'm wrong or haven't thought these issues through all the way.

In my specific situation, the one neighbor I know of who lets her cats roam freely also lets her dog out without a leash. Annie the golden retreiver is never out without a parent, even if she's a few yards away, exploring on her own. This doesn't bother me, and wouldn't even if Annie were a cat. Annie doesn't pee next to my front door or spent hours unsupervised in my yard. Annie has lost several feline siblings in the last few years to traffic (we live on a very quiet street, but the cats roam far), poison, and attacks from larger animals.

Specific responses:
- CCW, Taking the cats to a shelter myself isn't really an option. I have no idea how I'd catch them; I can't do it easily since I'm so allergic; I'd have no way to transport them, etc.
- Kristi, feel free to come over and kitty shop!
- Cate, fantastic idea to ask our vet.
- Sarah, I fear that you are right about the feral colony.
- Camera and Amanda, I was afraid of that.
- Brooke, I think I'd feel the same way.
- Thanks, PK. And that sounds like a great party!
- I will call my neighbor before I call a shelter of any kind, but currently I'm busy hiding my head in the sand. Figuratively, of course. The sandbox isn't really safe with kittens nearby (Paul changed our sand after the kitty caper). I'm thinking that even if the parent cats aren't hers, she might be more willing to search them out and possibly even trap them. She does love cats.

I did have animal control called on me one time, and it was terrible. My parents' neighbors didn't like that they had two big black labs (inside dogs) so they waited for my parents to go away on vacation then called animal control, saying that my parents had left the dogs unattended in the backyard while out of town in the summer heat. I was 19 years old and home by myself that week. Fortunately, when the animal control lady came back for her second visit, to take the dog (she'd come by the first time while I was at work and the older dog was in her pen outside) she met me at the door and found it obvious that Cleo was a loved pet rather than an abandoned dog. I do not take pet ownership lightly, and nor to I take the destruction of pets lightly.


Seasonal said...

I didn't post originally, but definitely this is a problem. I am a cat and a dog person. I've always had both, and love both. That being said, we keep our cats indoors. Occasionally we've had a cat or two who would behave in a dog-like manner and stick close to the house (i.e. we had a cat growing up that would insist on sitting on the front steps as the neighborhood kids went to school because he loved it and they loved him, such a good cat). We didn't allow our cats to roam because it just isn't a healthy thing for them (unless you're specifically talking about barn cats or the like).

Feral cats are not healthy. Not the cats themselves, nor for the community and those living there. Unspayed/unneutered cats will continue to breed until they can breed no more, leading to dozens and dozens of unwanted kittens. While a no-kill shelter would be ideal, those are almost always packed to the gills and then some. I don't want to think of any animal being euthanized, but at the same time, I can't abide the thought of two cats creating dozens and dozens more who will meet with unsavory fates.

If you know the neighbor, I would try to discuss it with him/her first. After searching,I have found that it is illegal to let cats run freely in either St. Louis City or County:
St. Louis City Ordinance 66384
10.04.225 Stray cats, prohibited.
No owner/guardian of any cat shall permit such cat to be found at large on the streets of the City or in any public place or on another person’s property.

Here are two links to some services that may be helpful:

ccw said...

I don't think the cats are going to attack you or your children. If they truly are feral animals they will (more than likely) go out of their way to avoid you. Even cats that are pets usually take off when approached outside.

My attitiude with my kids and my cats would probably kill you. I operate under the idea of leave the cats alone if you don't want scratched; it works. (Of course, I keep Nonami away from the ones that will scratch since he is not old enough to know better) My cats, with exception of the loveable I came declawed and fat Butch, aren't around when we have company. They hide or stay outside until company leaves.

My grandmother had a large feral colony in her yard. It started as several adults that came from a farm when the woman died. It quickly blossomed into a huge mess. It took us years of trapping, sneaking away kittens, etc to get them under control. Now only a couple of the elder ones are in her yard. If you think that there is a feral colony in the neighborhood, I would call animal control or see if another neighbor would be willing to help trap them. If it is a colony being continued by a neighbor's cat, I would talk to the neighbor.

We had neighbors with an unspayed cat that bred and bred. They took very good care of their cats (clean, well fed, etc) but they didn't have the money to get the mommy fixed. I gave them the info for a voucher program that makes surgery under $10. When they moved and one of the cats stayed behind (they couldn't find her) I caught her and took her to the shelter.

I have tried to get cats into the no kill shelters but the waiting list is always long so the cats ended up as pets. If the cats are left to run free with no one caring for them, I think they are better off at any shelter even though they might be put down.

Obviously, I am never going to agree with most of the commenters about letting my kitties outside. 2 of my cats go no further than the perimeter of my house, 1 only ventures into the trees, and the other 2 visit my neighbors. They have a kitty door so they can stay in if they choose.

I would have no issue with having indoor cats but my attempts at keeping the older strays inside have made the cats miserable and ruined many things in the house. Indoor cats would also be easier if we didn't have so many and have other animals. If only I would quit taking in strays...

Psycho Kitty said...

Apropos of mostly nothing--I grew up out in the country where one neighbor never had any of the barn cats fixed but would just go out and drown a batch of kittens twice a year. Horrible and tramatic for kitten-loving me.

The other neighbor neutered his cats himself. Out back. With a knife. I am not kidding. Also with the horrible and tramatic.

Not that this helps in any way...but I guess I have a sort of pragmatic view of animals and what constitutes kindness and cruelty, and I don't think you should feel guilty either addressing the issue with your neighbor or calling animal control if it turns out that no one is taking responsibility for a bunch of wild and/or stray cats.

Orange said...

I don't like cats. I don't trust cats. I don't like their teeth and I don't like their claws.

Why? Because when I was about 5, somebody's housecat that had gotten outside ate a chunk of my sister's thigh, bit a morsel off her knee, and clawed her skin. The thigh wound got infected and oozed pus.

Granted, most cats that are accustomed to the outdoors won't freak out if a child approaches, but this shy housecat went medieval on my sister.

Ellie and Ada are small people, and they have every right to feel safe (and free from cat pee and poop) in your yard and sandbox. From my perspective, you have every right to be pissed about these cats roaming around and to take action. What do the local ordinances say about cats roaming free in neighborhoods?

Victoria/Beachcomber said...

Feral kitties are not a good thing. The are not pets but they resemble them enough to confuse most children. They can be unpredictable and even dangerous if they are hungry, defending kittens or diseased. They are uncared-for and at risk of catching and spreading disease amongst themselves or to non-feral kitties. Sure, they can more than take care of themselves in the wild. That does not mean that they should.

Much as I love kitties, I hate the idea of people neglecting their responsibility to their kitties and their communities by letting unspayed or unneutered kitties roam. I think that it definitely a responsibility of kitty owners to either keep them indoors or prevent them from mating if they do allow them outdoors.

Psycho Kitty said...

But you know what's worse than Cats Gone Crazy? Mispelling "traumatic". Twice. Sheesh.

Orange said...

And then misspelling "misspelling." :-)

Psycho Kitty said...

Cat's got my tongue, it would seem.

Sarahlynn said...

Hah! Hah hah!

I am enjoying this conversation. But I am way too tired and ready for bed to thoughtfully reply. I'm sorry.

Did I mention: Ellie was up from 1-3 last night? Who needs sleep?