have received two letters recently that deal with the
same subject. Both Carol and Stacey are cat lovers and
each has two cats that live predominately indoors.
has a well-enclosed back yard that she allows her two
felines to visit, but otherwise they spend their time
inside. All four cats are fully vaccinated, according to
their caretakers, and are in excellent health. The
problem Carol and Stacey are concerned about is not with
their cats. Instead it involves the problem of stray
cats in their neighborhoods. Stacey describes a
mushrooming population of cats existing by eating
whatever they might find — including food provided for
companion cats. She also says many of the strays appear
ill, although it is hard for her to get a close look.
Both writers express deep concern about these stray, or
feral, cats as well as concern for the welfare of their
is no question that Modesto has a significant problem
with feral cats in many of its neighborhoods. These cats
scratch out an existence and continue to reproduce
relatively unchecked other than by death caused from
disease or trauma. The beginnings of these populations
were most probably companion cats that were not spayed
or neutered who began producing offspring. Cats can be
prolific breeders and quickly overwhelm a neighborhood.
are several problems associated with feral cats. One is
the spread of disease. These "wild" felines
can harbor several communicable diseases, many of which
are fatal. Even casual contact between a feral cat and a
beloved companion cat can spread some of these diseases,
putting our companions at obvious risk. There is also
the risk of injury as cats can be territorial.
Encounters can lead to injuries.
problem is the effect on bird populations. Cats are
predators and can cause a high mortality among various
species of birds. This is one good reason why cats are
best kept indoors. Another is that they are less likely
to become feral if not allowed outside.
is the solution to the feral cat (over) population?
Without question a key component is responsible
companion care, which should always include spaying and
neutering. The veterinary community in this area along
with generous funding from many organizations has made
spaying and neutering affordable.
also need to deal with the cats that are already out
there. This is a complex problem that does not appear to
have a single solution. One solution put forth and tried
on and off for many years is the trapping of feral cats
and then having them neutered and vaccinated. These cats
are then released back to the areas where they were
captured. While this does little to immediately address
the feral populations, it does allow for decline in
are communities that have dealt quite successfully with
feral cat problems. Obviously there is no simple single
solution to this problem but through a coordinated
effort involving the entire community, including
veterinarians as well as appropriate government entities
to help with the funding needed to address and
ultimately eliminate this problem.