Fielding D. O’Niell, DVM, MS
Current scientific data is sketchy, but most estimates place the number of wild or feral cats in America at 70 million and rising. This includes cats that were abandoned, lost and those born in the wild.
Females in this population have an average of 1.6 litters each year with an average of 5 kittens per litter. Males are responsible for an average of 7 pregnancies per year. Eighty percent of kittens born in the wild will die before 1 year of age from the same causes that afflict all wild life - starvation, disease and trauma. This magnitude of suffering is incomprehensible.
These cats are highly adaptive natural predators and survive at the expense of wildlife. Research estimates that each feral cat kills 7 birds a year. That is 500 million birds killed annually nationwide, many on the endangered species list. Birds are third on the menu behind reptiles and small mammals (mice, rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels). It is estimated that feral cats, trying to survive, destroy 2 billion birds, mammals and reptiles each year in America.
The obvious solution to this problem is population control. All pets must be neutered and, in many areas, this is mandated by law. Controlling feral populations is more difficult. One program gaining favor is Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR). While this doesn't reduce existing populations, it does limit those of the future.
Wildlife conservationists are vociferously opposed to TNR since the offending animal is released back into the environment. Their "modest proposal" would have us slaughter millions of stray cats each year. In ancient Egypt simply harming a single cat was punishable by death. My personal 30 year involvement with TNR has been very effective, especially in isolated populations such as Ocracoke. Presently TNR only manages 2 percent of the nation's feral cat population, but it's a start.
This is a problem created and perpetuated by an irresponsible society! We must all take steps to correct it. Please have your pet neutered, donate to no-kill humane organizations and support legislation that makes animal abandonment a Crime with serious consequences!