Shelter’s program of releasing feral cats back into wild not a good idea


I was dismayed to read the recent front-page article that described the Stafford Animal Shelter’s engagement in a “trap, neuter, and release” program for feral cats. This program involves trapping feral cats, neutering them, and then releasing them back into the wild. One of the benefits to the shelter espoused in the article was fewer feral cats being delivered to the shelter, thereby saving space and money. However, those meager benefits pale in comparison to the negative aspects of the program. 

While releasing those fixed felines back into the wild may generate some warm and fuzzy feelings, it is of no advantage to the cats. Feral cats suffer from a variety of diseases for which pet cats are routinely treated by a veterinarian. Feral cats are run over by vehicles, legally shot and killed or wounded, and preyed upon by coyotes, foxes, owls, and hawks. Consequently, feral cats have a much shorter life expectancy than their cared-for pet cousins. A neutered male cat will quickly be displaced by a non-neutered male, and often injured in the process. 

It is a cruel world out there for feral cats. Nonetheless, cats have a very high reproductive rate; and despite the efforts of the shelter, the non-reproducing individuals will quickly be replaced by fertile individuals. In the long-term, I question the proposed savings to the shelter.  

 In addition to these downsides, cats are very efficient predators of birds, small mammals, and other wildlife. In the ecological literature, free-ranging cats are referred to as a subsidized predator — they hunt and kill numerous wildlife while being fed a nutritious diet at home. Because cats are notorious predators on migratory birds, the deliberate release of cats in to the wild may be a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits the killing of migratory birds. I suggest that the shelter request their legal counsel to confer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the shelter’s liability for actively releasing cats into the wild.  

 Trap, neuter, and adopt is a much better option. 

 Pete Feigley