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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Mattfield

We Hate Outdoor Cats

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

We said it and you should agree. For decades, Whiskers Rescue has seen countless social media posts and received a never-ending stream of emails and phone calls about outdoor cats. Nearly every call, post, and message to us is a heartbreaking account of kittens dying on the streets or cats suffering with illness and injury as they try to survive outside.

Rest assured that we love all cats but absolutely hate the suffering and the unending cycle of new generations of cats born to suffer the same fate, year after year. The number of outdoor cats is increasing, not decreasing, and the vast majority of outdoor cats do not live easy, happy lives.

Even in the best of circumstances - where they are isolated in friendly neighborhoods, provided food and shelter, and cared for, outdoor cats are still fighting illness, predation and cars. They are still miserably cold in the winter. They are near impossible to examine or medicate as we cannot touch them; when they do become ill, it is not easy to help and at a minimum, cats must be trapped and sedated by a vet just to be examined. In the cases where we can trap and treat medical issues, feral cats are traumatized and terrified while they are held in homes and shelters.

When Trap-Neuter-Return was an introduced as a new humane way to handle the feral cat population, the goal was to stop the breeding, allow the existing generations to die off naturally, and ultimately have zero feral cats left outside as they lived out their lives as non-reproducing cats.

Of course, we know the odds of having absolutely no cats outside is impossible due to abandonment by owners, which is only made worse by closed admission shelters. However, the goal remains to eradicate as much suffering as we possibly can by aiming for zero cats born outside!

Unfortunately over the years, it seems that the original intention of TNR has been lost or at best, become misunderstood. There is a misconception among the cat loving community that cats are happy living outside and enjoy life on the streets.

Some nationwide advocacy groups even declare that cats "thrive" outdoors, and praise colonies that have been fed for decades, with increasing numbers of cats born generation after generation outside. Not only is this contrary the the intended purpose of TNR, but it helps to create many generations of cats who will live difficult, unhappy lives.

If we want TNR to remain a viable alternative to old school "round-ups" for euthanasia, we must get back to using TNR as the humane method of population control that it was intended to be.

We must realize that we as cat lovers should be doing everything possible to end their suffering.

TNR is our only hope of a compromise between cat lovers and our neighbors who do not want cats in their yards and who would prefer removal at any cost.

We need to accept that failure of a person to TNR the cats they feed is hurting this effort and widening the divide between people who feed cats and people who do not want cats near them.

Through the many heartbreaking calls and stories we have faced over the last few decades, we do understand that not everyone who has found cats they want to feed can afford to TNR all of them alone. This is why we created our 50 Feral Fix program.

Now more than ever, we need to arrive at a place where feeding and harboring cats does obligate you to provide needed medical care to those in your care, starting with TNR. It needs to be the responsibility of those who opt to feed to TNR either on their own or with the help of programs like ours.

Denying necessary medical care to a cat constitutes an act of cruelty against animals per N.J.A.S. 4:22-17.


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