Q: We are a house divided. My mother insists on trapping the local feral cats and then gets them neutered/spayed and vaccinated and turns them back loose and feeds them in our backyard. My brother and I are birders and we have been watching birds all over Long Island and have done so since we were Boy Scouts. We do not even bother to hang bird feeders up in our backyard as the cats our mother feeds would just make short work of them. A few months back a bill was presented in New York that would allow the use of public funds to support TNR (trap, neuter, release) programs for cats. The birding association that we belong to was lobbying to get the bill vetoed, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo did just that. So of course this just added to the drama between our mother and us. We wondered what your opinion was since you seem to love cats and you also seem to know so much about the natural world. -- Greg Smith, Uniondale
A: First of all, the governor was not playing favorites to either bird people or cat people. To trap a domesticated animal like a cat and then to turn it loose again is animal abandonment. So first a bill needs to be introduced to make animal abandonment legal in certain situations -- then public funds can be used to do it.
It is perfectly legal in New York for a person to feed feral cats on their property if they choose to do so. It is also perfectly legal for people to feed cats in a public park as long as they have the permission of the parks department to do so and they are using their own money or money from a nonprofit group that is set up to help homeless pets.See alsoMarc Morrone columns
My neighbor trapped all the feral cats on my block and got them spayed and neutered and built them a little cat house in their backyard and feeds them. These cats must know I am a cat lover, though, as they spend most of their time on my front lawn. They also poop in my flower beds, but I am a person who has seen a lot of personal tragedy and I have learned that some cat poop in my flower beds is not the end of the world. I acknowledge that not everyone is as tolerant.
It is true that since these cats were spayed and neutered there are no more kittens being born, but there are still cats all over the place and they are all fat and happy and there will most likely be cats all over the place in my situation for the next decade or so until they die off from old age.
Now the subject of the cats and birds. I have read that some cat people claim that a well-fed cat will not hunt birds, but that is not true. Yet I am of the strong opinion that the domestic cat does not belong wandering about the few pristine areas around here. It is not a predator that any of our native wildlife has evolved to adapt to. If a public park or nature preserve has a policy of "No Pets Allowed" then cats should not be allowed in there, feral or not. They are not wild animals at all and do not belong in the truly natural world. Any cats living in a place that our government has declared to be a place that "No Are Pets Allowed" should be humanely trapped and removed by the governmental organization that is responsible for the stewardship of that particular area. If those cats can be rehabilitated and homes for them as indoor house pets can be found, that is great. If not, then they have to be humanely euthanized, in my opinion.
Anybody who finds fault with anything that I have said here -- please just read it twice before you confront me about it. I think I am as fair and open-minded about the situation as is possible.