Feral cats have roamed the streets of our cities practically since they became domesticated. Throughout history, there has been an increase in the number of feline pets who find themselves out on the streets without a home. There is speculation that the number of feral cats will increase dramatically because of the Coronavirus pandemic. The rationale for this prediction is based on sound logical assumptions about a chain of events that is likely to occur.
More pets will be unattended
Cats are curious creatures, and there are many elderly who depend upon them for companion animals. With high numbers of our older population being stricken with the illness, and an alarming percentage not surviving the crisis, those without close family members will no longer be able to care for these dependent creatures. Those who survive but remain ill may lack the strength to attend to the needs of their cats with many escaping and becoming lost, or having nowhere else to turn but to the streets. Whether intentionally or by chance, this equates to hordes of cats finding themselves abandoned.
The time of year is a factor in reproduction
Abandoned cats that survive to live alone will follow the course of nature and more kittens will be born with the warming temperatures of springtime. Although their mothers may have been used to living with humans, the kittens born in the wild will learn how to fend for themselves. Within 5 months of their birth, the females will, in turn, produce litters of kittens, increasing the population of feral cats exponentially.
China is a prime example
The Novel Coronavirus struck the country of China prior to manifesting in the United States. We’re seeing this phenomenon occurring there as the animal shelters existing in China are overwhelmed with the number of abandoned pets because of COVID-19. America is three months behind China in the epidemic and it is entirely possible that we will experience many of the same issues that are the byproducts of the pandemic.
Clinics offering feral cat aid programs are closing down
Certain agencies within the US began programs to address the feral cat problem with clinics and rescue shelters offering traps on loan to catch the street roamers so they could be spayed or neutered to cut down on the exploding population. Residents would put down a deposit on the traps and then receive a refund upon the return. Instructions were given on how to successfully and safely trap feral cats in a humane manner. The cats would then be prepped for surgery, sterilized, then returned to the person who trapped them. This is a growing community movement that has been making some progress in lowering the numbers of feral cats, but with the spread of the virus, clinics are no longer able to take appointments and the movement has come to a standstill. The progress that was being made towards lessening the problem is likely to be undone within a few short months.
The problem is huge
Until recently, animal welfare groups conducted mass spaying and neutering. This was in response to the growing concern over the number of feral cats in cities, according to Greater Victoria Animal Crusaders. Some of the greatest concerns have been for health and public safety. Feral cats defecate wherever they are. Without proper nutrition, medical care, and immunizations, these cats are prone to disease which can be spread to other animals and humans from the waste that they leave indiscriminately. Diseased animals breed, give birth to large litters of kittens, and the offspring are also infected with whatever the parent may be carrying in a vicious cycle that has created a legitimate threat to public health. The statistics confirm that within a seven year period of time, 420,000 cats can be produced by one single feral cat that gives birth to between two and three litters annually.
Animal cruelty will increase
Domesticated cats were never intended to live in the wild. They are dependent creatures who are prone to health issues if not properly cared for and immunized. Feral cats threaten the health of our pets that live inside our homes. Feline diseases can spread quickly to domestic pets. This is just one aspect of the situation. Any cat that is forced to live without a loving home lives a miserable life that often leads to frequent bouts of hunger, loneliness, injury, and illness. Living in the wild is a cruel existence. Animal rights advocates are doing the best that they can through the spay/neuter programs and some communities even have feeding programs to take care of those cats that are too far gone to be suitable as safe pets in the home. Recent lockdowns and social distancing mandates have stopped the majority of these efforts which leaves these animals to once again fend for themselves and multiply exponentially.
There is good reason to expect the feral cat population to explode due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We’ve already seen this happen in the countries where the virus first began to spread. It’s frustrating to know that there are measures that have been taken that were working, but they have currently been suspended out of necessity. Protecting human life is essential during these uncertain times, but there will be consequences for our inability to take action. As we move forward and citizens are once again safe to go on with their normal routines, those that have a heart for addressing the feral cat issue will have a much bigger job ahead of them. It’s hard to determine how long the cessation of services will last. The best thing to do is to be aware of the problem and prepare to take action as soon as possible. The need for an increase in community participation and more animal welfare agencies willing to help with spay and neuter services is a certainty and now is the time to spread the word and recruit more help.