From the American Animal Hospital Association September / October PetsMatter e-newsletter:
By Veronica Daehn Harvey
Felines have a way of knowing, it seems, which house might have a friendly adult inside, which one might have a child old enough to be gentle with his affection, which one might offer food, which one won’t shoo it away.
But even animal lovers with kind hearts might be unsure what’s best for the cat. What is the right thing to do when a stray feline shows up? Set out a dish of your pet’s food? Call Animal Control? Bring it inside and hope it sleeps next to you?
Cats who live in the wild are often referred to as feral, or community, cats. They are not a new phenomenon, but recent community efforts to stop the pet overpopulation have involved trapping and neutering or spaying the feral cats before releasing them back into the wild.
Such efforts are a good idea, but you have personal options as well. When you see a feral cat in your neighborhood, consider your choices:
“That development could advance animal welfare internationally, especially where surgical services for cats are not widely available,” Levy said.
Her group has been researching contraceptive vaccines and drugs for many years, specifically looking for products that successfully control reproduction of wildlife and evaluating their potential for humane control of community cat populations.
Several vaccines are promising, but none are licensed for use in cats yet, she said.
Shelburne said the easiest, safest way to control the numbers of cats is to get your pet and any feral cats you decide to care for spayed or neutered.
Of course, before deciding to claim a cat that showed up on your doorstep, it’s best to decide if the cat is truly feral, Shelburne said. If the feline is tame and you can catch it, take it to a veterinarian or a shelter, she said, so they can scan for a microchip. It might just be lost.