Trapping Cats Part 3: Ethics of Killing Stray Cats

The Last Resort:

“From the standpoint of abstract justice, the stray cat has just as much right to kill and eat the robin which builds in the vine on my porch as the robin has to pull and eat the earthworms from my lawn; but the place is mine, and I choose to kill the cat and preserve the robin.”    Anna B. Comstock, the great Cornell University Orinthologist, 1911.

Anna B. Comstock Cornell Library

One day when I’d brought a cat I’d trapped into the animal shelter, and was waiting for the attendant to transfer the cat and bring me back the cage, there was an Alaska Native in the waiting area. He asked me about the cat. I told him it was a stray that was killing birds in my yard, and that I’d brought in more than sixty of them. Tlingits are typically pragmatic people. The guy looked perplexed. “Why don’t you just pop them?” he asked.

That’s a fair question. The answer is that when I started doing it I told  my wife and kids I wouldn’t kill the cats. So, there you have it. There have been times I wish I hadn’t said that. Like when I’ve caught the same cat more than once, or when the shelter doesn’t charge people to get their cats back as they’re supposed to–so there’s no real deterrent for owners who let their cats stray, or when I carry a cat 11 miles out to the shelter on my bicycle and the owner drives out to pick it up and the damn thing beats me home, or that time I asked for animal control to take a cat from my house to the shelter and he let it go right in front of me (claimed it was an accident).

Even though I’ve never killed a cat myself, if it’s quick and painless as possible, I don’t object when other people do. To me most people who kill cats aren’t pathological animal haters who don’t have anything better to do. Most people who kill cats are the opposite. They want to get rid of the cats to save wildlife just as Anna B. Comstock did over a hundred years ago.  I know I’ve said it already in this series but with this section we’re going down the trenches of last resort so, let’s hammer it home:

Here is the reason most people kill cats:

Because they’ve had enough and no one will help. Juneau, Alaska, where I live, dishes out $ 1,033, 000.00 per year to an animal shelter that doesn’t want to deal with stray cats. And hasn’t for years. Which is why the stray cat infestation has exploded here.
What are ya gonna do, when…?

When State or Federal Resource Agencies charged with protecting wildlife won’t take action to save wildlife from cats. Get this; there are presently over 1,100 bird species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918.  It’s illegal for me to indiscriminately kill or harm any of those birds including feathers, eggs, or nests, even if they’re on my own property.  If I kill one I’m subject to prosecution. And yet State and Federal Resource agencies like the ADF&G, DNR, USFWS, USFS, NOAA and all the rest of the alphabet soup do nothing about stray cats killing billions of these birds. If a factory smokestack was killing thousands of birds a day the EPA would shut them down right now. Cats? Nothing.

Sign at the Juneau Animal Rescue shelter to discourage people from trapping stray cats. This is shameful.
























When the Animal Shelter not only won’t take action to stop stray cats but actively discourages people from live trapping cats and bringing them in. Note the line, “…many owners love to let their cats explore!” Explore? Stray cats are not Roald Amundsen seeking a route to the South Pole. Stray cats are hunting.

When people in a nearby house or apartment complex leave food out for stray and wild cats. The food draws other wild animals that become infected with cat diseases like Toxoplasmosis, or they get killed by the cats.

When irresponsible cat owners get away with letting their cat kill birds on your property. Years ago, a friend’s parents owned a cat who brought home dead birds almost daily and left them on the front porch.  Stepping over two or three dead birds to ring the bell was a regular thing at their place. That one cat took thousands of birds out of Juneau’s wildlife.

When cat owners who do not care, let their cats roam after you’ve trapped the cat before.

When a cat you’ve caught before has learned to avoid the trap.

When your wife is pregnant and at high risk for Toxoplasmosis infection.

When the cat owners are loony and you’re worried they’ll find out you trapped the cat.

Failure Proven attempts to control stray cats:

Asking cat owners to keep their animals indoors: Some will. Millions won’t. That’s why we have  more than 70 million stray cats in this country. Whether they let their cats out because they’re too lazy to clean a cat box, or because they think it’s cute when their cat brings dead birds home, or they imagine they’re entitled and so are their cats. At the end of the day, there’s probably nothing you can say that will stop them from doing it.

Trap, Neuter. Release (TNC): TNR is just what it sounds like. Cats are live trapped, taken to a vet to be spayed or neutered, then released back to the wild, often to so-called ‘managed’ cat colonies, where they continue to kill wildlife, fight, spread disease and so on. The idea being that eventually enough cats will be fixed that the feral population will decrease. That’s not what happens.  The feral cat population has exploded since TNR was founded. Cat people love it. People who love wildlife don’t.
A few opponents of TNR include: “American Bird Conservancy, American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, The American Ornithologists’ Union, The Cooper Ornithological Society, the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, The Wildlife Society and its Florida Chapter, the Association of AvianVeterinarians, United Activists for Animal Rights, the New York Coalition for Animal Rights, the Florida Animal Control Association, Madison Audubon Society, and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithologists all oppose TNR. The Florida Fish & Wildife Conservation Commission (FWC) passed a resolution on May 30, 2003 opposing TNR on FWC lands and all lands managed for wildlife”, and the United States Navy which shut down TNR from its lands in 2003. (Source: American Bird Conservancy, link below).

“Managed” Cat Colonies: The theory behind managed cat colonies is that cats will be trapped, neutered, released, and taken care of in colonies; all by volunteers. Eventually the colony will die out because all the cats were spayed and neutered. Some of these colonies have been around for decades. That fact, by itself, shows this approach doesn’t get stray cats out of the environment.
Colonies may even grow because people who don’t want their cats anymore leave them at the colony expecting they’ll be taken care of. Also, volunteers come and go. Without enough volunteers, those that remain may not be able to keep up with the TNR part and resort to feeding whatever shows up. Sick or injured cats that would have died if they were wild animals are nursed back to health then released to kill again. Cats that can’t feed themselves in the wild live on handouts and spend their leisure time stalking wildlife. Plus cats that figure out how to avoid traps will be drawn to the food and mate with other cats.

All the disease, fleas, worms, etc. we’ve talked about are magnified in cat colonies because there are so many cats in close proximity. One large colony in Denver, that’s been around for decades, has a number of inbred cats with extra toes. Another proof TNR doesn’t work. The article about that colony, says the women who run it live in an apartment complex where the cats (about 200 of them) stay warm in ‘huge spaces’ under the building. Can you imagine what that smells like under there?

Bounties without commitment: In 2008, Randolph, Iowa (population under 200) offered a $5 bounty for stray cats turned in (alive). Cats that weren’t claimed wound be euthanized. Internet cat people around the country went ballistic and the town dropped the bounties.

What does work: Taking out stray cats: No one’s going to get them all but every dead cat may save hundreds of birds and endangered animals. Australia has chosen its wildlife over cats.

Australia: has a terrible cat infestation that’s wiping out indigenous wildlife in many parts of the country and has driven some species to extinction. Europeans brought cats to Australia in the 1700”s. With virtually no predators to control them in the Land Down Under, cat populations not only exploded, individual cats are getting bigger there, interbreeding with other big cats which produces offspring that are bigger yet. Australian animals, having evolved with no predators like cats are totally defenseless and don’t stand a chance against them. The Aussies want to save the remaining species and Aussies don’t mess around. Dozens of Youtube videos show hunters, male and female, shooting cats.  Aussies also cull cats with bows, spears, poisons*, snares, nets, and there’s a guy on YouTube who catches one with his bare hands.

When we talk about cat predation  upsetting the ecological balance, we usually think of other wild animals that starve because cats are eating animals that would usually go to predators higher up the local food chain like owls, raptors, foxes, otters, and so on. In Australia, Aborigines who belong to a 60,000 year-old culture thought to be the world’s oldest, have seen their culture compromised by cats brought by Europeans more than 200 years ago. Aborigines are deeply invested in getting cats out of the ecosystem. And a lot of them are excellent hunters. Queensland has offered a $10 bounty on cats.

The comment sections, which run into the thousands, are hilarious. Nearly all of them are “Good for you! Cats are destroying Australia’s wildlife.” Occasionally some cat lover pipes in that it’s horrible to kill cats.

In the photos above, the woman in the blue shirt is Christie Pisani, editor of ‘Bow Hunting Down Under. Woman in flowered shirt is Yukultji Napangarti of  Kiwirrkurra community The Guardian. Man at ‘Feral’s End’ is Barry Green of Kangaroo Island, Daily Mail. Other hunters unnamed.

*the poison is fascinating. It’s made from sausage laced with a type of pea native to Australia that doesn’t kill indigenous animals but kills invasives like cats (dogs too).

How you decide to get rid or cats is a personal decision. If you’re going to kill them, the maxim is: Shoot, Shovel, Shut Up. Never, never, never, threaten to kill someone’s cat–never. Doing so does nothing but point the finger at you if the cat disappears.

Materials and methods.
Shooting: It’s illegal to shoot firearms in CBJ neighborhoods. That’s out.
Poison: Like antifreeze or Tylenol will kill a cat but they’ll also kill animals you’re trying  to save or a dog that got off leash.So poison should be out.
Heavy duty spring traps, leg hold traps, body traps, will kill a cat but sometimes painfully, plus they can seriously injure a kid, a dog, or a wild animal.

Bow and arrow works well assuming you’re a good shot and using heavy enough pull to put the animal down instead of injuring it. There are pictures, widely distributed by cat people, of cats that were running around the neighborhood with an arrow in them.

01.04.2022 Meet the caretakers of Denver’s feral cats Denverite. by Kevin Beaty.

2004 “Managed” Cat Colonies: the wrong solution to a tragic problem American Bird Conservancy