Tag Archives: vocabulary

Concept Discussion [Trap Neuter Re-abandon]

28 Jul

Words such as ethical and humane are difficult to define because (very divergent) personal belief-systems and personal experience color both terms.  Welfare is a provable condition, by design.  It uses quantitative parameters to ensure animal health and freedom from suffering and cruelty.

Speaking of personal experience, my 15 years of employment in veterinary hospitals (and prior to that over 1,000 volunteer hours in animal settings) influences my judgments in the following vocabulary terms.  Intentionally for propaganda, and unintentionally out of ignorance, these words are being used to persuade.  But they might not be the most accurate way to describe the reality of the situation.

Here’s what I mean. The term “feral” is overused, as is “wild” in the context of abandoned pets being left to fend for themselves.  Feral implies the cat is unapproachable (and will probably remain that way long-term).  Using wild to describe un-homed cats suggests these cats belong outside, are proficient in meeting their own needs without intervention, and cannot be tamed (and would not like it).

I would argue very few cats in colonies (or shelters, or homes) are truly feral.  Do they get amped up and scared, especially with unfamiliar people doing unfamiliar things to them, or in strange places-absolutely!  Most cats get stressed and hate travel/change.  But given time to calm down, and with some patience, would they make a good pet? Yes!  I have a big problem with the notion that some cats are “unadoptable” and must be feral forever.

I can’t tell you how many times a client was in the exam room with a growling cat in the carrier, and they told me said cat was “feral.” If I had to guess I would say at least once a week.  And I can’t tell you how many times that growling cat in a box could be taken out, handled to get vitals, and ended up tolerating the appointment–most of them.  In 15 years, out of all the cats that came into the veterinary hospital being called feral, probably 12% were actually feral, and probably just 5% of those had to be sedated to proceed with their appointment.  So the perception of feral and the incidence were drastically different.

I think feral is a loaded term that justifies abandoning healthy, potentially-adoptable cats in urban streets.  And don’t get me started on wild.  These cats are not independent for the most part.  They do require human intervention, because even actual wild cats were not living in population-dense, urban landscapes.  And genetically they differ from their wild ancestors–ever see an F1 Bengal vs. a domestic shorthair?  You can see that genetic difference in their behavior!  And most of the cats that are dumped were once pets, or they are genetic offspring of pets.

Bottom line: Roaming or stray are more accurate terms for this situation. 

Furthermore, I disagree that some cats are outside cats, and can’t be taken indoors.  Habituation and localization are real.  The feeding part of the TNR process uses these concepts to train cats to gather in a certain area at a certain time, with other cats and humans present.  The cats are trained to get in the traps.  Why not use habituation to get cats more comfortable with people and train cats to stay inside?  The cat may hate it at first.  There are strategies, products, and medications that can assist in the process.  Patience, persistence, and calm can go a long way in getting (and keeping) a cat inside.  Spend the time and effort, and in most cases it can happen.  If you don’t believe me, just look at YouTube and you’ll see about a thousand success stories.  And indoor cats are exponentially safer than the ones outside!  People who say some cats are just outdoor, and can’t be taken inside don’t have a wild cat problem, they have a priorities problem.

Throughout my research paper, I will argue there is little difference between the initial dumping of cats by irresponsible people, and the “release” part of TNR.  Just because the TNR has good intentions doesn’t make throwing cats outside the right thing to do.  The cats are neglected in both scenarios, dumping or release.  TNR is also not sustainable, and my research will show how TNR colonies maintain their original numbers or increase their numbers without death (either euthanisia or most times, hazards outside) and adoption.  Neither euthanasia or adoption are mandated in TNR.

After being involved in animal hospitals for 20 years, seeing what patients come in, I believe there are some things worse than death, and euthanasia is often a kindness.  I have seen horrible things, and was sometimes even relieved to see an animal ‘put out of its misery’ (there are reasons, that I will not describe here, that this is a common phrase).  And the procedure itself is compassionate, done by a veterinarian who loves animals so much that they completed 5-8+ years of college education, and took a job that is both time-consuming and relatively low-paid.  The process of euthanasia is also (for lack of better word) clean, meaning no messy hit-by-car, dog-mauling, human abuse, and no undue suffering like heat stroke, slow starvation, or disease process kills the animal.  It’s the poke of an IV or needle, and an injection which acts quickly on the brain and stops the heart. I believe euthanasia is much less cruel than trapping, neutering, and putting an animal back outside in the elements with all the hazards.  Before you think death is the worst thing, check out some of the 85% morbidities faced by outside cats.  Like I said before, there are worse things than death.  Why are we choosing that fate for these cats we’re trying to help?  After neuter the job isn’t complete–let’s work on adoption, education, and prevention.