LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Taking humane approach to cat overpopulation

In August, a Delaware woman died from rabies, the source of which remains unknown. The commentary since, including a recent letter to the editor, contradicts practical knowledge about addressing the potential of this disease among free-roaming cats; possible vectors, but not the most likely ones.

Simply put, the only prevention for rabies is vaccination.

Free-roaming cats include both owned, indoor-outdoor cats and unowned cats that were lost, abandoned, or those born outside and never socialized with humans (feral). This latter group we collectively call “community cats” and these may congregate in “colonies”.

It can be hard to distinguish between an owned and unowned cat, or to quickly identify an adoptable cat in a colony. Standard animal control doesn’t work. Trap-and-kill results in healthy feral cats being killed and the chance of beloved pets or adoptable cats being killed. Trap-and-relocate isn’t a viable option.

While inoculating wildlife, the primary carriers of rabies, isn’t realistic, vaccinating community cats can be done. It is being done where resources are available by people who want to humanely reduce cat populations.

Data supports trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) as a possible solution and the majority of Americans prefer this humane approach to cat overpopulation. (See alleycat.org.)

TNVR is labor-intensive but it’s a life-affirming practice used nationwide. I am pleased that the Kent County Levy Court commissioners support it. More could be done: pet owner education, accessible veterinary services, mentors. With appropriate leadership, funding, and community support, humanely reducing the cat population is achievable.

Gail Bottomley

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