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Apr-27-2010 23:25printcommentsVideo

Rabid Cat Attacks Highlight Severe Public Consequences of Feral Cat Colonies

Feral cats have about one-third to one-fifth of the life span of indoor, owned cats.

Feral cat drinking at a pool
Photo of a feral cat drinking at a pool courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - The Orlando Sentinel newspaper and other Florida media are reporting two incidents of rabid feral cats attacking humans. WFTV in Orlando, Florida describes both attacks as unprovoked.

In a March incident, a feral cat was struck by a car, and when the driver and passenger attempted to aid the cat, they were bitten by the rabid animal. In a second incident, on April 12, a rabid cat entered a home through an open door and attacked and bit the owner.

The three bitten people have all been treated for rabies and are recovering. Both cats tested positive for rabies. As a result, a 60-day rabies alert was issued for Port Orange and South Daytona, Florida.

According to the WFTV broadcast: “The health department’s theory is the disease could be spreading at feeding areas. People have set up shelters to feed cat colonies, but raccoons will finish off the food and may be spreading rabies to the cats.”

“This is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last time that we see the serious public health impacts of feral cats and so-called ‘managed’ cat colonies. Rabies is not the only disease at issue here. Feral cats can also carry toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, and other potentially serious infectious diseases that can affect humans. Despite the best of intentions, feral cat colonies present an ongoing hazard to human health in communities where they are established as well as birds and other native wildlife,” said George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

These problems with TNR and cat colonies are explained in a recent, informative video from ABC.

One very controversial approach to dealing with feral cats is called “Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR).” This approach requires that feral cats in colonies be trapped, then neutered and then released back into the colony in the hopes that eventually the colony dramatically shrinks or is eliminated. The reality is that feral cat colony programs do not succeed in eliminating the problem because they invariably fail to capture and neuter all the cats in the colonies. As a result, colonies are perpetuated over time, often increasing in size, and magnifying the threat to humans, birds, and other wildlife. The sanctioning of cat colonies by local authorities only serves to further encourage cat owners to dump more unwanted cats at these sites. The National Association of Public Health Veterinarians, The Wildlife Society, and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals all oppose TNR programs.

According to ABC, feral cat colony programs do not protect local wildlife from cats, and they are an ineffective and inhumane way of dealing with the feral cat problem. Allowing hundreds of very efficient predators to exist in a local environment that historically evolved without them will unquestionably and dramatically, over time, alter the balance of the local ecosystem. This change occurs because cats kill not only birds – perhaps one million birds or more EACH DAY in this country – but a variety of small mammals and wildlife as well.

The feral cats themselves also face the prospect of very unpleasant deaths from predators, disease, and automobiles. As a result, feral cats have about one-third to one-fifth of the life span of indoor, owned cats.

Links to Florida media regarding the rabid feral cats issue:

Rabid feral cats attack humans in Volusia County - palmbeachpost.com

Rabies warning issued in Volusia after rabid cats attacks - orlandosentinel.com

Rabies-Infected Feral Cats Attack Humans - wftv.com

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Source: American Bird Conservancy




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JM September 4, 2010 9:18 am (Pacific time)

Presenting an advocacy piece by the American Bird Conservancy as an unbiased news article is irresponsible journalism. How about a balanced presentation including information from Alley Cat Allies?

Editor: I am happy to use the ABC's reports.  Animals have taken a hit in this world and it isn't about opinion, and under Bush there was no fairness. Be glad they are attributed so you at least know where the information is coming from.


robbie nift April 28, 2010 8:31 pm (Pacific time)

It is all cumulative and cats are a large part of the problem.


gp April 28, 2010 10:15 am (Pacific time)

I know that the cats get birds, I have seen it. However, I just don't think that it is nearly as much a problem as the amount of bird deaths caused by airplanes, windows, agricultural chemicals and pollution in the environment. I do see this article as a scaremongering piece as it would be easy to give a rabies shot as part of the catch, neuter and release program. Another safeguard would be to require neutering of all cats when adopted and to ban cat breeding. Fancy cats, like fancy pedigree dogs (status objects both)are part of the dog and cat population control problem. Anyone who breeds dogs and cats intentionally and for profit should be ashamed of themselves. Once again,a predator is being scapegoated for human caused problems.

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