We don't need any more feral cats, no matter what the propaganda says

Fourteen years ago "Alley Cat Allies" established "National Feral Cat Day" (Oct. 16) — a propaganda campaign promoting ecologically destructive and downright cruel exploitation of abandoned domestic felines through "trap-neuter-release" (TNR). This misguided policy also constitutes a growing threat to public health. And it's largely funded by PetSmart and Petco.

TNR perpetuates feral cat colonies, particularly when they're fed. It allows them to exist at densities far beyond environmental carrying capacity for any natural predator, because they don't depend exclusively on hunting. This increases breeding opportunities for colony members that aren't "trapped, neutered and re-abandoned," and that always exist in feral colonies. Cats attract more cats. And they breed — from one to five litters of up to 12 kittens a year.

Reducing competition for unspayed colony members' kittens facilitates their survival and dispersal, making them harder to locate or trap. TNR apologists call this "evidence" their program works. They're lying through their teeth, not to put too fine a point on it.

Cat infestation is like mouse infestation. The mouse creeping along your baseboard is the smallest, weakest member of a large colony hiding in your walls and cupboards. Trapping, neutering and releasing it won't affect the colony in the least, no matter how often you repeat the gesture — mice simply breed too fast.

So do cats. Less competition for food and shelter helps them avoid capture and proliferate at rates drastically outpacing any existing TNR effort for any feral colony anywhere. Also, irresponsible "pet owners" preferentially abandon unwanted cats to already-established colonies.

In fact, feral cat colonies persist indefinitely with anything less than 100 percent sterilization. All the American TNR programs combined haven't sterilized more than 0.4 percent of the U.S. feral cat population in more than a decade.

That means 99.6 percent of U.S. feral populations are breeding. There are between 50 million and 100 million of them. Assuming an average of 75 million with a 50/50 sex ratio producing (on average) three litters of six kittens a year, and factoring in a 42 percent mortality rate among kittens, that number could become 282,366,000 by next year — and that's a conservative estimate.

That's what TNR advocates want. They're cat hoarders. TNR isn't about reduction or attrition. The more outdoor "pets" to fawn over, the better these activists like it — only this satisfies their selfish sense of entitlement. If you can stomach the maudlin, saccharine gushing, visit their websites. They boast of "community cat" colonies maintained for 22 years. They're not trying to limit them — they want more! That's what hoarders do. And Petco is happy to sell them the cat food.

Meanwhile, their precious outdoor "pets" continue torturing and destroying every songbird, rabbit, lizard, squirrel and frog they catch. They do this despite being spayed and neutered. They do it despite being fed. They do it despite their doting caretakers bringing blankets and toys and talking baby talk to them. And these "cat fanciers" act utterly indifferent to the carnage. They seem to love animals the way Ted Bundy loved women.

But they're not responsible! They place blame on those who originally abandoned their cats. TNR activists won't admit their program actually compounds the irresponsibility of the selfish idiots who dumped the cats in the first place. Einstein's definition of insanity comes to mind.

Alley Cat Allies disseminates an outrageous lie that Felis domesticus has been part of the natural environment for 10,000 years since humans first bred them. They fail to mention that domestic cats were never a part of the "natural environment" in North, Central or South America, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Fiji, Jamaica, the Galapagos or any Caribbean, eastern Atlantic or western Pacific island.

Indeed, this selectively bred creature isn't part of any natural environment and never was. That's why F. domesticus has, through displacement and genetic swamping, driven its own parent species — African and European wild cats (F. lybicus and F. sylvestris) — to the brink of extinction. There are only 40 European wild cats left in the U.K. Since they can't be tamed and will never be anyone's pets, TNR advocates don't appear to care about them.

But ACA's most egregious lie is their claim that "scientific studies" prove their ill-conceived, ecologically destructive program accomplishes anything except perpetuating feral cats. They reference TNR advocate J.K. Levy's 2003 study at the University of Central Florida — but seldom actually quote it.

Why? Because Levy's study, wherein she claimed 66 percent colony reduction (and cooked her numbers by euthanizing 11 percent of her subjects), proved the opposite. She eventually admitted, after two subsequent studies, that "population-level effects" by TNR alone "were minimal."

Feral kittens placed in homes represented 47 percent of her so-called "colony reduction." This proved only that trap-neuter-adoption worked. For a trap-neuter-release study it doesn't count. Euthanizing 11 percent of her colony only proved euthanasia worked. And at least 6 percent of her subjects migrated from the study area or were killed by cars. But TNR sure took care of that remaining 2 percent! It only took 11 years ...

Levy's studies demonstrated TNR "success" depends almost entirely on people adopting cats. Otherwise, it's an abject failure.

But TNR hoarders are undeterred. They infest our woodlands, parks, schoolyards, playgrounds and gardens with invasive, disease-ridden vermin, and revile us as "cat haters" if we object.

A 2004 American Veterinary Medical Association study concluded spaying and neutering 75 percent of a feral colony — annually — was necessary to reduce its population, and was less successful than trapping/euthanizing. Other studies prescribed 62 percent to 82 percent annual sterilization to achieve meaningful results.

Feral colonies have persisted more than two decades with anything less than 100 percent sterilization. Two percent reduction of rapidly breeding, destructive, disease-carrying invasive predators over 11 years is too little too late to prevent critically endangered insular species extinctions. And increasing fragmentation of mainland wildlife habitat makes survival prospects therein just as dismal as those for cat-endangered island fauna.

Living in a giant outdoor litter box surrounded by incessantly mewling cats may be Alley Cat Allies' idea of heaven. It isn't mine.

Al-Hajj Frederick H. Minshall is a U.S. Navy veteran with a degree in fisheries biology who has lived in Alaska since 2004. He's an Ithna-Ashari ("Twelver") Shi'a Muslim whose chief hobby is overindulging his five grandchildren. "Al-Hajj" (Arabic root "Hijr" -- "journey") means "the Pilgrim, " and is a traditional title for one who has made pilgrimage to Mecca.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary@alaskadispatch.com