The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

The Feral and Free-Roaming Cat Problem

DEAR DR. FOX: Many thanks for your recent column addressing how cruel TNR is, and offering alternative solutions, which city councilors are always wanting to hear. I forwarded the article to the Animal Welfare Commission of Tulsa, which will soon be providing a recommendation about the TNR issue to the city council. I also copied all of the city council members.

Many thanks again for this timely article and for all your fabulous advocacy -- sorely needed! -- P.G., Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR P.G.: I hope more people who really care for cats will step up to the plate and get their city councils to prohibit such activities in their communities, especially where wildlife is at risk from free-roaming cats. TNR (trap, neuter, release) is well-intended, but ethically questionable and scientifically (biologically and ecologically) unacceptable.

Cats are super-predators, and while predation -- one animal killing another for food -- is a natural biological activity and the ecological role of indigenous predators, the domestic cat is an invasive species. Like other invasive species, animal and plant, cats need to be controlled to help protect and restore regional biodiversity, improve ecosystems and maintain public health.

Do keep me posted as to your progress, and I hope other people who share our concerns will support you in Tulsa and other municipalities. Those wanting more information can reach me via my newspaper column or visit my website for science- and experience-based articles concerning cats and their proper care.

MOST UK CAT OWNERS DON’T MIND WILDLIFE ‘GIFTS’

Cat owners’ attitudes about their pets’ hunting behavior fall into one of five categories, ranging from concern to tolerance to indifference, according to a recent study. Most cat owners in the U.K. allow their cats to go outdoors, and oppose the idea of keeping them indoors to protect wildlife, says lead author Sarah Crowley. (Full story: HealthDay News, 9/7)

This culturally embedded practice and attitude is not confronted fairly or fully by the British Veterinary Association, of which I am a member. That group’s current president has stated that some cats with certain medical conditions should be allowed out, while the rest be kept in as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic. My recent letter to the BVA Veterinary Record journal, which pointed out various remedies for the conditions she identified, was never published.

DEAR DR. FOX: I have been reading your animal columns for over 30 years, and sometimes send them to my children and friends with animals. The advice you have given has helped so many animals over the years, along with educating us about them and the environment. Keep it up. What keeps you going, and when did you start your animal advocacy? -- R.E., Washington, D.C.

DEAR R.E.: What keeps me going is my love and concern for animals wild and domesticated, and the natural environment we seem incapable of sharing. I am also driven by the mistreatment of both. Animals are not our inferiors. To anyone who claims that their god says animals and nature were created for human use, I say, to hell with that!

What started me were several experiences during my formative years, detailed in my autobiographical essay “My Life for the Animals” (posted on my website, drfoxonehealth.com). One defining moment was during World War II in England, seeing two trash cans brimming over with euthanized cats and dogs, including puppies and kittens, behind a veterinary hospital. (Curiosity on my walk home from grade school had made me take a look, after the loud buzzing of flies on a hot afternoon caught my attention.)

The memory is as clear as it was that day -- a sad reality of the war, when people could not afford to care for their animals. Food was in short supply and rationed, spay/neuter programs were nonexistent, and nobody wanted to adopt a puppy or kitten. But my mother helped me rescue any animal in need while my father was in southeast Asia with the Royal Air Force. We shared our food, saving crumbs and leftovers for the birds -- and for a wild hedgehog who came by many mornings to enjoy the fresh cow’s milk from the local farm, which I hated to drink!

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)