DEAR DR. FOX: A few years ago, my wife trapped, neutered and released a feral cat. We continued to feed it for about six years, with no problem -- until it was either killed by poisoning or by a coyote, as best we could surmise.
Why is that “seriously misguided,“ as you say? I would like to know, in case the situation occurs again. -- J.B., Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
DEAR J.B: There are several options for dealing with “feral” cats, which I have detailed in articles on my website, drfoxvet.net.
Many are lost or abandoned strays who once had homes, and are often adoptable when caught and rehabilitated. Others who do not become resocialized may have been fending for themselves too long to be “recovered,” or were born outdoors.
With such cats, the best solution is to trap them, test for diseases, then either euthanize or permanently quarantine those testing positive for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses. Those not carrying these diseases should be neutered and vaccinated, and either placed in communal housing (where many do become adoptable after some time) or in designated sites where they are provided shelter, food and veterinary care -- with the proviso that no wildlife be put at risk.
You did your best for this cat, and I commend you -- my wife and I do the same, but bring the cats in for rehabilitation and adoption. I call this Step 3. Your Step 2 is better than the Step 1 where many people stop: just putting food out and not at least trapping and neutering to stop the cat plague. This is exacerbated by well-intended people who put food out for stray cats and let their un-neutered cats roam off their property.
DEAR DR. FOX: My daughter wants to harness-train her cat.
She thinks a soft vest style is best, but at the shelter where I volunteer, they sell the PetSafe brand, which is the more traditional figure-8 style. They always use the PetSafe Easy Walk harnesses for dogs, which are wonderful, so I feel like this recommends the brand.
Have you any advice on this topic? Her kitty goes out on the balcony, which she has made safe for him, but she would like to be able to give him more stimulation at some point. So she wants to train him while he is still relatively young -- just a little over 18 months old now. -- M.S., Alexandria, Virginia
DEAR M.S.: I had a disaster with one of our rescued cats, who spooked when out on a leash and harness for the first time. He was able to wriggle out of the harness and ran off. It was early winter, and he was too scared to come back indoors. It took several days and long nights to encourage him to come back inside.
I advise getting a soft, full-body wrap-type harness, and also a collar, so he’ll have two leashes. Cats can wriggle out of almost anything when they have a mind to it.
Put everything on the cat indoors to start out right, and get the cat used to the pull of the leashes and feel of the harness. Avoid trying to lead the cat; cats prefer to lead and take their time slowly exploring when outside, even rolling in grass or dust, rubbing their lips, chins, temples and tails to mark various fixed objects and nibbling various plants.
Cats have excellent depth perception and are generally safe on upper decks, but initially, I would be cautious and have the cat wear the harness and collar on a safety leash before letting him out on the balcony.
VANDALISM AT SHELTER LEAVES DOGS SERIOUSLY INJURED
Vandals broke into an Arkansas animal shelter, released dogs from their pens, put some in pens together, and appear to have brought their own dogs for fight training, authorities say. At least one dog might not survive its injuries.
Shelter officials purchased security cameras after three dogs were killed in a similar break-in back in 2016, but the cameras were stolen before they could be installed, and the shelter does not have funds for a new security system. (WREG-TV, Memphis, Tennessee, Oct. 13)
I wept when I read of this atrocity -- not just for the dogs, but for the evident and increasing loss of our humanity and sanity in these times.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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 DrFoxVet.net.)