What Are Community Cats?
It is a common misconception that community (feral) cats are a new phenomenon. The feral cat population was not created by humans and is not new to the environment. Feral cats did not originate from lost pets or negligent pet owners. Cats are a natural part of the landscape. They exist in high numbers throughout the world, even on islands where cats have never been pets.
For thousands of years, community cats have lived healthy lives outdoors and play an important role in the ecosystem. Throughout most of the world, cats are still considered an outdoor species. In the thousands of years that cats have lived alongside humans, indoor only cats have only been common in the past 50 years or so, a very small amount of time on the evolutionary scale.
Community cats are considered untamed and wild. They are usually born in the wild and therefore lack human socialization. Stray cats are considered to be lost or abandoned pets that stay social and friendly with humans. Pet cats, strays, and ferals all belong to the species we call domestic cat.
Rabies and Community Cats
Opponents of TNR claim that rabies and other viruses such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) are “common” among outdoor cats, but the facts say otherwise.
In 2008, only 294 cases of rabies were reported in cats, both pets and feral, just 4.3% of all rabies cases reported that year. There hasn’t been a confirmed cat-to-human rabies transmission in more than 30 years. The number one source of rabies in the US is from wildlife, representing more than 90% of rabies cases. Feral cats in TNR programs are vaccinated for rabies so they cannot acquire or transmit the virus, therefore posing no threat to humans or other animals.
The rates for FIV and feline leukemia (FeLV) are almost as low. A 2006 study of seven TNR programs found the rates of FIV and FeLV to be 5.3%.
Feral cats don’t spread disease or get sick any more often than pet cats. They deserve to live out their lives just like other cats do.