You may have never heard of “‍community ‍cats,” but you have probably seen these longtime Orange County residents, either in your own neighborhood or out and about in an alleyway or a city park, providing the county with free rodent control.
Disneyland has over 200 ‍commun‍‍ity ‍cats, which it credits with keeping the park’s rats and mice at bay. Disneyland cares for its feline friends with a spay/neuter program and five fully stocked feeding stations.

According to information published by the Humane Society of the United States, “‍community ‍cats” are typically unowned or semi-owned and include strays and ferals. The former likely are lost and abandoned former pets, the latter ‍cats that are extremely fearful of people.

Some ‍community ‍cats can be considered loosely owned, meaning that concerned residents feed them and may provide some form of shelter but do not always identify the ‍cats as their personal pets.

The issue of managing ‍community ‍cats can create conflict. Dissent can arise among neighbors; between ‍cat advocates and wildlife advocates; and among animal care and control leaders, local government leaders and their constituents.

Anaheim Fix Project, an Orange County-based ‍cat rescue and spay/neuter advocacy organization, says that people often mistakenly consider stray or feral ‍cats to be wild animals who can fend for themselves. But they’re not wild, the group says, and can’t survive without human intervention.

According to the humane society, trap-neuter-return, or TNR, programs are the most effective way to deal with ‍community ‍cats. An integral part of successful TNR programs is feeding the ‍cats. Creating stable feeding stations allows monitoring of the colonies; identification of new ‍cats, which can be trapped and sterilized or placed in homes if they are social; and control of roaming and disease. ‍Cats are healthier when they have a consistent food source; according to the humane society, ‍cats are loathe to leave their “home” areas, and will search for food closer to populated areas if not fed, often leading to more complaints about their presence.

Orange County Animal Services, the Orange County SPCA and other local groups support TNR. Volunteers who participate in these programs provide a public service by ‍handling a problem that is hard to control.

Anaheim on Jan. 1enacted a municipal code that makes it illegal for anyone to intentionally provide food, water or other forms of sustenance to a feral ‍cat or feral ‍cat colony within city boundaries.

Good intentions were likely behind the code’s creation, but local groups such as the OCSPCA and Anaheim Fix Project are concerned about the wording and enforcement.
The Anaheim Fix Project says, “This law is not only inhumane, but it is illegal according to California law, which calls starving a ‍cat ‘animal cruelty.’ Rather than starving ‍cats and turning kind caretakers into criminals, the city should spend their resources on spay neuter programs (TNR) which have been proven to be the most effective way to control feral ‍cat ‍com‍‍munities.”

Numerous good Samaritans in our area trap freeroaming ‍cats, sterilize them, then feed them. If a client tells me they have a ‍cat hanging around that they cannot take in, I suggest this practice. It prevents uncontrolled reproduction, yowling, fighting and roaming into areas where the ‍cats may not be welcome.

The humane society says that TNR is the most effective and humane way to control stray ‍cat populations. According to its reoprt on managing ‍community ‍cat colonies, TNR is a longterm investment in ‍com‍‍munities and less expensive than admitting, holding, euthanizing and disposing of healthy ‍cats.

Let’s hope Anaheim amends or repeals its code and chooses instead to work with groups that are trying to effectively control ‍com‍‍munity ‍cat populations.

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