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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Tuesday July 16th 2024

Having A Heart For Homeless Cats

from the series Something I Said…

By DWIGHT HOBBES

a photo of the author
Dwight Hobbes

Condensed from Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

If, as the Good Book says, the Lord gave us dominion over the beasts, birds and so forth, dominion doesn’t just mean being in charge. It means caring for. Even protecting.


This includes homeless cats fending against the elements. They’re hungry with no roof overhead through no doing of their own. Fortunately, folk do what they can to help out. Feed and water them, leaving bowls where they can eat and drink, close enough to a make-do refuge that the cats needn’t scrounge in garbage cans and can scurry to safety at a moment’s notice.


I did this for a clutch of felines. A neighbor ratted me out to animal control. When they came, I stood my ground. “Who is it hurting to give those cats a mouthful of food?” Which is how I learned food can be put down for three hours, then has to be removed. Hours? What I gave them was gone in three minutes. This stop-gap measure merely helps keep them alive. Pet Project Rescue’s Trap-Neuter-Return program looks after cats living on Twin Cities streets, spaying and neutering to reduce their suffering from overpopulation. Individuals interested in volunteering as a Minneapolis cat colony caregiver can apply at https://petprojectrescue.com/.


Cats born in the wild are in considerably more danger simply because, unlike abandoned domestic cats, these felines never learned to trust humans and will flee as soon as they see one coming. Accordingly, it’s harder to help them. It can be done, though. Trap-Neuter-Return takes a humane approach for felines without homes. Practiced for decades in the U.S. after being proven in Europe, scientific studies show that Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of these cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them and decreases colonies over time. It is exactly what it sounds like: Cats are trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, they are returned to the site. Kittens and cats who are friendly and socialized to people may be adopted into homes. Animal lover Julie Plageman notes, “In my experience, feral cats are difficult to rehabilitate. Unless cats have human contact from birth, they don’t develop the need for that contact.” While trap and release programs don’t lengthen or significantly improve the life of feral cats, they do reduce the population so fewer cats suffer a perilous existence. “Spaying and neutering feral cats also helps solve many of the problems associated with feral cats such as noise and spraying,” says Plagemen. “Trap and protect programs help provide a healthier life for feral cats by providing nutrition and observation of disease and injury. Cat communities can provide protection if a caring person regularly provides food and observation.” She sums up, “I have taken in strays who have had human contact from birth and it proved to be a fulfilling experience. I have taken in a feral kitten and we never did create the bond necessary to make her a good pet, but I did take comfort in knowing she had a home and she lived for 19 comfortable years with my other pet cat. There are few things better than a purring cat.”


Ultimately, homeless cats didn’t ask for their predicament and there’s something the species responsible for it can do.

Dwight Hobbes is a long-time Twin Cities journalist and essayist.

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