Defending Cats Against Misinformation

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Misinformation about cats can result in misguided polices that lead to cats being killed. It’s important to look at the facts, rather than believe sensationalized media hype or emotional arguments. You can help protect cats, and debunk misinformation that might come up during discussions or conflicts about community cats, by knowing accurate information.

Cats Outdoors

Misinformation: “Cats shouldn’t be outside at all. All cats should live indoors only.”

Accurate information:

  • Cats have lived outdoors for more than 10,000 years, since before the Egyptian pyramids were built. Cats living outdoors is nothing new.
  • Cats lived outdoors, or partly outdoors, until the invention of kitty litter (so cats no longer had to go outdoors to relieve themselves), refrigeration (so cat food could be stored and used as a cat’s sole source of nutrition), and spaying and neutering. These are all fairly recent inventions.
  • Cats weren’t domesticated like other animals. They coexisted with people, who appreciated their ability to keep rodents in check. To do this job, cats would have free-rein on farms, ships, and other outdoor-accessible areas.
  • It’s impossible to force every cat to live indoors. There are just as many unowned cats living outdoors as there are owned cats living indoors. Also, cats who live outdoors generally aren’t socialized, or friendly, to people. That means they can’t live indoors with people—it would make both the cat and the person miserable.

More information at https://www.alleycat.org/CatHistory

Cats and Wildlife

Misinformation: “Cats take a major toll on wildlife.”

Accurate information:

  • Human-led activities, like habitat destruction and pollution, are the number one threat to birds and wildlife—not cats. Learn more about the number one threat to wildlife.
    • Think about it: Does your community have a new housing development or strip mall that bulldozed trees or fields? Do you or your neighbors use fertilizers, have big green lawns, or use pesticides? Does your community have street lights, flood lights, or other outdoor lights on at night? How about buildings with windows? All of these things endanger wildlife and are increasingly common.
  • Research frequently referenced in articles blaming cats for killing billions of birds are based on bogus science. Get the facts about the Smithsonian and Nebraska.
  • Reliable research consistently exonerates cats when it comes to declining bird and wildlife populations. Learn more about the Biology and Behavior of the Cat.
  • Cats have lived outdoors for thousands of years and have a place in the natural environment. Learn more about the Natural History of the Cat.
  • Read Big Love for Small Cats, featured in National Geographic’s Cat Watch blog, by Alley Cat Allies’ President and Founder Becky Robinson, for an overview of cats’ place in the natural landscape.

More information at alleycat.org/CatsAndWildlife

Community Cats and Public Health

Misinformation: “Outdoor cats pose a health risk to people.”

Accurate information:

  • Science shows that community cats aren’t a risk to humans, and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) helps protect public health. Learn more at Community Cats and the Public: A Healthy Relationship.
  • The risk of catching rabies from a community cat is almost nonexistent. Bats, skunks, and foxes account for more than 90 percent of reported rabies cases. The last confirmed cat-to-human transmission of rabies occurred in 1975. Learn more at alleycat.org/Rabies
  • TNR is a safeguard against rabies. During the TNR process, cats receive rabies vaccinations, so they cannot catch or spread the disease.
  • According to research, it is rare for anyone to catch toxoplasmosis from a pet. It’s even less likely for a person to get toxoplasmosis from a community cat, because they avoid being around people. To catch toxoplasmosis from a cat, a person would need to touch cat feces and then somehow ingest it.
  • Millions of people care for outdoor cats, and they are just as healthy as any other member of the public.

Community Cat Welfare/Well-being

Misinformation: “Outdoor cats lead short and miserable lives.”

Accurate information:

  • Studies show that community cats live healthy lives outdoors. They can live just as long, and have equally low rates of disease, as owned cats. Learn more at Community Cat Health Analysis: Living Health Lives Outdoors.
  • A 2006 study1 found that of 103,643 stray and feral cats examined in spay and neuter clinics in six states from 1993 to 2004, less than 1 percent of those cats needed to be euthanized due to debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious disease.
  • Community cats are happy outdoors and don’t want to live inside with people. While it might be tempting to place our own desires for the comforts of indoor living on cats, the truth is community cats prefer living outdoors. Community cats are not socialized, or friendly, to people and can’t live indoors.

 

  1. Wallace, J., and J. Levy. “Population characteristics of feral cats admitted to seven trap-neuter-return programs in the United States.” Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery8, no. 4 (2006)

Cats in Shelters

Misinformation: “Shelters have to euthanize community cats. It’s a necessary evil.”

Accurate information:

  • When shelters kill healthy cats for any reason, whether it’s because they are feral or because the shelter is overcrowded, it’s not euthanasia. It’s killing. Genuine euthanasia is used when a cat is terminally ill or untreatably injured. It’s a medical decision and is always done in an individual cat’s best interest.
  • Shelters don’t have to kill healthy community cats. TNR is the only humane, effective approach to community cats, and more and more shelters are embracing TNR , Shelter-Neuter-Return (SNR), and Return to Field (RTF) programs.
  • Community cats are not socialized or friendly to people. This makes them unadoptable, and likely to be killed in many shelters. Community cats don’t belong in shelters where they will be killed. TNR, SNR, and RTF programs save community cats’ lives.
  • Any shelter can implement a lifesaving program like TNR, SNR, and RTF. Alley Cat Allies has resources for shelters at Alleycat.org/Shelter

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