The life of a cat living outdoors is often punctuated by
periods of sickness and injury, especially for those who are unable to be seen
by a veterinarian. Illness is passed from cat to cat when untreated, causing
the health of hundreds of animals to suffer. During my observation of the
colony in my home town, it was obvious that this reality still applied to the
cats who had a part-time caretaker. One cat, a beautiful orange and cream
striped tom cat with soft golden eyes was very obviously suffering from an
upper respiratory infection; his eyes watered and the fur below showed the path
of the discharge trailing down his cheeks. Every few seconds was interrupted by
a small sneeze, which continued while he was eating. There were a couple of
other cats who would sneeze much less frequently, but it seemed as though the
infection could be spreading, especially considering that there were cats
sharing the same bowl and consuming the now contaminated kibble

            The impacts of the existence of feral cat
populations on people include general inconvenience, disease spread, and legal
issues.  Feral cats demonstrate behaviors
that are a nuisance to people living around them: howling, roaming, urine
marking, eliminating on property, fighting with household pets, rummaging
through garbage, jumping fences, digging up gardens and landscaping and
possibly begging for food.  These
behaviors inconvenience people by causing property damage, causing disturbances
at night, and causing messes and problems in general.  Feral cats can carry species-specific disease
such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
that can be transmitted to other cats and various other hosts such as fleas and
worms. Feral cats are also a vector for toxoplasmosis, which can be transmitted
to humans and can cause serious complications in pregnant and immunosuppressed
people (Longcore, 2009).  Cats are the
most frequently reported rabid domestic animal (Barrows, 2004) and the issue of
rabies cannot go unmentioned.  Rabies is
a serious problem that requires careful control, and a TNR does not address the
rabies epidemic by vaccination and puts accountability on the veterinarians
providing care. People may think they are providing Good Samaritan care when
caring for feral cats, but end up being responsible for an entire colony,
depending on the state.