Most people want a kitty they can cuddle with. Kittens born in the wild, if not socialized with human beings within the first six weeks of their lives, are not likely to ever make good house pets and may have to be euthanized.
Bob Barker, former host of the popular game show, The Price is Right, used to close with a reminder, to his viewers: “Help control the pet population; have your pet spayed or neutered.” That might seem like an odd piece of advice, except that there are millions of cats that will end up dead – from injury, disease or euthanization – simply because of human ignorance.
Mansfield is a part of the problem, especially as a rural town with two universities in the area. The number of strays jumps in the spring, when many of the college students who took in cats”free” them at the end of the school year.
Often cats are abandoned in the woods or by the roadside by people thinking that like something out of a children’s storybook, these domesticated animals are going to be able to live fat and happy on field mice.
What often happens is that the Animal Control Officer and volunteer rescue groups are called on to capture these cats, who mate and multiply, producing feral kittens. And often these kittens end up euthanized.
This is because most people who adopt from shelters want a kitty they can cuddle with. Kittens born in the wild, if not socialized with human beings within the first six weeks of their lives, are not likely to ever make good house pets, said Mansfield Assistant Animal Control Officer Christine Chojnicki.
And there just isn’t enough room at the shelter to house cats that are probably never going to get adopted.
One ray of hope for these animals is if they are adopted as barn cats. They continue to live outdoors, but now they have someone to watch over them, and they have a job. (This is not an invitation, however, to abandon cats at farms, where there may already be an overpopulation of feral cats.)
“The importance of barn cats to farmers is that they provide rodent control without the use of pesticides,” Chojnicki said. “Using cats decreases the chances that the livestock will get sick from accidental consumption of pesticides.”
Adopting these cats means they will be spayed/neutered by a responsible owner and will get their rabies vaccinations.
“This decreases the rabies risk to wildlife, pets and people. It also helps with the over- population problem that is in every town. Having a home for the cats that would otherwise be unadoptable decreases the euthanasia rate at shelters,” Chojnicki said.
“These barn cats are special and do need homes. Educating the public about the consequences of feeding stray cats is the main way we are going to reduce the number of strays coming into the shelter and therefore reduce the euthanasia rate of cats,” she added.
“Some towns don’t even take in cats – never mind the feral ones - and euthanizing the animal is their way of dealing with the problem. I don’t think that is the way to go, either. There has to be some balance of spay/neuter release programs, adopting out as barn cats, and education,” she said.
For more information about adopting one of these “barn cats” or how to deal with a stray cat in your neighborhood or for contact information for animal rescue groups, go to the Animal Control Web site or call 487-0137.
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