There is a serious problem in Downeast Maine and throughout Maine with regard to stray, missing, abandoned cats and colonies of cats, or as animal professionals refer to them, community cats. As an animal control officer in several towns in Downeast Maine, I have received many calls from people about colonies of cats, as well as individual stray/community cats. I have also in the last few weeks seen numerous postings of missing cats on social media, as well as some postings of cats showing up at the homes of others. The one common denominator for all these seems to be that they are all about outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats, cats who may have once had a home and what happens to them when they are outdoors.
On occasion it can happen that an indoor cat inadvertently gets out the door, but for the most part, this is not the usual case. Unfortunately, far too many people wrongly believe that cats must be able to go out, that they “need” to go out. These same folks adamantly claim that they will continue to allow their cats to roam outside and refuse to accept good and logical advice otherwise. I have seen far too much loss of animal life in my many years as an animal control officer and before that and concurrently as an animal activist and advocate.
But thankfully, in some other cases, people have accepted the message and have made a commitment to keep their cats indoors. And it has been a blessing to see some truly dedicated people step up and help in the case of colonies. I could not do what I do for the cats without their help. Their help has been a gift and has encouraged me to continue to do what I do to help community cats. I wish to thank those people sincerely.
Let me be very clear: cats are domestic animals. They are not wild animals. They have been domesticated for thousands of years. They do not “need” to go out. They live quite happily indoors, and also importantly, they live safely indoors. Outside they are at risk from all the native wildlife that are natural predators and natural original inhabitants in our area: coyotes, bobcats, fishers, foxes, long tailed weasels, eagles, etc. While habitat destruction and pesticides are the first and second causes of bird mortality, cats allowed to roam outside can also prey on smaller wildlife, including birds and small mammals. Outdoor cats can also be killed by cars, or they can cause an accident when someone tries to avoid hitting them and goes into a ditch.
Another big, big problem is that irresponsible people allow their cats to go outdoors without being vaccinated against rabies (this is against Maine state law) and without being spayed or neutered. And in some cases, cruel people move away and leave their cats behind. Unneutered cats create the problem of colonies of cats developing in many areas, or I should more accurately say, irresponsible owners of the cats create those problems. Animal control officers, humane agents, animal shelters and animal rescue organizations are continually trying to play catch-up, but in reality it is like shoveling against the tide. And in spite of our attempts to educate, it gets worse every year. All we can try to do is save as many as we can, but the end result is that the animals pay the price, in many cases the ultimate price. With winter coming on, many of these cats will suffer an agonizing death by freezing.
Please keep your cats indoors, please spay and neuter your cats, please vaccinate your cats. Help is available.
Marie Louise Morandi Long Zwicker
Animal Control Officer and Founder of Protecting Animals’ Welfare (P.A.W.)