The cats have a home
We just had an email from a group of students who want to go a project on sheltering cats because they feel sorry for the cats and wish that the cats have a home and that they have proper food and shelter. While it is very admirable of them to wish to help the cats out, sheltering isn't the way to go. Besides the obvious thing which is that sheltering only picks up on the after-effects of the problem (and this editorial in Animal People deals with it very nicely), which is that the cats are breeding too quickly on the street, and spends a lot of money which could be used more effectively to tackle breeding through sterilisation, here's a thing I think we often overlook. The cats HAVE a home and their home is in our communities. It is on our streets, under our void decks, in our carparks, our schools, etc.
We often think we are being kind to take these cats in and we do it for the best intentions, but often cats are so much happier on the streets than in shelters. Having visited shelters, no matter how well run, often the cats on the street look so much happier and healthier. Conversely community cats lounging around the neighbourhood often couldn't look any happier or more contented.
By saying that cats should be taken off the street we also deny them their rightful place in the community - we are in essence agreeing that they should all be 'taken home' as detractors often say. Of course ideally one day every cat will have a loving home off the streets - but that's an eventuality that isn't going to happen anytime soon. It is also something that is going to make a lot of cats unhappy in the meantime if we try and put them somewhere we think is better for them, but which is not necessarily the case.
We should realise that many cats already have a loving home - and that just because it doesn't fit our definition of a home in the traditional sense, doesn't make it any less so.