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Israel Will Trap, Neuter and Return 45,000 Street Cats

Israel Will Trap, Neuter and Return 45,000 Street Cats

Street cats are everywhere in Israel, in huge numbers. I and others can attest that they don’t look good: they tend to be dirty and skinny, often with visible skin infections and eye problems. Their lifespans average just one or two years, compared to 13-17 years for cats who live indoors or in managed colonies.

Most of the cats’ human neighbors have historically considered them vermin and wanted them gone. People have yelled at me for feeding cats near their apartments or houses. One Israeli veterinarian says, “in Israel it’s as though no one cares. There is no awareness here.” Even cat lovers lack basic awareness about solutions to the enormous street cat population. A spokesperson for the Israeli chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said, “the public is at fault…because people are not spaying/neutering their pets.”

Israelis resist neutering male companion animals in particular, just as Americans have and still do — witness the commercial success of Neuticles, artificial testicles that can be implanted to make a neutered cat appear intact. The manufacturer promotes Neuticles as a way to aid “the pet’s owner with the trauma associated with altering.” I’m trying to make sense of that. Maybe the trauma and resistance result from men projecting their own fears of castration or insecurities about their masculinity onto their cats. Whatever their problem is, these people are not acting in their cats’ interests. Neutering can preserve their health and, by reducing their aggression, lower the risk of injury from violent fights.

The outlook for street cats in Israel is improving thanks to changing attitudes. The Israeli government just committed 4.5 million NIS (about 1.27 million in U.S. dollars) to trap, spay or neuter, and release 45,000 feral cats before June 2014. There are an estimated 39,000 street cats in the Tel Aviv area alone — just one shelter, the SPCA, takes in 200 kittens every day during breeding season — so the government’s plan is not a comprehensive solution.

Nonetheless, it is a huge step forward. TNR is the only viable option to improve Israeli street cats’ quality of life. The country has few animal shelters, so rounding up neighborhood cats and dropping them off at a shelter doesn’t work — they will either be turned away or killed. Adopting feral cats, excluding young kittens, rarely succeeds because they have learned to fear humans and usually can’t change their ways. When I found an apparently orphaned kitten on the street a few years ago, days before I was scheduled to return to the United States, I called every person, organization and governmental agency I could think of looking for someone to take him in. None of them could help. (Eventually I found the little guy’s mother and reunited the family.)

The government’s cash infusion could not only save cats’ lives; it could also improve their health. When feral cats are spayed or neutered and then returned to a colony that has conscientious human managers, they can stay quite healthy. Good colony managers keep the fixed cats fed, provide places to sleep that protect them from the elements, monitor their health and trap new arrivals for spaying or neutering.

Israeli animal advocates, like CHAI (Concern for Helping Animals in Israel), emphasize that TNR efforts will not make a difference without excellent colony managers. Others argue that TNR will increase the street cat population, based on a study by a student at Tel Aviv University.

The United States is full of individuals and organizations, like hospitals, universities, airports and military bases, that reject TNR and instead kill feral cats on their property. The fact that Israel is embracing TNR on a national level could eventually put it far ahead of the United States in terms of treating ferals humanely.

It could also mean that the next time I visit the country and go for a walk, I won’t have to carry cat treats with me because I won’t pass hungry ferals on my way. TNR could improve not just cats’ quality of life, but mine too.

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Photo credit: Shayan

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222 comments

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11:51AM PDT on Jun 30, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

9:03AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

I cannot disagree with the negative facts of releasing trapped, fixed and Vet. Cared for abandoned cats and kittens and dogs and puppies back to outside and left for people to feed them, brought up by PETA, environmental & birding organizations: they will suffer without being adopted, they need further Vet. Care, these animals abandoned to the outside do not have the skills to exist outside, can and are be and being killed from automobiles and Etc., if public and organizations feeding these abandoned animals was good enough then they would not be starving in the first place, greater wild cats and dogs equals more eaten birds and thus, unbalanced environments. Minimally, the organizations doing this should be legally held responsible for working with ALL available adoption groups and creating cats and dogs sanctuaries for un-adopted abandoned cats and dogs (but still available for adoption at any time), the lifelong Vet. Care and feeding, if they cannot get adopted, of these animals they throw out, instead of kill.

9:02AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

As a PETA, Earth & Beings Rights, Organic & Vegan & Inventor person who has adopted and Cesar ‘The Dog Whisper’ Millan trained most, for all to live well together, all of the animals, I care for, organized campaigns and protest for Earth & Beings Rights and have participated in convincing the dean to allow us to trapping, neutering and Vet. Care and for adoption abandoned (FERAL OR NOT) cats and kittens at a local college that was going to exterminate them. I live in a county where they are doing this. This is one of the hardest issues for me to find the sides I agree with. I obviously agree with trapping, neutering and Vet. Care for abandoned (FERAL OR NOT) cats and kittens. I obviously also agree with any organizations or people working to trapping, neutering and Vet. Care for abandoned (FERAL OR NOT) cats and kittens working with other organizations or people able to get them adopted. It also brings about one of the other hardest issues for me to find the sides I agree with, the programs that ship trapping, neutering and Vet. Care and for adoption abandoned (FERAL OR NOT) cats and kittens and dogs and puppies to other areas where there are adopters waiting to adopt them, but that will be discussed in proceeding posts (wish I could find The Care2 article that talked about it).

9:01AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

AWESOME ARTICLE, THANK YOU!!

12:04PM PST on Dec 28, 2013

Outstanding

6:41AM PST on Dec 8, 2013

setting a great example!!

12:06AM PST on Dec 8, 2013

amazingly sad

9:15PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

Here's a novel idea not mentioned yet: Open Up MORE Vietnamese Restaurants In Israel

6:17AM PST on Nov 29, 2013

Well done!

11:14AM PST on Nov 17, 2013

I am a volunteer for the Tel Aviv Municipal Animal Shelter. I think it is about time that something is being done, so this is great news. We already have a scheme in place where people can have street cats spayed/neutered for free through our local council, but big action really needs to be taken.
However, it is not true that kittens that come from that streets are hard to place with humans. I have 3 cats of my own that have all been rescued off the street (2 at 2 weeks of age and one who was one day away from being dead at 6 weeks of age) All three are very cuddly, domesticated cats who love their home, their humans and they cuddles. Apart from them I have rescued and re-homed countless of kittens which today are all acting like regular house cats.
Apart from that, there is No Such Thing as any shelter anywhere taking in 200 kittens per day during breeding season. If we are having an extremely crazy we might get 6 or 8 kittens in. We then need to find them foster homes within hours as there are no facilities to look after the kittens at the shelter.

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