If you take a walk in a quiet street or park, you can see many cats without homes. These cats are called stray cats. Originally in Korea, the stray cat was called a “thief cat,” but animal lovers claimed that term was negative and decided to use the now universal term stray cat.
These strays are adorable and cute-looking cats, but they are creating very serious problems in cities. The first is public hygiene. Unlike house cats, which are protected at home, stray cats are vulnerable to various diseases borne from insects and other variables found on the streets. In other words, stray cats can become transmitters of disease and can potentially carry infectious diseases such as Cat-scratch disease and Tetanus. Besides these infectious diseases, stray cats can also contribute to problems with foul odor in areas where they have gotten into food waste bags in public places. They can also carry worms, which can contaminate many other places. The second problem is the noise. In fact, it is also the most critical problem in urban society. In particular, the noise problem with stray cats is the most serious during the spring when the cats are “in heat,” or in their mating season. In fact, the number of noise pollution reports by stray cats increases by about 60 percent during this time. In addition to hygiene and noise problems, there are also cat carcasses problems and problems that are threatening the ecosystem as top predators by becoming wild cats.
Then what do we do to solve the problem of stray cats? Itʼs almost impossible to get rid of stray cats completely. If someone abandons their cat, it is highly likely that cat will have multiple litters of kittens and the number of strays increases rapidly. Also, even if you euthanize or migrate stray cats to other areas, the decrease in the number of stray cats is not long-lasting due to the ‘Vacuum effect.ʼ The vacuum effect refers to the rapid growth of the population as cats previously living in one neighborhood and then moving to another region and crossbreeding. Most of all, though, capturing and euthanizing stray cats is inhumane, so we need to discourage this process as much as possible. In other words, we need to find ways to have a harmonious relationship with strays, without increasing their population.
One way to reduce the number of stray cats is to have strays neutered or spayed. Authorities have been implementing the TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) project by local governments for the last 10 years. TNR is a humane program that keeps spayed or neutered cats within a region, preventing the influx of new cats from other areas and thus curbing reproduction. However, the role of the ‘Cat Mom,’ or someone who feeds stray cats or volunteers to protect them, is crucial for the TNR project to continue to be successful in feeding and managing the cats released after their sterilization surgery. If it is recklessly done, even cats with poor health will be placed on the operating table and will die from poor post-op care. Therefore, the principle is that TNR should be carried out in areas where there are plenty of ‘cat moms.’
That cats are just stray animals is not the only problem though. Cats are the most powerful natural enemies of mice and rats, which spread various diseases that are harmful to humans. Stray cats can actually prevent rats from coming up from the sewers just from the smell of the cat stool. Perhaps this city is just not a good environment for stray cats, where the risk of becoming road kill is always lurking and the risk of damage to their kidneys from eating salty human food is also a factor. Wouldnʼt stray cats and humans be able to coexist and live well together if we looked at them as part of the ecosystem of the city and paid a little attention to reducing the population as much as possible?