The Dilemma of the Outdoor Cat

By David Sadkin, Ph.D.

Volunteer Director of Education Services

Wildlife, Inc.


The whole issue of the impact of feral and free-ranging cats, and the efficacy of Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) programs has tended to muzzle discussion, as the emotional issues often outweigh rational debate. Moreover, people and organizations directly “in the line of fire” have hesitated to address the issue head-on for fear of antagonizing potential supporters and donors.

However, the New York Times in its Sunday, March 23 edition, in its “Review” section, broached the subject with a major article entitled “The Evil of the Outdoor Cat” by Richard Conniff, an author who writes about wildlife issues for Smithsonian, National Geographic and other similar publications.

While the article is copyrighted,  the findings cited in the argument for the demise of TNR programs come from public sources and may be discussed here.

The impact of free ranging and feral cats cannot be disputed. The National Audubon Society tracks 20  common North American species through its annual bird census . They have discovered that species such as eastern meadowlarks, field sparrows, etc, have  declined by 68 % on average since 1967. In Britain, farmland bird populations have dropped radically, with turtle doves down by 85%, cuckoos by 50% and lapwings by 41% since 1995.

During this period, efficient agricultural practices have reduced millions of acres of habitat. Add to that the rampant development of cities, suburbs and exurbs, and the available land for contiguous wildlife habitat diminishes radically. In the U.S., the Forest Service predicts that in four Northeastern states, more than 60% of the total land area will be urban by midcentury, up from 35% in 2000.

As a result, wildlife exists in the margins, parks, scraps of so-called “preserves,” which both inhibits healthy breeding, and provides concentrations that serve as easy pickings for predators. Chief among these are 84 million owned cats, and anywhere from 30 to 80 million feral or stray cats. Federal researchers estimate that, in the lower 48 states, these cats kill about 2.4 billion birds annually. Outdoor cats also kill about 12.3 billion small mammals a year—rats and mice, of course, but also chipmunks, rabbits and squirrels, and 650 million reptiles and amphibians.

If these statistics don’t move people to action, consider these facts. TNR programs do not effectively reduce feral cat colonies. We know that many react in horror at the thought of euthanization of animals who are easy to anthropomorphize, but we should promote the rational discussion of the following facts:

·         Cats are three to four times more likely than dogs to carry rabies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

·         Cats share many zoonoses and parasites with humans, including roundworms, hookworms, giardia, and campylobacter.

·         In Massachusetts and New York, cats have been known to be infected with a  worm normally found in raccoons.

·         Outdoor cats are the primary hosts of toxoplasmosis, which is estimated to infect 30% of humans worldwide. Toxoplasmosis can produce lifelong parasitic cysts in the brain, and even if asymptomatic, infection is associated with significant loss of memory in later life, according to a study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

In my classes, I also emphasize that cats who have been through TNR, do not lead good lives. They are often infected with skin infections, suffer malnutrition, fleas, worms, and infected wounds. TNR does cats no favor, even if it salves the well-meaning but misguided consciences of those who advocate for the practice.

Now that this issue has been broached frankly in the N. Y.Times, perhaps whose of us in wildlife rehab and education will find the fortitude to address this issue forthrightly, with due respect for those who have yet to be convinced, but with the findings of science to offer an alternative vision that is better for the human and non-human population.

Bald Eagle Release

Greg Hebert Releasing the eagle. Greg and Damen Hurd rescued her last month. Greg looks pretty happy! We are sure the eagle is too!
We released her exactly where we found her. We usually do unless it isnt safe to do so. 1467316_623503251024798_410934453_n

We just want to say thank you to Gail Straight and Dr.Clay Wilson for the work they put in with the eagle. Gail and Clay do a lot of the work behind the scenes and if it wasn’t for Dr.Clay we wouldn’t be able to x-ray and treat all these injured animals on a moments notice. Thank you!

Volunteers Needed

Currently we are specifically looking for volunteers able to help during the day on weekdays. This would involve routine feeding, cleaning, and some various other assistance with the animals. Some general animal knowledge is helpful but not mandatory. The opportunity is here to learn much more. Our needs require a mature person available for one or more weekdays on a regular basis.

Other needs are for a grant writer, cage construction, education, rescue, and routine feeding and cleaning. Other volunteer situations may be available. For further information call the center at (941) 778-6324 or use our contact page. Please fill out the volunteer application below to bring with you.

We are looking for individuals with sincere intentions towards helping wildlife. While there is personal gratification, please do not apply just for the glory or to be near the animals, as it contrary to all our efforts. The work load is very heavy and increasing each year, especially during baby season, and your strong dedication will help us the most.

If you would like to help and grow with us and have a little time to share, we would love to have you with us. We strive to maintain a sense of humor and a light atmosphere which makes life easier and the work a lot more fun. It’s a pretty nice place and we currently have some good volunteers. We are looking for a few more good ones.

We use an application for some basic information as to who you are and what you may or may not already know about animal and birds. Experience is helpful but not required for all positions. After filling it out just bring it with you. Please complete the form below.
Thank you again and we look forward to working with you.

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Who We Are



Wildlife, Inc. Education & Rehabilitation Center is a volunteer run non-profit wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization located in Bradenton Beach, Florida. Founded in 1988, we were treating over 3,000 birds, mammals, and reptiles by 1998. The number has since grown to over 4,000, and continues to increase as we are now the largest wildlife rehabilitation and rescue center in Manatee County. 

With a annual budget approaching $100,000, we are funded solely by donations and private grants. NO funding is received by local, state or federal governments. Please make a donation to help us continue our work of saving our precious Florida wildlife. Your support helps to pay for medicine, food, surgeries and rescue gear to save more animals. Donations can be made by clicking the Paypal donation button on our Facebook homepage or by visiting our website at You can also send donations by mail to:

P.O. Box 1449

Anna Maria ,FL 34216

Visit our wildlife sanctuary located on the property of Mixon Fruit Farms at 2525 27th Street East Bradenton, FL. Daily tours are at 11am, 1pm, 3pm. Summer tours 11am, 1pm. visit for more info.