Feral cats. Not something you'd typically see at the top of the Aiken City Council Agenda:
“Until this issue came, I have to be honest I didn't know a feral cat was,” says councilman Dick Dewar.
That probably goes for many of people. So what is a feral cat?
“They're little tigers,” says Barbara Nelson, SPCA Chair. “They're wild, feral cats by definition are wild.”
Currently the Aiken SPCA must keep all cats for 5 days before euthanizing them. But, a suggested change would allow them to euthanize feral cats after 24 hours. This begs two questions: First, how can you tell the difference once a cat is in a cage?
“These animals are very friendly and socialized and they don't have any appearance of being backed off and scared or defensive,” she says referencing non-feral cats.
Feral cats on the other hand, “sitting back in the back of the cage, ears laid back, fangs come out, defensive and scared.”
Even if you can tell, why not just keep the cats a few days? Those at the shelter say for one feral cats are more likely to spread diseases to other animals–and people:
“The personnel are being bitten, they're being scratched, and these animals carry diseases,” she says.
Even if you don't have a feral cat, couldn't less about less about feral cats, and never plan to step inside the shelter–if you live in Aiken, you're paying for them:
“Charging the city 10 dollars a day to keep a cat, maybe seven days, that you know will eventually be euthanized, what's the point,” Harrison says.
10 dollars a day may not sound like a lot but a lot of animals go through the shelter, 70 percent of which are cats, half of which are feral; that cost is a concern.
“You have to be vigilant about every penny of taxpayers' money and you don't want to throw it away,” Dewar says.
Finally the SPCA chair says besides all of that, it comes down to the cat:
“The humane issue is this: These cats that we feel are 100 percent feral, they are so stressed out they are injuring themselves, that's not humane.”
The SPCA tabled its request for now to do more research, which still leaves the cats in question.
Dewar says constituents were also concerned that feral cats they care for may be impounded the killed. Nelson says that should not be a concern: She has a feral cat herself, but those cats that are cared for are more domesticated and less likely to be identified as feral in a behavioral evaluation.