As you walk along the stray, you can see cute stray cats that try to avoid fences or running into people. Can such stray cats stay safe and live in the world without causing harm to anyone? Let’s find out how we can coexist with stray cats by thinking about ecosystems, problems, government solutions, and other efforts! ......….…............…Ed
Ecology and Problems with Stray Cats
#Exology of Stray Cats
Soongsilians may have seen people who love stray cats and treat them with snacks, such as ‘Chur.’ Stray cats are one of the few animals that we can easily see in the city. Citizens like the cute appearance of stray cats, but each person has a different stance because cats sometimes cause damage, such as those related to public health and noise pollution.
Stray cats cause different types of damage to people and natural ecosystems, including noise. Cats are nocturnal and their unique cries during rutting periods are similar to the cries of babies that significantly disturb people’s sleep. In particular, the noise problem can be very difficult to control because we wouldn’t know when it would end, and it could last for a long time. They also cause problems concerning hygiene, as they are known to break through food waste cans in public places or leaving garbage bags open.
The so-called ‘Cat Mom,’ who take care of stray cats, also poses problems. First, some people supply cats with inappropriate amounts of food because they lack general knowledge on stray cats. This makes the surrounding environment dirty, and also affects the cat’s health. In particular, when the feeding location is near where a vehicle is parked, the vehicle is often damaged, causing further friction with the owner of the car. Likewise, people who hate cats maliciously abuse them. Striking stray cats or intentionally spraying rat poison will result in punishment under the Animal Protection Act. While it is not easy to arrest an offender, the practice is also becoming a serious problem.As such, conflicts among citizens are deepening. In particular, complaints related to stray cats have soared this summer, when there is an unprecedented heat wave. In Bupyeong-gu, Incheon, 80 complaints were filed for the neutralization of stray cats from January to July 2021. Among them, 30% (24 cases) have been received since June. The majority of complainants say, “Take measures to prevent CatMom from feeding stray cats,” and the district is encouraging applications for neutralization to prevent the number of stray cats from increasing.
The situation in other local governments in Incheon is not much different. “About 70 percent of all stray cat complaints are recorded during the summer. Since this year’s budget for the neutralization of stray cats has already been exhausted, the neutralization project next year is being pushed once related complaints come in,” said an official from Yeonsu-gu. Seo-gu, is also preparing an additional budget to neutralize 20 stray cats in order to deal with complaints of neutralization, which are concentrated in the summer.
#Destroying the Ecosystem
In addition, stray cats threaten the ecosystem. They are the top predators of urban wildlife. At the same time, they have a large population because they are protected by humans. They are destroying the balance of the ecosystem. Cats are highly reproductive, so the imbalance is expected to intensify if they are not artificially controlled. Though cats feel full and have enough food, they often kill their prey just because of their hunting instincts. Their prey includes small animals and birds.
Therefore, the Ministry of Environment has decided to introduce a ‘Bird Protective Scarf,’ which is being implemented overseas, in Korea. The mufflers are similar to saekdong jeogori patterns, and their hunting success rate has been found to drop up to 87 percent when they are worn by cats. Since animals like birds are more likely to notice cat access, they can protect themselves, and cats may lose interest in related animals due to repeated hunting failures. Mice, a cat’s staple, can’t perceive the difference in color, so cats with scarves have no difficulty hunting mice. Also, it cannot directly harm cats because it is detachable.
#Stray Cat’s Shelter
As the problem related to stray cats became serious, the government began finding ways to coexist with stray cats. The government establishes and operates cat shelters for each local government. The term ‘Cat Shelter’ aims to protect stray cats, while keeping the park environment clean, and to prevent the number of cats from increasing through neutralization surgery. The cat shelter is run by animal rights groups and volunteer citizens.
The actual operation of the shelter is handled by a civic volunteer composed of the Cat Mom, while civic groups are promoting activities to increase neutralization rate by supporting Cat Mom. The Seoul Metropolitan Government monitors the operation of the shelter on a quarterly basis, and tries to minimize inconvenience to citizens who use the park by maintaining the neutralization rate at above 70%.
#Limitation of Private Management
However, problems arise because the main body of management involves the private sector. In the case of areas and autonomous districts that are interested in cats, volunteers can communicate smoothly by utilizing Internet community sites. Therefore, many people can participate in the activities by sharing information, but if they do not, there could be a lack of manpower to oversee shelters. Moreover, cats in the island areas have a larger adverse effect on the ecosystem than cats roaming in the city.
The National Institute of Environmental Research announced that cats can multiply very fast due to the nature of the island areas, so intensive management is urgently needed to prevent various types of damage, including ecosystem destruction. The ecosystems of Gapado Island, Biyang Island, Geomundo Island, and Wando Island, have been destroyed, and capturing of stray cats has also been carried out.
#Citizens’ Attitude toward Coexistence
Furthermore, even if related laws for animal protection are passed, the attitudes of citizens, who do not yet welcome coexistence with stray cats, can be a problem. More and more people are not happy with the government’s cat shelters, and are eventually damaging
related facilities. Kim, a resident of Myeonmokdong, Jungnang-gu, Seoul was accused on July 6 of destroying stray cat shelter facilities that were set up in public green areas near his residence.
At that time, there were two kittens that were two weeks old inside the shelter. He also threatened to throw plastic bowls at volunteers. It is noteworthy that he did not originally hate cats. In the past, he had delivered food and toys directly to related facilities at his own expense. However, since the shelter was set up, the number of stray cats has soared and incurred direct damage, including damage to his car. So, he asked the district office for help, but the district office repeatedly asked him to wait, and said there was also a conflict with the cat mom in the process.
Since it hasn’t been long since the stray cat shelter was established, there could be weak points in management. Therefore, both the government and related volunteers should work together so that cats do not cause further harm to citizens. For a true coexistence with stray cats, one should not seek blind concessions from the other party.
#TNR (Trap Neuter Return)
The government is focusing on the Neutralization (TNR) project because it cannot control the number of cats just by operating a cat shelter. TNR stands for Trap Neuter Return, which means capturing stray cats, neutering them, and then returning them where they originally lived.
Neutralization causes the cat’s cries to disappear and no longer reproduce. Cats protect their original territory, and prevent the inflow of other cats because they are territorial animals. Furthermore, steady neutralization can be expected to reduce the population, and limit the inconvenience and conflict caused by stray cats. Neutralization is more effective than other measures because even if people intentionally reduce the number of cats, it is difficult to expect a decrease in the overall number of cats due to the influx of other cats.
In areas where it is difficult to set up and operate cat shelters due to lack of private manpower, people working in related industries cooperate to carry out the neutralization project. Seogwipo City, Jeju-do Province, released 89 stray cats from June 12 to 14 in cooperation with the Jeju Veterinary Council, shipping crew, residents, and animal protection activists on June 28.
#Input Budget Increase
Both the national government and local governments are increasing their spending on neutralization projects every year. According to the “2020 Pet Protection and Welfare Management Status,” local governments across the country carried out neutralization projects for more than 70,000 stray cats last year. This is a 13.2 percent increase from a year earlier. As a result, there are growing voices about the need for ‘Taxing Pets.’ As the number of pets increases, social costs and administrative consumption are also increasing, so they should pay a certain amount of taxes when raising pets.
Other countries already have put pet tax systems in practice. In most European countries, such as Germany, Spain, and Poland, only dogs are taxed, while in the United States and Canada, both dogs and cats are taxed, but generally dog owners are taxed much more than cat owners. This is because the purpose of the pet ownership tax is mostly for dog owners.
However, it should be considered whether such a tax system is equitable. This is because it is necessary to consider whether there is a direct correlation between the owners of stray cats and other pets, and the choice of pets requires deep discussion. As the budget for stray cats increases, the government must come up with reasonable measures.
How to Deal with Stray Cats
#Stray Cat Care Club
Many universities have stray cat care clubs. The members of the club are learning and practicing how to coexist with stray cats by demonstrating a love for cats. Among many clubs, Konkuk University’s stray cat care club, ‘KkongnyangKkongnyang’ is trying to identify and solve the difficulties of dealing with stray cats. Club members regularly clean and repair their cats’ winter homes or receive information about cats for treatment and rescue activities from students. In this regard, we interviewed Back Joon-min (Department of Veterinary Medicine, 20, Konkuk University), the president of the club, Kkongnyang-Kkongnyang.
ST: What kind of activities does Kkongnyang-Kkongnyang do for stray cats?
Back: Currently, we run a meal place and a winter house for stray cats, rescue sick cats,
and find a guardian if the cat needs adoption or temporary protection. Moreover, we are
conducting various promotional activities on Social Network Service regarding stray cats
in school, and we are conducting a campaign to encourage students not to give wet snacks
to stray cats.
ST: How should ordinary citizens like us behave when they see stray cats?
Back: Stray cats are literally animals born and raised on the street. Therefore, they are not
pets that live with us at home, but are wild animals. Cats and people can be damaged, so
don’t try too hard to approach them first, and just love them with your eyes. Also, acts
of good faith can cause serious damage to stray cats. For example, in relation to the wet
snacks mentioned above, it is highly appreciated to give cats snacks in good faith, but
due to the nature of stray cats that cannot brush their teeth, such snacks can cause canker
soreness by residual food. Therefore, it is best to know before taking any action on stray
cats if such action can cause any damage.
ST: What are your feelings toward the Kkongnyang-Kkongnyang?
Back: I feel most rewarded when I see students who view stray cats positively through our
club activities, or when I see rescued cats living well on campus or at the shelter. Also, the
more active the club is, the more people recognize our club, and send us messages of support,
and the more information there are about sick cats, I feel accomplished in that regard.
#How to Adopt a Stray Cat
When you find a stray cat that you think seems to need some help, and when a stray cat that you see often begins to follow you well, many people will think that they want to adopt that stray cat. In particular, if the stray cat is a kitten, one’s heart will beat stronger. However, adopting a stray cat that has lived in the wild is never easy. Also, ‘adoption’ is a job that entails being fully responsible for the life of a creature, and should be considered very carefully. Therefore, to adopt a stray cat, the following matters must be observed:
We need to make sure that the stray cat that we want to adopt really needs human protection.
Despite the presence of a mother cat, rescuing a kitten is not exactly adoption, but a kind of ‘kidnapping.’ Usually, mother cats hunt for food for 8 to 12 hours. Therefore, it is very dangerous to touch a kitten during this time. If a person’s body odor remains in the baby’s body, the mother would not be able to find the baby, or decides that it is not her baby. It is highly likely that kittens with good fur or moderate weight are protected by their mother cats, so they should be monitored for several days.
You should think carefully about the conditions and qualifications for raising stray cats.
Being responsible for the life of a creature is by no means light. There are many people who adopt stray cats and then abandoned them, saying that they cannot afford to raise them. If you are thinking of adopting a cat, you should ask yourself if you can take good care of a cat. You need to observe cats, understand their instincts to hunt, and set up a living space accordingly. Also, you should make plans on how to raise a cat by considering the time and cost of raising cats.
Adopting stray cats not only saves them from dangerous situations, but also is taking responsibility for their lives to the end. It may take a long time for stray cats to get close to humans, and it may be difficult. Stray cats may have a disease, and can incur a lot of costs, such as having to go to the hospital for a long time or getting vaccinated. Therefore, with a warm heart for loving animals, you should consider adopting one with a careful mind, focusing on whether you can take responsibility for the life of a stray cat for the rest of its life.
Kim Yu-jeong (ST Cub-Reporter)
Kang Seung-wan (ST Cub-Reporter)