I know I hit this topic frequently but…

Yesterday I had a would-be client walk into our hospital requesting a treatment for mange on some outdoor cats in her neighborhood. She stormed out the door after the following exchange:

Her: I need something for mange on cats.

Receptionist: I’m sorry but by law we’re unable to provide specific care for animals the doctors haven’t examined directly.

Her: But what am I supposed to do for these strays?

Me (emerging from behind the desk after overhearing the exchange): The receptionist is correct but perhaps I can offer you an off-label use of some over-the-counter medication for that purpose, given your predicament. (I then pull a package of Revolution from behind the counter.) You must apply one tube directly to the cats today and again in two weeks. After that, administer it monthly to prevent their re-infection with the mite.

Her: You must be kidding—I can’t get near them!

Me: Consider trapping them, then. The Cat Network can lend you one or you can buy one for $45 at the local feed store. You can purchase certificates for low-cost spaying and neutering through the Network so they can get the full benefit of your attention.

Her: $45? Purchase certificates? You think we’re made of money? These cats are suffering and you vets are responsible for this problem. If you people demanded it we could have these animals cared for. I come from Canada where there are no cats on the street and they get humane treatment or euthanasia immediately. The vets there care about stray animals.

Me: (Thinking: That, or they die of the sub-freezing temperatures when winter rolls around.) Consider that we’re on your side but our community believes otherwise—unfortunately, most people like to have their cats go outside, something we vets [generally speaking] advise against.

Her: But cats deserve to go outside sometimes—it’s in their nature.

Me: Then you’re part of the problem, Ma’am. Cats reproduce quickly before most people care to spay and neuter them and our mild weather year-round doesn’t help.

Her: (storming out without comment, apparently insulted) You people are all the same!

Me: (to the receptionist) Well, that was fun.

Her: (making a brief reappearance) In case I wanted to buy some of that stuff, how much is it?

Me: It doesn’t matter—you won’t want to pay for it.

I admit to having been rude but I’d had a rough day and I seldom have patience for the in-principle-only bleeding-hearts of this world. Unless you put your money and your time where your [big] mouth is, you have no right to berate me or my staff for our culture’s failings.

But she’s right—we vets need to get more active about demanding that cats get the same treatment as dogs. They need to be contained, tagged and vaccinated just like our canines. Those who oppose and let their cats out? Their cats should run the risk of being trapped and—potentially, if they’re not tagged or chipped—even euthanized .

All cats outdoors are predatory offenders to our environment. They are a non-native species that has no intrinsic right to our wilds—urban, suburban or rural. No exceptions.

You give your cats free reign of the outdoors outside of your constant vigilance? Then, you, too, might be part of the problem—whether your cats are spayed, neutered and vaccinated—or not. Why? Because even healthy outdoor cats (according to basic epidemiologic principles) add to the proliferation of disease. Not to mention the safety concerns inherent in living (even partially) outdoors.

Sure, I have strays outside my house. I also have a trap. I catch them, euthanize the FIV or FeLV positive ones (sad as it may be) and have even been known to “fix” them on my kitchen table. If I choose to feed them as part of my “program,” I don’t consider that wrong. At least I’m doing my part to relieve their overall suffering and their impact on our environment.

I know some of you are going to hate me for writing this (and it makes me cringe to anticipate your [respectable and respectful] responses) but every girl’s got to get a little militant about something. This is my issue—not just because I love cats enough to want them safely indoors instead of sick and mangy, but also because I respect the claim of our songbirds, lizards, snakes and rodents to the feline-free safety of their native environment.