Note: it is important to mention that, in my opinion, this reflection does not apply to wild animals. This entry therefore only addresses stray cats, because the cat is a domestic animal and mankind causes the overpopulation problem.
Some cities forbid citizens to feed community cats for fear it would contribute to the feline overpopulation problem and increase the spread of diseases as well as consanguinity, owing to the gathering of several cats in the same places, in addition to increase cat abandonment.
I will share my opinion, even if this is a risky, sensitive topic.
First, I do not support those who take care of about 15 stray cats by feeding them on their balcony, because that actually might cause particular problems on that specific territory, for both the cats themselves and the neighbors. Conversely, I believe that feeding one or two cats during the winter does not contribute to feline overpopulation.
Several cities maintain that feeding strays interdictions aim to alleviate animal suffering (a stray that is not fed would die more quickly). Otherwise, they believe that such politics would address the overpopulation problem because the stray would be less likely to reproduce. This way of thinking seems to me to be a very inefficient way to address those issues, because hunger does not eliminate the reproductive instinct (even if it may be a factor of influence). Moreover, stopping to feed community cats would have very little influence on the number of cats in colonies. I would venture as far as to say that it could increase under-population problems for some of their preys, because those would become their only remaining source of food.
Some claim that feeding community cats encourages the reproduction of individuals afflicted with various diseases. In fact, I believe that not feeding them is worse, for a famished cat is more likely to contract serious diseases, and a gestating female suffering from malnutrition might give birth to kittens whose health will be highly compromised. Others argue that such an initiative encourages people to abandon their cat, knowing that others will care for it. Yet, studies show that people who do abandon their cat do not reach that level of consciousness. People abandon their animal either because they are irresponsible or because they do not know how to solve their animal’s behavioral problems. Period.
A law forbidding the feeding of stray cats would then have very little influence on the number of community cats, and would moreover seriously hinder the adoption of strays. Indeed, these cats would develop serious problems and would also be completely asocial, hence unsuitable for adoption. Do not forget that is it by being fed that the vast majority of stray cats develop their sociability towards humans, and that it is this affinity that makes adoption possible. If each house in a neighborhood would take charge of only one cat, either by making sure that his is sterilized, by taking him to the local SPCA or by resorting to an existing low-cost sterilization program, and if that home would then make sure to answer at least minimally the animal’s needs once he is released in nature, we would radically decrease the overpopulation rate in a very short time, at a very low cost.
Spending money to implement a law forbidding the feeding of cats is not a solution. I think that we should rather implement programs on sterilization awareness and render a basic training mandatory for anyone who wants to adopt a pet, as is the case in some European countries. Thus, we would reduce abandonment caused by behavioral problems, for not only would people have learned how to avoid the development of problematic behavior in their animals, but also they would know that solutions exist. The regulation of domestic animals commerce and the legal acknowledgment of the domestic animal’s status as being more than that of a toaster oven, as is currently the case, would also be very helpful to the cause.