‘Cat colonies’ on post pose health risks

By Mary-Elizabeth Phillips, USAG Intern

Stray cats are overpopulated on Fort Meade. They pose a potential risk to humans and are fatal to many species of wildlife.

Feeding or providing shelter to loose or wandering cats is against Fort Meade Regulation 40-22, according to Animal Control Officer John Butterfield. He said pet owners are reminded that on Army installations, per Fort Meade Regulation 40-22, cats are not allowed outdoors unless they are leashed.

Additionally, abandoning pets is a violation of state law and carries a $100 fine. Capturing a cat and providing medical treatment such as spaying or neutering is considered taking possession of that cat, said Butterfield.

“By returning these animals to the area where you found them, you have abandoned the animal and can be charged with animal abandonment,” he said.

If you see a loose or wandering cat on post, do not handle the cat yourself, said Butterfield. Call the DES non-emergency dispatch at 301-677-6622 and ask to speak with Animal Control. Report the incident with as much information as possible. You can also report on the Fort Meade app.

Once captured, the cat can be scanned by Animal Control for the required pet identification microchip. The cat can then be reunited with its owner or delivered to the Anne Arundel County animal shelter.

This is an important issue that requires raised awareness in order to provide these cats the most humane treatment as soon as possible and, ultimately, a safe domestic home.

In an effort to help cats that may have been abandoned or have wandered on post, some groups have built temporary outdoor shelters for the cats and/or are feeding them.

This perpetuates feral behavior in the cats, making them more dangerous to interact with and, ultimately, lowers the likelihood that they can successfully transition to a permanent domestic home, said Mick Butler, the environmental chief for the Fort Meade Directorate of Public Works.

A feral cat is, as a general description, a cat that lives outdoors and has had little or no human contact or socialization, according to most feral and stray cat-focused organizations. They do not allow themselves to be handled or touched by humans, and will run away if they are able.

The Fort Meade overpopulation has led to “cat colonies” on post, said Butler.

“These feral cat colonies tend to grow — despite the well-intended spay, neuter and release programs — by attracting more cats,” Butler said. “Cats have a very strong sense of smell and hearing, and if they are able to roam at night, then they’re apt to encounter another cat and follow it back to the colony.”

Cat colonies pose substantial health risks, said Butler.

“Life in a cat colony is not good for the cat, and the cat colony poses a public health risk for disease and insect/parasite transmission,” he said.

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