You might think so from the letter the American Bird Conservancy sent to 50 mayors this week, including Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak.

Specifically, the ABC wants the mayors to stop encouraging trap-neuter-release programs that are widely used by animal shelters and other animal protection organizations, including Animal Ark in Minnesota. The idea is that feral cats, which cannot be turned into domestic pets, are caught, neutered, and then released back into the wild. Often, they congregate in "cat colonies," especially if a cat-loving person puts out food for them.

Feral cats gather to feed at a colony in Anoka. Animal Ark Shelter manages the colony of about 50 cats. Star Tribune photo.

The programs were designed in an effort to control the explosive growth of feral cats, usually the offspring of domestic cats that have been born and raised outdoors with little or no social contact with humans. They are, in effect, wild animals that continue to breed more wild animals. Female cats start breeding at six months. One cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in just seven years.

There are now an estimated 95 million outdoor and feral cats in the United States that kill at least 532 million birds, and perhaps more, the ABC says. They are far more common in the south, but the numbers in Minnesota are growing, according to local animal shelters, because our winters are warmer.

The ABC says that more and more cities are turning to neutering programs to save money on animal control. Instead of euthanizing wild cats, they allow local groups to do TNR. Advocates of the practice say it's the most cost-effective and humane solution. But ABC disagrees:

The implicit sanctioning of cat colonies only encourages people to dump more unwanted cats, ABC says. Cats can also transmit diseases such as rabies, toxoplasmosis, to humans. Last month about 30 feral cats in northwestern Florida were euthanized following tests that confirmed two feral cats in the area were rabid.

Instead, communities concerned about feral cats should enact mandatory licensing programs, which would pay for the cost of finding homes for unwanted and abandoned cats and educate home owners how to hang onto them in the first place. Cat owners should keep their cats indoors, or let them outside only on a leash or in an enclosure designed for cats. (Sound like a dog fence?)