Toxoplasmosis, rabies, encephalitis, plague, human granulocyticehrlichiosis, Q fever, and what the Center for Disease Control calls CSD (Cat Scratch Disease). Although rare in nations with proactive animal control laws, these diseases are part of a group of ailments known as zoonoses, or diseases that jump from one species to the next. These particular nasties are just some of the diseases that humans can contract through contact with feral cat populations. And, a scratch or a bite is not always necessary; saliva or feces from an infected cat can spread disease as well.
Bilkent has a substantial feral cat population. Although the cats are usually not aggressive and will only come into contact with humans when we primates allow it (and thus choose to endanger our health), this is not always the case. Feral cats on East Campus have taken to breaking into the lojman flats, spreading garbage, and sometimes crawling and pouncing on sleeping faculty (as happened to me last night). The chances of such an intruder leaving saliva, fleas, or feces in such occasions is significant.
Bilkent housing has not responded to pleas from East Campus residents to remove the feral cats, thus putting the residents at risk of serious disease. There are several steps that the University can take to reduce the feral cat population. Catch, spay/neuter, vaccinate, and release (relocate) programs are popular in Europe and North America. So is licensing. Irresponsible pet ownership is the primary cause of feral cat populations.
In conjunction with a catch and release program, if every pet owner at Bilkent were required to license, vaccinate, and neuter/spay his or her pet, the numbers of animals turned to the wild would decrease. If the pet owner tired of its charge or wished to leave Bilkent, he or she would be forced to show whether the animal had been given away (thus a new license would be issued), exported, or euthanized.
In any case, the University owes it to the safety and well-being of its employees to act quickly to move feral cat populations away from living areas. For information on the spread of disease from domestic cats (not only feral ones) to humans in Central Europe go to: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod
Kate Sampsell, J.D., Ph.D.
In Response to the Letter:
Dear Dr. Sampsell,
Due the number and intensity of complaints and requests, the University Administration issued an announcement on October 23 and listed the measures taken. The announcement has been posted on the block entrances and can be obtained from the Housing Office. Thank you for your informative letter.
The Housing Office Management