Wednesday, October 15, 2008
National Feral Cat Day
The picture is blurry but it shares the plight of the feral cat today. This pair are living in state park and who is feeding them? Some good soul. They are beautiful creatures. Always wild? Or maybe reverted after abandonement? In any case they are ambassadors for their cause.
The Vacuum Effect
Stray cats provoke many different responses from differing segments of society. The understanding of the cat as predator and a survivor under harsh circumstances leads some to justify their abandonment of pets when no longer desired. All stray cats are not feral, many are lost. A frightened housecat will display self preserving behaviors towards strangers, causing some confusion as to the cat’s true temperament. A feral cat is an unsocialized cat, born outside or one that has been stray for a long period of time developing distrust for humans. Feral cats prey on rodents and have been taken in to keep granaries and barns clean. Feral cats are opportunistic feeders, scavenging on garbage and moving into territories we may not find acceptable. Rarely do cats prey on birds, although indoor pets with high curiosity and a full belly may lead society to believe differently. A single queen may have several litters in one year, all of whom may reach maturity before six months and begin creating their own offspring. Cat populations climb steadily out of control without sterilization. Many believe they are a problem that can be dealt with by outdated ideals of trap and kill. Trap and remove is a costly process. The territory and its resources of food and shelter become available for other cats to move in and quickly form a new colony. Unsterilized survivors bred prolifically. This is known as the “vacuum effect” and is well documented. Many animal control services who have dealt with the killing of stray cat populations are turning to programs of trap, neuter and release or TNR. The feral cat colonies may be trapped; sterilized and released back into the area they were caught. They are ear tipped while under anesthetic to ease identification. Kittens under twelve weeks may be socialized and adopted into new homes. Stray cats joining a feral colony may also be re-socialized and adopted. TNR is cost effective for communities who develop a comprehensive program enlisting community volunteers. By implementing TNR in an area, the cat population becomes reduced gradually. Some areas have banned feeding of stray cats which also adds suffering to the problem forcing scavenging of garbage. October 16th has been designated National Feral Cat Day and many communities are planning educational campaigns. For more information check out Alley Cat Allies website at alleycat.org.