Robert Gallegos writes about feral cats
This is one of the best articles I've read about feral cats. Robert Gallegos is a life long lover of cats. He is dedicated to sharing his understanding of the cat experience, reducing the epidemic feral cat situation, and helping cat lovers to provide the best care for their cats.
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Ever Wondered What It's Like to Be Lost in a Mean World?
That's a scary thought. Dark, lonely nights shivering with the chill of an impending winter; finding warmth in any nook that can be found. Not a friendly face in sight if she was born feral. Food is scarce and looking for more is really tiring, but she continues searching anyway... anyway she can, or else she'll starve. She might find a group of like-minded souls and together they form a kind of "self-preservation" society. Staying together to stay alive even in spite of the diseases that can (and often do) spread through the colony. But then, they're not her kind and only remind her of what it is she has really lost. Home, family, comfort and peace of mind. That's what it's like to live the life of a feral cat.
So, just what is a feral cat? Well, they are domestic cats that, for whatever reason, have found themselves homeless. Or, they are the children of domestic cats. They are not "wild cats" which are animals that have never been domesticated. How a domestic cat finds herself homeless is a matter of speculation. She may have run away from abuse or neglect. Many belong to unwanted litters and have been abandoned to fend for themselves by people who haven't the heart to take them to an animal shelter, fearing they'll only be euthanized. But then, some just get lost and no one's to blame for that. And, who knows. Cats may very well have to take some of the blame themselves for coming off so darned self-sufficient, aloof, and independent. It leads people to mistakenly think that a 'domestic cat in the wild can quite easily take care of herself, thank you'.
Of course that's not true. The normal domestic cat's life span averages somewhere around 14 or 15 years compared to a feral life expectancy of 2 years. If she's born feral she'll be lucky to make it out of kitten-hood. The mortality rate for feral litters is 50%. Those that make it to adulthood are, if they are female, always pregnant and the males are always in a fight for mating privileges. That's not much of a life in my book. And since so many feral cats find themselves in an urban environment, the search for food is very challenging (a lot of dumpster diving). Nope, not a pretty life.
If you come across a feral cat, can she be re-domesticated? Good question. If she has the memory of a home and the domestic life, there is good reason to believe she can accept a new home offered to her. Feral kittens caught by the time they are 4-6 weeks old can usually be quite easily tamed. Older kittens may be domesticated, but with greater difficulty. Fully grown feral cats are usually impossible to tame, let alone allow you to get close enough to pet them. In all cases it's persistence on the part of a human care-giver that greatly determines the success of a feral cat being re-domesticated.
Feral cats will form into colonies where they seek safety in numbers and share nursing responsibilities. Un-spayed females can have up to (3) litters a year. It's that prolific breeding rate that is the biggest problem. Some estimates project there are 60 million feral cats in the U.S. Coupled with another 60 million cats in homes, that averages out to about (1) cat for every (2+) people in this country alone. That's a lot of cats!
Some want to blame feral cats for the decimation of bird populations, and play on our fears that these homeless are spreading health hazards (though most of the health hazards come from living in the colonies themselves). But, the most compelling argument for declining bird populations could be from the loss of habitat and window strikes do to people moving into areas that not long before had been natural wilderness or farmland. I haven't seen many gangs of feral cats scourging the countryside like Vandals preying on rare birds or other habitat species.
What do you do if you discover a feral cat or even a colony? TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) programs have sprung up all over the country. These programs consist of rounding up the colony and taking them to a pre-arranged clinic where they are neutered or spayed, given medical check-ups and released back to where they were captured. Then care givers provide them with food and shelter until the colony disappears from natural reasons. Mainly, because there are no more litters being born. There are those who propose "search and destroy" missions to rid the problem... but, we're not Neanderthals here, so I won't go there. Find a program by asking your veterinarian, calling the animal shelter in your town, or look in the phone book for local humane societies. Usually traps can be loaned for the purpose of capturing feral cats and clinic dates can be arranged for their neutering and spaying.
It's believed that around 3500 B.C. Egyptians began to domesticate the wildcats of Africa. Since then cats have been companions to humans and have been populated around the world wherever people have taken them. Their initial "wild" instincts for survival only remain in rudimentary form. Hence, if a modern day "house" cat becomes feral, she is just as influenced by her millenniums of domestication as she is by the natural instincts of the wild environment she left so long ago. If you have ever owned a cat that failed to come home... the sting of that loss can be felt right in your soul. As for your cat, who's to say she doesn't feel that pain, too.
All animals have the ability to show hurt, joy, sadness and even loss. Maybe they can't articulate feelings into words or cohesive thought... but, they still can feel emotions. A feral cat is a lost cat who wants to come home. She may not know how to to that, but, the instinct to bind with human companionship keeps her near to us; whether she is hiding in alleyways, or in a farmer's barn. Likewise, our appreciation and desire for her companionship drives us to want to help her escape that mean and fearful situation.
The modern advancements of our technological world tend to insulate people, causing them to believe we have a distant "otherness" from the natural world. But, denying that we are in-separate and well ensconced in nature is done so at peril to our own existence. Applying our nobler nature to resolving the feral cat condition will only raise our consciousness to a higher level and manifest the realization that what happens to one of us as creatures of the earth, happens ultimately to us all. We need to bring our lost kitten friends back into the fold of our compassion and our homes... where they belong.
Visit Robert J Gallegos' website, Cat Lover Gifts World, a web site dedicated to proper cat care with quality cat lover gifts based on an understanding of cat behavior, instincts and the unique requirements for healthy cats as pets. Cats are the newest of animals to be domesticated and still have one paw in the wild. It's a major reason why they're so mysterious and resistant to human expectations.
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