Thursday, June 27, 2013

Feral Facts

In dealing with the feral kitten issue by our house I've been trying to learn as much as possible.

If you'd like to read part one of this story before you read this, just click here.

I thought we had a random female cat that had given birth to a random group of kittens.

Not so.

Apparently our geographical area, like many, is covered by territorial type cat 'colonies'.

Many of the facts about feral cat 'colonies' surprised me.

First of all, I didn't even know such a thing existed.

We had originally noticed a black and white cat in our area but at the advice of the TNR (trap, neuter, return) volunteer we took a drive around our neighborhood just before full dark.

It was like an Easter Egg hunt.

"There's one!   There's one!"

Mr. Jenny and I were shocked to spot another black and white female with much larger kittens, four or five additional black and white cats and a black cat.

The coordinator told us that most like our cat colony would exist of 15 - 25 cats.

Each female could give birth to UP TO 15 kittens EACH YEAR!

Her first litter of kittens each year would be producing kittens before their first birthday, often as early as 6 months of age.

The number of new kittens each year in an uncontrolled colony was astonishing.

She went on to explain to me that a colony is stable at a specific number and that the death rate is quite high above that.

The more kittens born, the higher the death rate.

Food, water and shelter that supports 15 cats will not support 30 cats so the 'excess' will be plagued with illness, infections and more aggressive behaviour to find food and shelter.


I never imagined that such a sub-culture of cats even existed, much less thrived in the bushes and trees and greenbelts surrounding our urban neighborhood.

I persisted in our conversation with the idea that perhaps we could catch them and socialize them.

She gently discouraged my idea.  Many of these cats and kittens are dozens of generations deep into no human contact.   They are socialized only to cats and it is difficult and nearly impossible to socialize them to humans.

She gently suggested that a more humane use of our time might be in indentifying and neutering other cats in our neighborhood.

TNR procedures can and are:

- Ending the breeding cycle and stabilizing the population
- More effective and less expensive than extermination
- Eliminates or minimizes annoying behaviors such as spraying, yowling, and fighting.
- Helps end the suffering of unwanted, homeless cats.
-Reduces euthanasia due to the number of kittens flooding the already overburdened shelters.

She then asked me if my husband and I would be interested in having a trapping volunteer call.

When I agreed she informed me that someone would contact me within 24 hours.

"What do I do in the meantime?" I asked.   "The vet's office told me to just give them water and that they might move on."

"They are not moving on," she told me.   "To a feral cat shelter is almost as important as food.  If the kittens are getting that big, she's not moving them now."

"What are they eating?   There's no restaurants here or open trash cans?"

"The next time you're in your yard look around.   Do you see any bugs or scorpions?   What about birds?  Spiders?  See if you still have a lot of lizards in the yard."

I told her I would look for sure.

Then she said, "You don't have to feed them, but the healthier they are the more they can resist infections and fleas.  You could put out just a small amount of dry kibble with the water to help keep them healthy.   Don't give them tuna or tablescraps or wet cat food, though, because that will make the trapping process harder."


Wayyyy too much information for a non-cat person like me to absorb.

I relayed everything to Mr. Jenny and then we both realized that we haven't seen any pidgeons or bugs in the grass lately.  It has been months since I've had to wash off the pool apron from nasty bird droppings.   There are no spider webs and we haven't seen a scorpion EVER at this house.

Apparently the mother is working hard to keep those babies fed.

This morning I took my cell and caught this quick shot of one of the black and whites.   It disappeared in a micro-second.

The cat kibble was almost gone this morning so I refreshed it and gave them new water.

And I waited for the trapping coordinator to give us a call.

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Debra at HOMESPUN: said...

That is crazy ! ( The amount of them! : )

Jeanie said...

Not that I really have a clue, but it sounds like you are getting good advice. The best you can do is what the experts say, and you are very kind to be doing so much.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Isn't it amazing? I was shocked when I looked into it last year too. You are doing the best thing. Stopping them from breeding is the most humane. Good luck.

Unknown said...

Hey Sweetie,
Yes I am happy waiting for my sign....when I see you I have to tell you the story about the feral cats in my park...and what I was told by the management...but they were mostly eradicated, but I am seeing more of them again....they carry disease and fleas and ticks and God know what else....and they chose the RV lot that is next to us to breed, have you ever heard cats breed? OMG!!!! Screaming children, all night long...:)

Janie Junebug said...

The people across the street from me have a million cats, or maybe they feed feral cats. Hot Young Anthony who lives next door had to speak to them because he was finding dead kittens in his yard. They started neutering the cats then, but he warned me that their yard and all their animals are infested with fleas.


Linda @ A La Carte said...

I think feeding them dry food and doing the TNR is the most humane thing to do! Good for you and Mr Jenny!


Susan Anderson said...

This is absolutely fascinating. I had no idea such colonies existed.

The catch and neuter idea seems like a good one. And the no scorpion thing is a nice side benefit of these feral cats!

But I wouldn't like it if they started catching all the birds...

This is such a crazy thing!


Willoughby said...

Wow! Lots of things I never thought about!

We had dozens of cats roaming the neighborhood when we lived in Detroit, but it never occurred to me that they could be feral. I just thought of them as strays. We fed as many as we could and took one in when she had kittens.

Pat Tillett said...

My wife is involved in TNR, cat rescues, etc. Stopping them from reproducing is not only humane, it is the ONLY way to solve the problem. A feral cat is a wild animal and doesn't know any other life. It is the abandoned cats (or strays) that I feel really bad for. People (for some reason) think it is okay to dump their pets off at the park, in the forest, or just beside a highway. House cats don't have even a tiny chance of surviving very long in the wild.
Good Job Jenny!

Jenny Woolf said...

I know that there are charities that neuter feral cats in countries like Greece where there are an awful lot of them. I have to say that the wild cats we saw on a recent visit to Rhodes were truly beautiful and seemed happy, living their independent lives. But it's sad to think of so many kittens dying.

Barb said...

TNR is the most humane thing you can do. An organization you might want to check out on the Web is Alley Cat Allies ( They have a lot of helpful advice, but it sounds like you're getting great advice already. Contrary to junk science, feral cat colonies are *not* a blight to the eco-system, in terms of the bird and other animal populations.

We were really lucky with our cat Hee Seop. He was feral, but there was just one of him when he began appearing on our back porch several apartments ago. He's shy with strangers, but we were fortunate that I was able to socialize him. But it took months/years and lots of patience, and he isn't even socialized to other cats! It's funny to see him interact with the cats we already had, but he's getting better. Originally I planned to take him to a no-kill shelter with a socialization program, but they were full.

Betty said...

I've done this before and it's not that difficult. I even have my own humane trap. It is possible to tame some ferals. It just depends on the personality. I had a feral that we TNR and she lived in my shed for nine years. I was heartbroken when she disappeared when we had slab work done on the house. (Strangers in the yard scared her off.) It just wasn't possible to tame her. However, I kept a litter that we TNR (after releasing them they became sorta tame, so I brought them inside). Now they're tame with us, but hide if anyone comes to the house. There's a Yahoo Group for people that TNR. I haven't checked it out in a long time, but I'm assuming it's still there. My advice is to put newspaper on the floor of the trap. They don't always like to step on the wire. Put a towel or something over the top of the trap to make it seem more cave like. You can let them get used to the trap by putting it outside ahead of time and wiring the trap door open. I used to put out food and each day move the food closer and then finally inside the trap. After they ate there a couple of days I set the trap. In no time we had the first one. Good luck and thank you for helping those kittens! I wish everyone would spay and neuter their pets. I sound like Bob Barker.

Betty said...

Just one more thing in case you were wondering. Yes, I am the crazy old neighborhood cat lady. I never set out to be one, but there's a feral colony nearby and the rest is history. There would be no feral cats if people were responsible pet owners. My yard backs up to an apartment complex and I think people sometimes move away and leave them. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's where the feral colony got its start. It's very, very sad.