Feeding Feral Cats

Just a quick post regarding feeding feral cats. Don’t do it. And if you do, consider yourself a cat owner.

If a cat comes to you every day to be fed, they are now your pet!

Unfixed cats with a full belly are prime for reproduction. They will increase their numbers exponentially, and if there was ever a time to use the word exponential, it is when you are talking about cat reproduction.

Cats, like rabbits, have lots of little babies. One unfixed cat can have six babies. Of those six kittens at least half can have six babies each. And so on . And so on.

I think the thing to remember is that these cats would not thrive unless someone was feeding them. If there were truly wild animals their numbers would not increase as they do when they are supplied with daily kibble.

Some may consider me soft hearted when it comes to cats. Some will joke and tease, how many cats do you have now? I admit it is five at this moment (with some of them quite elderly). But even as I love them, I can be sick of them.

There was a time when my husband would cry out ‘attrition’ if I ever mentioned taking in another cat, and I don’t blame him. If I had only my three older cats (and their vet bills) that would be enough!

But no, I had to rescue that last two. Marlon was a pile of wet fluff crying under a rock along the shore last fall and the newest one, Sean, moved in on me by staring into my eyes with the same expression of the beloved, just deceased, sister of Marlon, Stella. Stella had just died (wild cats are not always healthy) and I was missing her sweet face when this obvious relative snuck in to the empty spot.

Okay, in some ways I am a sucker. But here is something surprising about me. I did something very difficult years ago when I was tying to help out my wonderful elderly neighbour who fed cats in her back attic.

And when I say elderly, I mean elderly. Phyllis was around 98 years old when we moved into Baie Verte and she was still living in her own home. She would creep up the back kitchen stairs every night to bring a tray of food to her cats and kittens, much to the consternation of another neigbour who feared that she would fall down the stairs. And this same neighbour wanted to fix the cat problem by trapping them and taking them away.

I knew that Phyllis would be upset to see the cats caged and taken away so when the kittens were old enough I took it upon myself to live trap them all when she wouldn’t see it. And then I found homes for some but some of the older cats had to be put to sleep. I had heard of a veterinarian who believed that stray cats were a major problem and she did it for me for free. It was fast and painless.

But not painless for me! And consider that at the time I just a big soppy urban goofball who had recently moved to rural New Brunswick from Toronto. But I did it because I knew that it had to be done. It was difficult but I did it to save my friend from that pain .

The kittens gave Phyllis so much joy! My daughter Rose named the nightly tray of food, cat lasagna, because Phyllis would lay down canned cat food, then layer on meat and egg left overs from her meals, and top it with kibble. But how Phyllis laughed when she told me about the kittens heads popping out of a hole in an old trunk in her attic.

I ended up taking one of those kittens and she was a brilliant cat named Julia, who lived a long healthy life. Julia always had a feral heart so I could not take her to the veterinarian unless she agreed, and she only did that once when a wound on her leg would not heal. And the last time, of course, when we took her to our beloved veterinarian to be put to sleep after a stroke smote her elderly heart.

In those days the cats that I housed or homed were extremely healthy. But the recent generation seems more prone to feline leukemia and that is another reason you don’t want feral cats brawling and breeding in our gardens.

Twenty years later I am still finding homes for cats. It’s like a part time job. I create Facebook posts and make deliveries and call shelters. I have not put any down, thank goodness, since that time long ago but that is because of the amazing LA Animal Shelter in Amherst NS, and the fabulous work they do finding homes for cats and dogs.

Still, it would really help if people would stop feeding and breeding feral cats. I know fixing a cat is pretty expensive and I know we don’t have a veterinarian college like they do in PEI that offers fix and release programs, but we can’t just give up and let cats take over the town.

The LA Animal Shelter is offering some very good programs like Mama’s Last Litter, or the Working Cat Program for those that want a cat for ‘mousing’. In the Working Cat Program the organization fixes and inoculates feral cats who are not likely to be adopted so that they can be adopted by those who need a healthy fixed barn cat.

But lord, I don’t want any more cats. Every time we get on top of finances, and that is pretty hard these days, a cat decides to have some health crisis. There is one particular cat, who I have already warned (you heard me Slinky), who is at the limit and may be put out to sea on an ice float. Just kidding. Probably won’t do that.

OK, I’ve got to go. I have to head out this evening to pick up a livetrap. I am trying to catch a very pregnant cat who has already been offered a place at the LA Animal Shelter… there is an icy wind but spring is here!

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