Confused about feral cats

Confused about feral cats

by Michael
(London, UK)

I am confused about feral cats. I am talking about feral cats in the USA as I almost never see them in the UK. Sure, I see stray cats but these cats have homes and were or still are domesticated, they just like to wander around and do some time share. There are feral cats in the UK but when I do a Google search for news items about feral cats (using incidentally) all I get is a pile of stuff from the USA. Either that means the subject is just talked about more in the USA because of greater concern or there are more feral cats and it is a greater problem. I favour the latter.

stray cat in Japan

When I read the news items from the USA there is some pretty heavy and highly confused, angry, passionate, good, bad and indifferent comment about how to deal with the feral cat problem.

There appears to be several well polarised camps. The first group are the sane ones, the good ones but they are the p*ss*d off ones. They are peeed off with the bad ones.

The good ones realise that the feral cat problem is our problem and in order to solve it in the long term the authorities and ultimately the people of America will have to change their attitude towards cats, keeping cats that is. They say that the feral cat should be treated humanely and TNR is the only route despite many who also say that TNR does not work and the only way to deal with feral cats is to kill ‘em anyway possible, which also doesn’t work because new feral cats fill the vacated space. Maybe they just plain like to kill ‘em. It gets something (probably anger at the world) out of their system.

Others see the feral cat as a wild animal, which it technically is and so it should be treated like all wild animals. Does that mean shooting it? I am confused about feral cats.

Others say the feral cat kills billions of birds etc. etc… And in order to preserve native species the pest of the feral cat must be wiped out. But how? They don’t know. And they don’t know if what they say is true (about birds being killed). The just like to spout it out, the sound bites. But there is no certain evidence that feral cats or domestic cats or both do have a significant impact on wildlife. One thing is certain though. Humans kill far more wildlife that cats and we have been doing that for a long time and sometimes we do it directly and deliberately like shoot ‘em. Other times it is indirect like building roads that end up killing cougars for example (in Florida).

It is no wonder I am confused about feral cats. When the only humane system of controlling feral cats, TNR is said to be a failure what is there left to do? The only route is to bite the bullet and force people to care for their cats more responsibly.

There is one more confusing aspect about all this. Some other groups say that the domestic cat must be kept indoors full-time all the time all over the USA. That would solve the feral cat problem eventually. Yet cats that are neutered if let out cannot create a greater feral cat problem as all they can be is a stray cat and if cared for properly will never stray from a good home. It comes back to good cat keeping, responsible cat keeping.  I also personally hate the idea of banging up cats for their entire lives. I know it is safe for the cats but is a safe boring, dull life better than an exciting, natural but shorter one? I don’t know but I like natural things and methods. Anyway we made the world so dangerous for our cats. It all comes back to us. We run the world. No we don’t, it is chaos. Am I confused about feral cats? Maybe not.

Maybe there is just a lot of confused commentary and comment. One thing for sure is that there are a lot of people who act irresponsibly and it comes all the way down from the top.

We have a social contract with the cat. A social contract is an unwritten contract that we care for the cat and the cat helps us – a good deal. People are often in breach of that contract and it is time that a proper approach to the problem was commenced with enforceable legislation. It won’t happen, the recession has seen to that. We are too busy surviving ourselves to care about the odd mangy feral cat that is being trapped, poisoned or shot at.

The ones who shoot ‘em hate ‘em. I love feral cats. I feel for feral cats. It makes me sad thinking about them. They don’t deserve to be in the position that they are in. We put them there. We are at fault. We are the bad ones. Punish us not the innocents.

Confused about feral cats to feral cats

Note about the picture: MAR has given me permission to publish his stray cat photos. Stray cat in this sense also means feral cats.

Michael Avatar

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Confused about feral cats

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Mar 21, 2011 thanks
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Apr 23, 2010 In Illinois.
by: Julie ,Alhambra,USA

The USA is considerable bigger than the UK. The UK has done a wonderful job of eliminating rabis. We haven’t. In fact,if a bat gets in your house here and your cat is not up to date on it’s shots;your cat can be taken from your home. The test they do on your cat kills it. If a cat bites a child and it runs off;your kid gets the shots. our 93 year old neighbor was bitten by a cat and had to get the shots. Wild cats are usually unseen unless they are hungry or sick.
I have lived in the country all of my life. I love having my morning coffee watching deer walk through our backyard or a freal cat stalking a rabbit.I believe in live and let live. I hunt with a camera. My husband hunts with a bow or a gun and usually kills only what he eats. (with the exception of coyotes) they are pet killers and go after live stock.
Not only do we have feral cats but we have Bob cats,rattle snakes,mountain lions and in some parts bears. Country folks are not as bad about complaining as to the natural order of things. yea,the cats are wild but so is most everything else!
Nature is both beautiful and cruel and I guess a lot of people have trouble with that.
Not all cats are pets and they really don’t want to be! live and let live.

Mar 10, 2010 I agree Michael
by: Ruth

A Pet Welfare bill is badly needed in the USA because of the many people who don’t care for their cats as they should.They look upon them as possessions instead of part of the family.
Given appropriate things to scratch would be a good part of it, then people couldn’t get a kitten and not even bother buying him a scratching post with the intention of having him declawed instead.
They then expect him to sit on a windowsill looking pretty, they should have bought an ornament instead !
Declawed cats can’t play properly with toys,they must live lives of boredom at the very least, even if they don’t have lasting pain or depression too.
People like Bob who are good cat caretakers give them the run of the house and plenty to do, which is what everyone should do if their cats can’t go out because of danger outside.
I think it’s very selfish to get a cat just for the sake of having one as a possession, each and every cat deserves the best life we can give them under whatever circumstances we live in.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Mar 10, 2010 One other point
by: Michael

I feel that in the UK we let a cat be a cat while in the USA there is a tendency (and I am generalising, I know, as there are some fine exceptions) to make a cat do and be what we want. Hence declawing and full-time indoor living without enclosures.

I think we should make our best efforts to let a cat act naturally. What is wrong with that? It should be a legal requirement and come to think of it is in the UK! See: UK Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats, which forms the basis of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Michael Avatar

Mar 09, 2010 feral cats
by: kathy

There is a lot of controversy on this subject. I feel exactly like all of you feel. I pesonally keep all my cats indoors. Midnight was brought in from the outside as Im sure you all know her story. I was taking Lia on walks outside with us last summer. He loves to be outside and we live in a very slow neighborhood on a dead end street, so theres not much traffic. One day the dog behind us was outside and he came barking up to the fence. Its an enclosed wooden type fence like a privacy fence. Lia freaked out and took off like a bat out of hell into the road, where he finally stopped because I was screaming at the top of my lungs at him. If anything would have happened to him I would have DIED. i JUST GOT him back a year ago. When I saw how fast he could run when scared I got scared. The spay and stay program in my area help people to manage what they call feral colonies. It also is a tnr program. They have workshops and have a monthly newsletter. They are great. People share information about their feral cat colonies and try to keep them intact. Lia already wants to go outside since its starting to get nice out. Now we have a patio and hopefully hell stay on it. Midnight does not even try to go back out and as far as our Savannah goes, Not for the money we paid for her would I even take the chance. We did purchase a large cat cage though and plan to put it on our patio so she can be out by us. Also there is the issue of fleas. Flea preventative is getting so costly. It too presents an issue about the outside thing. I love your comments about the human race, Michael, my sentiments exactly as Ive voiced them on this site before.

Mar 09, 2010 I agree
by: Ruth

Yes Michael, you are right about having an enclosure of some sort,even just a small one so the cat could roll in the grass,sit in the sun and breath fresh air, would add a lot of quality to the cat’s life.
I’ve come across many USA people though who say cats don’t want to go out, that they don’t need to go out.They are so wrong, the thing about cats that some people don’t realise is that they adapt to whatever life they have to live, because they have no choice.
It doesn’t mean they are happy and don’t want more, it means they accept what they have.
It’s the same with declawed cats,some people think they are not affected at all by having no claws,they are,but they have no choice except to adapt and get on with life the best they can. I always say, suicide is not an option for cats,even the unhappiest cat has to go on.
I wish people would stop and think and put themselves in a cat’s place just once in a while and maybe they would realise they weren’t being fair on the cat.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Mar 09, 2010 Nice
by: Michael

Well said Ruth and thanks for visiting. Bob is a great cat keeper. You won’t get better.

But I wonder why there is not more use of enclosures in the USA. There is plenty of space; much more so than in the UK (meaning the plots on which houses are built are often quite large). And a good sized enclosure would keep out wild animals that could harm a cat and keep in the cat.

OK there is a transmission of disease issue I suppose but on balance that would seem to be a decent compromise.

Michael Avatar

Mar 09, 2010 Feral cats
by: Ruth

I’ve noticed too what a huge problem feral cats are in the USA and how some people hate them so much they want them killed.You are right,it is a man made problem because irresponsible people abandoned cats in the first place and those cats had no choice but to learn to live rough and to fend for themselves.Worse still some were abandoned un-neutered, so naturally they bred and down the generations they were born even wilder because the instinct to survive outdoors was passed down to each litter of kittens.Even the tiniest feral kitten is very defensive,Nature is wonderful, ensuring those cats aren’t too vulnerable by being friendly.Some USA people just seem to turn out their cats when they tire of them,then they naturally gravitate to other cats living outside.Even declawed cats, when their behavioural problems begin from that cruel operation,some people ‘throw them out’ I don’t know how many survive but I’ve read many times about declawed cats living with feral colonies,just yesterday a 4 paw declawed was found amongst one !
I do understand that in some places it’s too dangerous for cats to go outside but I don’t understand why people who have low tolerance for cats and can’t be bothered to make their lives happy and fullfilled indoors, like Bob does,get a cat in the first place.They have added to the feral problem.
I think the problem isn’t as bad in the UK because of Cats Protection, whose volunteers TNR. I’ve done quite a lot of that, sat for hours by a trap until all the cats have been eventually caught, taken to be neutered and returned, and all the kittens taken into care to be tamed.
In this way a lot of colonies have died out naturally once they can’t breed, because feral cats don’t often live very long lives.
I also think UK people are a lot more tolerant as we always made sure the people who reported the feral cat problem,were willing to have the adult cats retured and would continue to feed them.
Most said yes once they knew there would be no more kittens.
The ones who said no, so we couldn’t return the cats, we tried to find farms for as we don’t have a proper feral farm here in N.E.England. We are raising funds right now to help Kevin of Kays Hill set up a feral unit,at present he only has 2 ferals,they are very unhappy in cages but there is nowhere for them to go.
I imagine it will be the same all over the UK, the problem of ferals gradually being sorted.
I wish there was a USA version of Cats Protection.There are some lovely USA people who care for ferals,many visit this site and are to be admired but they can’t cope with the whole country and sort the whole problem on their own.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Mar 09, 2010 Cats Friend
by: Michael

Hi Bob. We think alike. It is obvious that you are a great friend to cats and no doubt animals generally. I just find it surprising that there appears to be so few people who truly appreciate that we cause feral cats and feral cats are simply the innocent victims of humankind’s unthinking chaotic actions.

It is about time that people did things properly on a moral basis and with intelligence and thought rather than create haphazard unresolvable messes.

I am getting grumpy.

Michael Avatar

Mar 09, 2010 Great article!
by: Bob

From my experiences, it seems that there are people who are for killing ferals because they don’t understand them and see them as a problem and not as living, breathing animals. There are those who hate cats and don’t even know why or simply have no reason. My father was one of those people, that is until my cats charmed him into seeing them as family. Then there are those who think killing feral cats is protecting wildlife, never realizing that the cats are wildlife as well. The bottom line is that we are the problem, we are the reason they are out there, and we are responsible for the solution. TNR does work, some just think it doesn’t because they don’t see an immediate result. They don’t consider that the real result is that when those ferals die off naturally, there aren’t as many kittens behind them to take their places. I blame neglectful cat keepers for at least some of the problem. Personally, I do keep my cats indoors full time. I made that decision when I heard that the average life span of an indoor cat is 15-20 years and outdoor cats 1-3 years. Where I live, it can be dangerous. Raccoons and other animals in the woods, dogs, angry neighbors, and the very bad curve in my road makes for a very nasty outdoor environment. Besides, my house is very big and they have the run of the house, their own room full of climbing trees and cat furniture, and plenty of toys. They also have each other to play with and long hallways to chase each other along. I have three cats that came to me from the outside, and they show absolutely no interest in going back out. They know how dangerous it is outside, at least around here.

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