Do we know the percentage of stray to feral cats? I don’t think we do and we should. I have searched for the figures without success. I can tell when the internet cannot provide me with the information I am looking for and this is a case in point.
Stray cats are domestic cats that have gone walkabout. They are still domesticated and still have an ‘owner’. They can and should be returned to their owner if they have strayed far away. Sometimes stray cats roam their home range that includes the home of the owner – true outdoor/indoor cats that are bordering on becoming feral.
There are also degrees to which cats have become feral. It is a sliding scale and not black and white as is portrayed in the press. The online newspapers write of the ‘feral cat’ as if it has those words tattooed on his forehead. But what if 30% of cats roaming around the suburbs are still domesticated and should be classified as stray cats. That would put a different complexion on the feral cat problem and how to deal with it.
If there is a high percentage of stray cats out there that are being labelled feral, then these cats can and should be re-homed. They are adoptable and they should not be taken away and euthanised or shot or whatever. That is because someone owns them under the law. To deliberately kill, even humanely, a stray cat that belongs to someone must be a crime – criminal damage. If we treat cats as ‘chattels’ possessed by a person (as specified by law) then killing a cat is the same as deliberately damaging someone’s car or house etc.. How many times every day are cat shelters committing the crime of criminal damage and getting away with it?
I don’t see in the cat stories a proper demarcation being made between feral and stray cat. The demarcation is important because the way we treat and manage them should be completely different. A feral cat has, by definition, no ‘owner’. They are outside the laws that protect human property rights. They do fall under animal welfare laws but these are relatively weak compared to laws that are for the benefit of people.
The reason these thoughts came to mind is the forthcoming Olympics in London, UK. A strange connection. Before the Olympic village was built on derelict land in East London, the organisers had to clear the ground, knock down buildings and make the land safe (remove chemical pollutants etc.).
‘Feral cats’ had taken up residence in many abandoned buildings. The bulldozers where moving in to remove them. This endangered the feral cats. Celia Hammond, the former glamorous model famously photographed by David Bailey, saved these cats through her cat charity, C.H.A.T (Celia Hammond Animal Trust). She did a fine job and some of the cats were hard to trap.
The last cat to be trapped and saved was Blackjack. He was super independent and smart. What I find interesting and surprising is that CHAT found homes for many of these cats. They appear to have been socialised cats that had gone astray. True adult feral cats can be socialised but it takes a lot of effort. I am sure CHAT did not socialise these cats before finding them homes.
So we have independent cats that had no apparent ‘owner’, that were living rough and not in a person’s home and yet were stray cats and not true feral cats. These were cats that had all the appearance of being feral but were strays and adoptable.
Here are two examples, completely at home and thoroughly relaxed:
The people who took in Blackjack say he is getting on fine.
“He’s a wonderful personality and lots of fun to have around..”
There you have it. Stray cats that looked like feral cats. How many feral cats in the USA are stray cats? We should know. And we should have a handle on that aspect of the ‘feral cat problem’, which brings me to microchipping or some other form of identification (a better way is tattooing the inside of the ear, I think). Microchipping carries some health issues and requires equipment to read them.
If all owned cats were identifiable, we could separate them out from feral cats if they became stray cats. That would allow them to be returned to their owner. It would improve the rights of the cats concerned. It would ease up space at shelters. And it would be the right thing to do. All we have to do is create some law! This would make it obligatory to identify one’s cat. I don’t think it would be that big a deal or a problem. The process is fast and easy and could be bundled together with vaccinations. It could simply be a routine stage in adopting a cat.
What is holding up this commonsense solution? Motivation. Or the other side of the coin to motivation: apathy. The cat is low priority with legislators. There may even be more sinister reasons. The whole cat shelter, animal control, humane society businesses are just that, they are businesses. There are a lot of jobs based on stray cats…
Note: I have published a picture from CHAT. I feel I can because I have donated to them.