Yvette Harper is an extraordinary lady. She understands feral cats and knows that you never force along the process of socialization. It’s baby steps all the way otherwise you get knock-backs because cats lose the trust that has been patiently gained. She has being socialising feral cats for about four years. For those who are unsure what ‘socialising’ cats means, in essence it is turning a feral cat (essentially a wild animal) into a domestic cat able to live with humans and other companion animals.
In this 24 minute podcast she explains what motivates her and how she does it. Did you know that there are three kinds of feral cat in Australia? Yvette explains. She lives in Narrogin, a small country town of just over 5,000 in Western Australia about 200 kilometres southwest of Perth.
The file may take a second or two to load. Please start the interview by clicking on the play button. Adjust the volume using your computer controls. Try and listen to it when you are chilled out, perhaps in bed before sleeping or on Sunday morning!..
Some of the male feral cats that she has socialised and domesticated have weighed 22 lbs (10 kgs – one weighed 12 kg). They are all muscle and wild! She really has a sophisticated and well thought out method of turning totally ‘unadaptable’ cats into the most friendly, cuddly and charming companions. Also the cats are socialised to dogs (and other animals it seems – see below) because she has two dogs so the cats get used to being around dogs…
“Everything is done under the watchful eye of my Great Dane.”
I could have talked for much longer with Yvette but had to stop to limit the audio file size (it is still too large!). I think she is unique and a lot of people could learn from her. Very rarely, it can take Yvette up to 18 months to socialise a feral cat. As I recall from my chat with Yvette it normally takes around 6-9 months for a tom cat – ‘they are the biggest teddy bears’. Patience and going at the pace the cat dictates are pretty much the keys to success.
One of her socialised cats thinks mice are friends and some of the re-homed cats are living with free-living birds. She has a 97% success rate. Yvette works with two animal rescue organisations to re-home the cats once she has turned them from wild moggies to friendly felines. When she started about four years ago there were quite a lot of feral cats roaming the streets of her neighborhood. Nowadays there are very few.
“The first time I drove around the streets at 2am I saw at least 50 cats roaming around,” she said.
“The last time I was out around that time I only saw 2.”
The authorities should be delighted as they are very concerned about feral cat predation on native species. Her work is welcomed by the community. She made sure that they were with her.
Alternative to TNR
In my opinion, socialising and adopting out feral cats is actually better than TNR as you take the cats off the streets and place them in loving homes. It is a local solution to the so called ‘feral cat problem’.
I hope visitors listen to the whole interview. It’s almost all Yvette describing how she does it and her successes. I almost forgot, she has 6 cats of her own.
Intro: I asked if Ingrid Newkirk would answer some questions that I had formulated and she kindly agreed. The idea was to understand Ingrid a little more because she is so important to global animal welfare. I was also interested to hear her thoughts on feral cats.
Question: Did you have any personal experiences in the early part of your life which led to you to formulating the thoughts that you have presently with respect to our relationship with animals?
Ingrid’s answer: Many. I grew up with a dog, who was there when I was born and was like a brother to me. Later, I came across a pig who had been abandoned and was dying on a farm, and thinking about what he was enduring made me realise that perhaps the pig who died for the pork chops in my refrigerator must have suffered, too. I picked a lobster for my dinner in a fancy restaurant, and he waggled his antennae at me, making me realise that it was his only way of communicating and that no animal wants to be eaten. At 19, I found a squirrel who had died in a steel trap in the woods as well as a fox who was still alive in another, and I realised where my fur coat collar came from. Then I read Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation, and my philosophy gelled. I realised, as Henry Beston did, that all discrimination is wrong, whether based on skin colour, gender, species, or anything else, and that we must try to look out for others, not exploit them because we have the power to. We all feel pain and joy and want to live, so I decided to talk and write about that to others and to convince people that they could make kind choices (one of my books is called Making Kind Choices) in absolutely everything they do and with everything they buy. People are enormously powerful and can change so much for the better.
Question: What vision does PETA have of the perfect world with respect to our relationship with animals? (Please refer to both wild and domestic animals). If you can provide some detail that would be nice. What I am looking for is what your organisation would like to see with respect to our relationship with domestic cats, for example. Should there be no domestic cats and domestic dogs at all in the world? Or do you think that community cats (unowned cats cared for in the community) are acceptable?
Ingrid’s answer: Since 1980, PETA has campaigned to establish a global society in which humans consider the needs of those whom Henry Beston, the noted 20th century American writer and naturalist, so beautifully called “the other nations”. We uphold individual animals’ right to be respected. For most, particularly in the wild, that means simply leaving them alone.
In a perfect world, all animals would be free from human interference and able to live the way nature intended. Cats and dogs would be part of the ecological scheme, as they were before humans domesticated them. But the world we live in is not perfect, and domesticated cats and dogs are not capable of surviving on their own in our concrete jungle with our traffic and so on. Many are homeless and in need of help, so humans have a responsibility to take the best possible care of them. Our history of breeding animals for companionship, sport, and show, often to designer specifications, has left many with serious health conditions – including pugs with squashed faces that impair their breathing and bulging eyes that can pop out in an accident, dysplastic dogs with weak hips that cause joint pain, and pink-and-white cats with eye problems.
Breeding has also created a host of other issues, including a staggering homeless-animal crisis. Once domesticated, cats and dogs who aren’t spayed or neutered come into heat often and can each have many litters. As a result, millions of unwanted animals end up in rescue centres each year, and many are euthanised simply because there aren’t enough homes for them all. Countless others are abused, neglected, abandoned to fend for themselves, or kept in sheds and hutches – lonely, frustrated, and denied a real life. This abysmal situation will continue as long as people go on breeding animals. For this reason, PETA urges anyone who is willing to commit the considerable time, patience, love, and money required to care properly for an animal to steer clear of breeders and pet shops and instead adopt one or more of the dogs, cats, and other animals waiting at a local shelter – and always to have them spayed or neutered.
Question: I know PETA believes that all feral cats should be humanely killed but that seems to be an extreme concept. And how would you like to see wild cat species conservation changed?
Answer: That claim about PETA’s stance on feral cats is false. We approve of trap-neuter-vaccinate-return programmes when the cats are (1) isolated from roads as well as humans and other animals who could harm them, (2) regularly attended to by people who not only feed them but also take care of their medical needs, (3) provided with proper shelter from the elements, and (4) located in an area where the climate is temperate. However, simply abandoning cats to a daily struggle for survival in a hostile environment is cruel – people would never abandon their own cats to fend for themselves. I encourage anyone who thinks otherwise to do two things: when it is winter and bitterly cold, maybe during a blizzard, instead of running from the car into the house and complaining about the weather, try sitting under a shed for the night – in fact, for an entire week – and see if you still think cats can fend for themselves. Also, try never going to a doctor, dentist, or hospital and not taking any medicines – not even aspirin or eye drops – for the rest of your life, no matter what ailment befalls you, and see if that works for you. That, among other horrors, is what you are condemning cats to when you leave them outdoors. With regard to feral cats who are abandoned without further care, the question is not if they will suffer on the streets but when they will suffer and for how long before enduring a painful and likely terrifying death. You can read more about PETA’s stance on the issue here.
Regarding species conservation, we are opposed to all hunting of animals, regardless of whether it is purportedly done for “sport”, for amusement, or as a callous nuisance-abatement method.
Question: Do you see human population growth as the massive problem that it is?
Answer: It is indisputable that the limited supply of land, water, and other resources makes human overpopulation a serious issue for all species, including our own. But it also makes wastefulness – with meat consumption one of the main culprits – a pressing issue. So PETA, as an animal rights organisation, focuses on helping people embrace vegan food, clothing, other products, and entertainment in order to prevent animals from being caged, tormented, tested on, and killed.
My sincere thanks to Jennifer White of PETA for organising this and to Ingrid Newkirk for answering my questions. Her answer on feral cats indicates that I had misconstrued PETA’s objectives. PETA does polarise views because they take an uncompromising stance on animal welfare. I, for one, wholeheartedly support them. It’s the only way to fight back against those who wish to abuse animals for financial profit.
Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.
The Ark on the Edge is an Animal Sanctuary in Woodland, County Durham – not to be confused with Rainbow Ark in Willington, County Durham, which was recently closed down and all the animals sent to other Rescue Shelters all over the country. More about that Ark at a later date.
Pat Kingsnorth, who along with her volunteers, is dedicated to the animals in her care. This is quite obvious when she says:
‘ I didn’t come into rescue to make money or be a business, I came to do whatever I could to help save and rehome those poor animals left and not wanted’
I asked her some questions for PoC and I’m sure if anyone has any more she will be willing to answer them too.
1.How long have you owned your Sanctuary? ‘6 years as Ark on the Edge but some 24 years from moving to County Durham and 30 years prior to that rescuing animals, mainly cats’
2.How many species of animals do you have? ‘Cats, dogs, rabbits, owls, kestrels, hawks, geese, ducks, deer, foxes, guinea pigs, degu, goats, horses, donkeys, hamsters, gerbils etc, the list goes on’
3.Because this is an interview for a cat web site we’d love to know how many cats you care for? ‘I personally had 21 cats in my own care just over a year ago but lost 5 in short space of time due to old age. Now just have 16 all of who are well over 12 years. In the last year over 170 cats have been successfully rehomed but only after full vet checks, neutering, vaccinations, worming, defleaing, microchipping and of course house checks’
4.What excuses do people make for relinquishing a pet cat to you and your thoughts on those reasons?
“We are moving to a rented property and not allowed to take pets” – ‘so why if you love your pet don’t you find somewhere else?’
“My child has an allergy” – ‘so why not try to sort it rather than rehome the pet?’
“Can’t afford it” – ‘so give up some fags, drink, nights out as a tin of cat food and some water costs very little. Put some money away for any vet bills.’
“I’m pregnant and my doctor has told me to get rid of the cat” – ‘why if you plan and work things out prior to baby arriving there’s no problems. Sheep faeces have some affect i.e. aborting but how many farmers give up their flocks because their wives are pregnant. NONE!’
“I took my friends cat(s) on when they moved until they got settled but now they don’t want them” – ‘difficult one this, but if they have had the cats sometime then why give them up now. Just had someone’s cat come in who has a child already and a baby and the mother in law insisted the cat went as she thought it was going to sit on the baby. Good one that and a new one to us!’
5.Living and working at the Ark, do you ever have any leisure time? ‘A couple of years ago I went to South Africa to where they filmed Wild at Heart. It was home from home some sight-seeing, also a lot of volunteering with the wildlife, awesome. I’d dearly like to go back and just work with the wildlife out there, no change from being here but so rewarding, just the cats are a bit bigger and I can’t pick them up. But unless Ark on the Edge is entirely covered I won’t go anywhere. The Ark is never left unattended and no animals big or small are left out, all are securely locked away every night. There’s no rest at Christmas either it’s just another day at the office!’
6.It must be a constant struggle to raise funds especially now when money is very short for most people, have you had a drop in donations? ‘With bills ever increasing and the way of the world today donations have been declining for some time while ‘unwanted’ pets have increased and times are hard not only for animal rescues but all charities, we are all struggling. So with bills on average, totalling in excess of £1500 a month + the rent we are always fund raising and trying to stay afloat.’
‘At Ark on the Edge we pride ourselves in the way we look after the animals in our care whilst they are here. Providing them with full veterinary care and a house check ensuring that they go to the best possible place, hopefully for life.’
Kattaddorra responds to preset questions about how she cares for her cats….
Q. Where do you live? Which country and do you live in or out of town? A. We live in the North East of England in a small town, right on the edge of a housing estate.
Q. Do you live alone or with a family? If so how many people are there in the family? A. We are sisters who live together since Barbara was widowed, she works in funeralcare and I’m retired.
Q. How many cats do you live with? What is his name or what are their names? A. We share our home with our two cats Walter and Jozef. Walter will be 12 in July and Jozef will be 12 in August.
Q. What sort of cats are they (moggie or purebred?)? A. Both are DSH black and white neutered toms
Q. What sort of home do you live in? A. Our home is semi detached with a large garden at the back, there are very tall trees behind the back fence and a path for walking, then an embankment the other side of the path.
Q. Does your cat go out and if so how the situation managed? A. Yes our cats go out, usually via the window at the back of our living room and they come back to that window when they want to come in. They are kept in after dark and when no one is going to be home. They learned this routine from being kittens. They sit in the garden quite
often, they also go over the path to the embankment which is behind trees and has a high fence but space for cats to go under, it’s a cats safe paradise with trees and scrub and lots of mice to hunt.
They have little wooden huts in the garden which Barbara’s late husband John made for when it rains and they still want to be out in the fresh air, they also have a Catnasium with four levels leading to their ‘sun roof’
Q. What are the dangers to your cat? A. As we live in a cul de sac the traffic can’t pass through here and the residents drive carefully but if our cats are out the front of our house one of us always watches over them just incase a stranger or a delivery man comes flying along thinking there is a through road.
Q. Do you have access to a veterinarian? If so, how good is she? A. Our vets practice is 3 miles away, we have our favourite female vet, some of the other female vets are good too although we are not keen on the vet who the practice belongs to because we were informed that he expects his staff to meet targets of the number of tests done. It’s sad that many vets practices are more about making money through probably unnecessary tests than doing what is best for the client’s pet.
Q. What food do you feed your cat? A. A variety of good makes of cat food and a few biscuits for nibbling on.
Q. Does your cat use a cat litter toilet or go outside to the toilet? What sort of litter is it? A. Our cats have a patch of earth dug over in our garden for toileting, they do have a litter tray upstairs and downstairs for emergencies but they are very rarely used so we just use a basic litter.
P.S. from Michael
This is one of the world cat owner interviews that I would like to see. You can read about the idea on this page. Could you do one please? If so please use the form on the home page or contact me.
Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.