(Ann Arbor, MI)
For the Love of Cats has a plethora of information on how to do TNR, feral cat management, dealing with stray cats, and socialization of stray and feral kittens. It is concerned with the welfare of domestic cats. They also provide info on elder cat placement, which is another issue, that can lead to feral cats. If you happen to live in Washtenaw County, Michigan, they also provide financial and can direct you to other resources.
Photo by MAR a Japanese stray cat photographer – photo added by Michael (PoC Admin).
JK asks: Please consider adding a link to For the Love of Cats organization on your web site. Answer, from Michael (Admin) at PoC — Here is your link:
Socialization of stray and feral kittens is very important for their long term quality of life and their chances for adoption. We recently have taken on the responsibility of fostering a stray mom and her kittens. We are very lucky that the mother seems to have had some prior socialization and may have been an indoor cat at one time. At the very beginning, we were unsure if we would have to TNR the mom, but we are hoping now that with socialization and time, that we’ll be able to find her an appropriate home and the hard work will be well worth it.
We are also learning how very financially challenging fostering and caring for a stray queen and litter can be. It’s not only the cost of the shots and health care, but then the spaying and neutering of the stray mother and kittens.
I can now see why people often adopt out their kittens unspayed and unneutered, but that is also a likely contributor to the feral cat overpopulation. For example, a female kitten gets adopted by a party that for whatever reason postpones the spaying right away, and the kitten becomes pregnant, since females can become pregnant as early as 4 months/18 weeks and often have their first fertile heat by 5 months.
The adopter then finds themselves facing the increased financial costs of supporting a cat through pregnancy or if they then choose to spay, a more expensive surgery for spaying the cat. In one fell swoop, dumping the pregnant cat undoes all the work that has just been put into socializing and adopting the original set of strays.
Our vet told us a general rule of thumb of “4 pounds, or 4 months” for spaying and neutering. Our female kitten is already 3 pounds and her brothers almost 4 pounds at an estimated 12 weeks (less than 3 months.) It’s likely she’ll be ready to spay in a couple of weeks.
Also, please do not misunderstand or be misled by articles such as the ones written by Dr. Hines on when to spay and neuter (a top Google result on “when to spay”), stating that it should be done just before sexual maturity. He specifically notes that female kittens are often fertile by the time they are 4.5 pounds, so you want to spay before this weight is reached. Additionally, at the end of the article, he states that waiting too long is also not a good idea.
Honestly, the only cats that are arguably acceptable to leave unspayed are the breeding queens that propagate breed lines. Even breeders will spay those females that are not of breeding quality and temperament.
On that note and in promoting the welfare of domestic cats, if you are considering the purchase of a purebred cat, please consider visiting the local area adoption agencies or online at Petfinder. The Humane Society of America states that one in four animals brought to shelters in this country are purebred. Especially, if you don’t plan on showing or breeding, but are only interested in it for the looks, consider adopting and saving a mixed breed cat instead that has the look of the breed you like. There is also the possibility that someone turned in a purebred cat, lost or stray or for some other reason that it was unknown that the cat was purebred or that didn’t come with papers.
A final thought on the welfare of domestic cats, a note to elderly cat owners: If you happen to be an elder cat owner, please consider setting up the terms and leaving the means for the care of your cats in the case of a health disability or death. An unfortunate consequence of not doing so, if something should happen to the primary caregiver, people will sometimes dump an unwanted cat because they are afraid it may be destroyed at the Humane Society.