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.
Example of her FB page
Below is one of Yvette’s posts from her Facebook page (Street Cat Appeal Narrogin – SCAN).