Time for a Change

Aw, spring.

A time of birth and growth. While cats and dogs can and do give birth all year, there is always a surge in spring. Unfortunately, this is not a good things for most of these animals. In fact three to four million of these dogs and cats will be purposely killed each year in the US – euthanized through no fault of their own.

The fact is that the world is over-populated with domestic cats and dogs. And shelters are feeling the burden of this over-population. They are full to capacity and cannot find homes for many of the animals in their care.

Where does this over-population come from? We humans are ultimately responsible. We domesticated cats and dogs. It is our responsibility to care for them. Yes, they are following their own animal instincts to mate. But we can help them. We can help them by caring for them. We can help them by preventing them from having all these unwanted litters. Why don’t we?

This is a tough question, but it is one Cats in Tow will explore in the coming weeks, including the myths around spaying and neutering. It is high time for us to help our dog and cat companions!

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Feral Cats in Ireland, Guest Post

In honor of St Patrick’s Day, we are sharing an article from Ireland.  This post was originally published by Feral Cats of Ireland. For more information on what this kind-hearted organization is doing for feral cats in Ireland, visit their website or Facebook page.

Ireland Has a Feral Cat Crisis

Feral and stray cats can be found right throughout Ireland in our cities, towns and countryside.  In housing estates, industrial estates, at factories, on farms, at hotels and hospitals, in car parks and derelict buildings.  In groups called colonies, they manage to survive by living on their instincts and with the kindness of humans who feed them daily.

Feral cats in Ireland are more commonly described as ‘wild’ cats. They are the same species as domestic cats, in fact many are former domestic pets that have been abandoned by their owners or left behind when their owners moved house or passed away.  Some have strayed from home and are lost.  Many become wild in order to survive and their offspring will also be wild as they will have had little or no human contact.  All are trying to survive as best they can.  It is not their fault they find themselves homeless and hungry.

There are no official statistics as to the number of feral cats in Ireland but their numbers have been guesstimated at hundreds of thousands.  The reason for this vast number is that the majority of feral cats are unspayed and unneutered and consequently breeding uncontrollably.  One female cat and her offspring can be responsible for a colony of 30 cats in an area in just one year.

Whatever the true number, Ireland has a feral cat crisis.  That such numbers of cats are living in our communities, often struggling to survive in sometimes harsh conditions with not enough to eat on a daily basis, a lack of adequate shelter from the elements and with no access to veterinary treatment for minor or major illness or injury or just the basics such as parasite treatment is unacceptable.

We have created this crisis and it is up to each of us to be compassionate in our dealings with stray and feral cats in our neighbourhoods, responsible and humane when addressing their plight and to educate ourselves on the most effective way to address the issue of uncontrolled breeding which is Trap/Neuter/Return.

Feral cats have the right to live long, healthy, safe and peaceful lives in their territories without the burden of breeding or threat of death.  Trap/neuter/return offers them that opportunity.

With many thanks to Feral Cats of Ireland for allowing Cats in Tow to share this post.

Have you had experiences with feral cats in other countries? We would be interested to hear your stories.

Cats of Israel, Part 2

Angie, one of Cats in Tow’s amazing volunteers recently returned from a trip to Israel. On this trip Angie experienced how well feral cats are treated in Israel and was inspired to share the story. This is part two, so if you missed the first post, click here.

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“The Israelis are respectful of the cats and treat them so well. I was amazed and proud of the citizens of Israel! I also saw that many, many of them have their ears tipped, indicating they practice TNR. The cats are so used to people that some will let you pet them for a minute, but most will at least let you get close to them and talk to them. There was even a cat at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem! And it was okay with everyone. No one was shooing them away or anything.”

Cats of Israel (Part 1)

Cats in Tow Volunteer Angie came back from a trip to Israel with an heartwarming story about the feral cats living in this fascinating area. We’ll share her story over the next couple weeks.

“On a recent trip to Israel, I was so proud to see an amazing example of coexistence between feral cats and an entire country!

There are literally hundreds of feral cats roaming around there. Everywhere, in every alley, in every nook and cranny of every city…and they are amazingly healthy and happy. There are feeding stations everywhere for them and they wander around the outside seating for restaurants (which almost every restaurant has) and customers also feed them.”

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More Help for Feral Cats

We hope you have found our series on feral cat care informative.  If you have missed any of the series, here are the links: First Step; Stray, Feral, Pet; The Feral Fix; Why TNR; Cat Colony Care; TNR: Humane Trapping; and Colony Carer Help.  We are still looking to hear from people involved with feral cats – carers, vets who offer low-cost help with feral cat colonies, someone who has a adopted a former feral or kitten from a feral litter.  Leave a comment below to tell us your story or let us know if you’d like to contribute your story as an interview or guest blog.

To wrap up this series, we have researched other feral cat organizations around the US and world.  If you are outside of the Cats in Tow area, consider getting involved with one of the organizations below or something similar.  These organizations are committed to spaying/neutering, keeping adult cats healthy and preventing kittens from being born into the wild and without adoption placements and ultimately, killed by many overcrowded shelters who don’t have any other options. 

Spaying/neutering your own animal, donating money or supplies to shelters, volunteering at shelters, adopting a shelter animal, caring for feral cat colonies, getting the word out about spaying and neutering.  There is so much you can do!

Around the US:

Alley Cat Allies, Making Connections

Orange County SPCA, Additional Resources

Sacramento Feral Resources

Forgotten Feral Cat Rescue, Michigan

List for organizations in Massachusetts

List for organizations in Western Washington state and beyond

Aggie Cat Services, Utah State University 

Neighborhood Cats, New York City

Around the world:

Toronto Feral Cat Coalition

Quadra (British Columbia) Cats

Cats Assistance to Sterilize (C.A.T.S.), Australia

United Kingdom, Celia Hammond Animal Trust

This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a quick survey of the web to show how many cats out there need your help.  If you don’t find your area above, search online. There is sure to be an organization near you.

Cat Colony Care

Caring for a colony of feral cats is the best option for these cats.  It keeps them out of traditional shelters where they are most likely to be euthanized or no-kill shelters that are often overcrowded and just cannot take on more cats (no matter how much we want to). 

This should also mean that the cats in the colony are healthier.  In a cared-for cat colony, the cats are trapped and spayed/neutered.  Fighting among the cats is reduced when they are not competing for mates, and spayed/neutered cats have much lower incidents of cancers and other diseases.

When the cats are trapped for spaying/neutering, the vet will check over their general health.  This is only the beginning though.  If you are thinking of caring for a cat colony, you need to educate yourself on monitoring the cats’ health on an on-going basis.  Fleas, worms and other parasites may seem like harmless nuisances.  But, they can actually be deadly – especially to young kittens.  Monitoring behavior and checking with a vet applies to feral cats as much as it does to our pets.  Severe malnutrition, anemia, dehydration and secondary infections are all possible as a result of these parasites. Treatment is vital.

We’ll talk more about the resources available to cat colony carers in upcoming blogs.  And we would still like to hear from people who are caring for feral cat colonies.  Please send us a message to tell us about your experience.

Why TNR

Why does Cats in Tow believe that trap, neuter, release programs are the best for feral cats?  We believe that every cat deserves a chance at a happy life.  The best scenario would be for every cat to have a warm, safe home where they were adequately fed, received attention and were kept healthy.  That is not the reality for many, many cats though.
 
Just because these cats don’t have a human address, does that mean they are unwanted or should not be cared for?  Cats in Tow does not think so.  Feral cats are not going to make good pets (except on very rare occasions).  It is best that they are left where they are, which also keeps the population of feral cats stable. 
 
However, they need to be spayed or neutered, for their own health, to reduce the problems associated with mating and to keep them from producing more kittens (an un-spayed female cat can be responsible for over 3200 kittens according to the National Pet Alliance).
 
TNR also gives the people caring for the feral cats a chance to check their health, manage parasites and assess whether it is possible to transfer kittens to a life with humans. 
 
We’ll go into specifics on upcoming blogs about how to get a TNR program started and resources for people who are assisting with a feral cat colony in their community.  If you are curious about the science behind TNR, Alley Cat Allies have a list of scientific studies here).
 
Are you supporting a feral cat colony?  Please send us a message to tell us about your experiences.

What to do

You see a cat hanging around your house. Not your cat or a cat you know. Perhaps it looks well cared for and does not seem to fear you too much. Or perhaps it looks a bit rough, not very clean, thin and quite scared of you and others. You see it once, then twice, then several times a day. Then you see another cat.
 
Do you know what to do in this situation?  There are of course many things that you can do, but what is best for these cats?  What is best if they are truly feral?  How about if they are abandoned or lost pets?  They could be neutered/spayed, but if not you know things will only get worse.
 
If you don’t what to do, you are not alone.  That’s why Cats in Tow is happy to see that the Orange County SPCA has launched a new website with a great deal of information relating to lost pets, spaying and neutering, helping feral cat populations, pet care assistance for low-income households and more. 
 
Click here to learn more then share with your friends and family. Knowing where to go is a huge part of figuring out what to do!