Mama-cat (note that she is missing the tip of her left ear-feral cats are often “tipped” so they can be easily ID’d at a distance as having been trapped/neutered/released in the past)
70 Million. That is how many feral (the wild descendants of stray or abandoned pet cats) cats live in the U.S., according to recent estimates. A single female cat, left to her own devices, can produce more than 100 kittens in her lifetime, and according to this calculation (OMG that’s a lot of freaking kittens!)), one female cat and her offspring can produce almost 50,000 cats in a span of ten years.
But fortunately, everyone in the U.S. spays and neuters their cats, so we’re not adding to the feral population, right? Right?? *crickets*
Well, we should. If you have a cat, neuter it. If you feed a wild cat, neuter it. (FYI: The term neuter means to remove the sex organs and can be used interchangeably among males and females.) There are countless low-cost spay/neuter options available for those who can’t afford to fix every cat that wonders in, and Have-a-Heart traps are great for humanely trapping those cats that really prefer not to be caught. Many vet clinics will lend these traps out, or they can be bought for about $30.
On the farm, we know all about feral cats, thanks to neighbors that allow semi-pet cats to run wild. This past February, one mama cat showed up with three kittens and we managed to close them in my husband’s workshop. Now, for those who don’t know me in real life, I LOVE KITTENS. So I was pretty happy that I had three new adorable baby cats to play with, except these particular kittens weren’t very friendly. In fact, they were downright disrespectful. There’s nothing quite like getting up extra-early before work in order to feed a gang of hissing, spitting, fluffy little gangster-cats. Canned food, hamburger, even buttery salmon, we offered them every tasty treat their hateful little hearts could desire. They would *almost* eat from my hand (actually, I would feed them with a fork- savages they might have been, but at least they ate with proper silverware), but they drew the line at petting.
So of course, we couldn’t find homes for them. Who in their right mind wants a feral cat? Even those looking for barn cats want something they can pet once in a while. With the help of our amazing, wonderful, awesome vet (Forest Lakes Veterinary Clinic in Charlottesville, VA) we managed to trap/neuter/vaccinate all of them (plus a male we caught hanging around, probably the father of the kittens).
I still can’t pet them, with the exception of Smokey, one of the two males. But that’s OK, because I get all the satisfaction I need just being able to watch them live their lives. They are (you know, to each other, not me) the sweetest, most affectionate cats. Mama-cat, the most creatively named one, still grooms all three kittens and calls for them if they’re out of sight. The kittens play with each other, and are very effective hunters..no mouse is safe around here. They’re happy, non-reproducing cats, and that’s enough for me.
Mama-cat and Smokey
Mama-cat and Suzie (note that the kittens ears have not been tipped- we were hoping to keep them as attractive as possible for future new homes)
Jimmy in the foreground (if you look closely, you can see he’s missing a toe on his left front paw)
For more information on the feral cat controversy, read : http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/feral-cats-problems-extend-wildlife-species-ecologists-say
For information on low-cost spay/neuter options in Virginia, check out: http://www.spayva.org/