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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is it ethical to hunt a bird like the Pheasant when numbers are in decline?

This is excerpted from ArgusLeader.com
and my comment on this is: how loud would anti-cat folks be howling if cats were hunting the birds instead of human hunters?


"For the better part of the past two weeks, the phone on Anthony Hauck's desk at Pheasants Forever's headquarters in St. Paul has been ringing off the hook.
Be it a hunter from Minnetonka or one from Memphis, the question on the other line has been the same for the Pheasants Forever online editor: How many pheasants are in South Dakota this year?
"Quite frankly, almost no one calls me to ask about other states," Hauck explained to me during a break from his phone and computer. "If I get 50 calls and emails, 48 of them are wondering what the bird numbers are looking like in South Dakota and if they should try and hunt around Aberdeen or Winner or Huron or wherever they did the year before."
South Dakota's pheasant population is big news in the upland bird hunting world, and with the release of the 2011 pheasant brood survey report by the Game, Fish and Parks last week, Hauck finally has an answer for those looking to make the trek to South Dakota this fall. At first glance, the numbers generated from those early morning rides along South Dakota's gravel roads aren't likely to make many pheasant hunters smile.
The figures released by the GF&P indicate a 46 percent decrease in the statewide pheasant-per-mile index compared to 2010 and a 41 percent drop compared to the 10-year average, but that is really only a part of the story. When a person considers that during the past 10 years hunters have seen pheasant numbers nearly on par with Soil Bank Era, this "bad year" for pheasant hunting in South Dakota will likely still rank among the best in the nation.
The cold, snowy winter that blanketed much of the state for nearly 4 months starting last November and a wet spring are being cast as the major contributors to the decline of pheasant numbers for 2011. Certainly more than one hunter stood by a window last January or February and wondered aloud how pheasants can make it through such harsh conditions.
As it turns out, quite a few didn't, which, if anything, lends a little credence to the theory that the thousands of acres of habitat created by standing corn left in the fields during the winter of 2009-10 were the saving grace for many pheasants and other wildlife during that particular stretch of cold and snow.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pet Peeves: Being on Tree Patrol

So most of us who want to help save the Planet know that planting trees will help a lot towards that goal. Forests and especially rainforests such as those in the Amazon are being cut down at a tremendous rate. This is the REAL problem songbirds are facing. Bird people should put some of the negative energy that are placing into vilifying feral cats, into saving the rainforests.

There are some things we can all do to save the rainforests, such as eating fewer cheap burgers, or switching to veggie burgers (Burger King make a veggie burger, and Subway make a veggie burger sandwich)

 If we all ask other places such as Mac Donald's to offer veggie burgers, they may do so. I don't eat there so don't even know how to spell it properly? Is is Mc or Mac??

Anyway my main focus today is: Why do towns and cities plant trees and then don't care for them properly? I have seen this happen time and again in my town and in surrounding towns. The young trees don't get water, and then they just die. This is so sad. I have just seen this happen in my dog park.
Now I am very grateful to this town for even having a dog park, don't get me wrong.!! But they planted 5 or 6 trees and then let 3 of them die. I did complain to the town, and next day they set up Tree Gators!!

Now I have to make sure the Tree Gators get refilled!  So I will still be on tree-patrol. But may I suggest to you that you  watch all those trees planted by your towns and nag the town the minute you see the trees don't get watered!

The earth needs more trees here and in the rainforests, for the birds and other animals, and for us human beings. They help to cool the planet.

And young trees need humans to water them for the first year or 2. So help me be on Tree-Patrol!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rethink the native versus alien species divide


Some scientists are saying: Rethink the native versus alien species divide.
An editorial in Nature argues that not only have too many resources been invested in curbing and controlling invasive species but that the entire concept of the threat of non-native species is flawed.
As some of us have been arguing for nearly 20 years,  humans have caused most of the earth’s problems such as climate change, urbanization and drastically changing the land, all which makes “the native-versus-alien species dichotomy in conservation increasingly meaningless."
The latest edition of Animal People states: “eradicating ‘invasive’ species is just the current politically correct term for what used to be called ‘pest control’.”
“People like to have an enemy, and vilifying non-native species makes the world very simple,” said ecologist Mark Davis of Macalester University. “The public got sold this nativist paradigm: Native species are the good ones, and non-native species are bad. It’s a 20th century concept, like wilderness, that doesn’t make sense in the 21st century.”
The Animal People magazine team said many years ago that “Except on small islands, where the effects of feral animals and wild exotics are usually ambiguous, introduced species over time tend to help more native species that they harm, by filling ecological niches that have not only been left open by the extirpation of other species, but are also essential to preventing the collapse of whole ecosystems.
“In their zeal to annihilate feral and wild exotic animals,” they argued, “wildlife regulatory agencies often don’t give nature credit for finding ways to accommodate new species.
They concluded: “The war against the largely imaginary alien menace goes on…both in the name of ecology and in opposition to ecological principle.”
It is strange that most of the environmental groups don’t tackle Agribusiness.

This is from a Rainforest website:

As the demand in the Western world for cheap meat increases, more and more rainforests are destroyed to provide grazing land for animals. In Brazil alone, there are an estimated 220 million head of cattle, 20 million goats, 60 million pigs, and 700 million chickens. Most of Central and Latin America's tropical and temperate rainforests have been lost to cattle operations to meet the world demand, and still the cattle operations continue to move southward into the heart of the South American rainforests. To graze one steer in Amazonia takes two full acres. Most of the ranchers in the Amazon operate at a loss, yielding only paper profits purely as tax shelters. Ranchers' fortunes are made only when ranching is supported by government giveaways. A banker or rich landowner in Brazil can slash and burn a huge tract of land in the Amazon rainforest, seed it with grass for cattle, and realize millions of dollars worth of government-subsidized loans, tax credits, and write-offs in return for developing the land. These government development schemes rarely make a profit, as they are actually selling cheap beef to industrialized nations. One single cattle operation in Brazil that was co-owned by British Barclays Bank and one of Brazil's wealthiest families was responsible for the destruction of almost 500,000 acres of virgin rainforest. The cattle operation never made a profit, but government write-offs sheltered huge logging profits earned off of logging other land in the Brazilian rainforest owned by the same investors. These generous tax and credit incentives have created more than 29 million acres of large cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon, even though the typical ranch could cover less than half its costs without these subsidies. Even these grazing lands don't last forever. Soon the lack of nutrients in the soil and overgrazing degrade them, and they are abandoned for newly cleared land. In Brazil alone, more than 63,000 square miles of land has reportedly been abandoned in this way.

Why don’t the environmental groups challenge “cattle” -----also an invasive species. In my opinion there are several reasons:
(1)  When you challenge the beef industry they fight back. Remember the law suit against Oprah at the height of the mad cow disease period?
The cattle producers sued Oprah under a 1995 Texas law under which people can be held liable if they make false and disparaging statements about perishable food products. In April 1996, the topic of the show was mad cow disease, an outbreak of which had occurred in Britain. The disease in cattle has been linked to a related disease in humans that kills people by slowing destroying brain tissue.
Ex-rancher Howard Lyman was on the show and he criticized the practice of feeding processed livestock to cattle, linked to the outbreak in Europe. Oprah said: “Lyman’s remarks just stopped me cold from eating another burger.” Lyman was also sued by the cattle producers. He said that an outbreak of human form of mad cow disease could make AIDS look like the common cold. Cattle producers claim that the remarks on the show sent cattle prices tumbling, costing them 12 million.
(2)   Environmentalists are afraid of upsetting their membership, who may interpret this as a call to vegetarianism.
(3)   Or on the other hand, they may be afraid some of their members may ask if they themselves have given up eating beef, or at least cut back on red meat.
Whatever the reason, it’s easier for them to tackle the “little ole cat ladies” who take care of feral colonies, and for them to turn the cat into a scapegoat, than face a multi-billion dollar industry that really does harm the environment.
From a 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture report called Livestock’s Long Shadow: “ Indeed, the livestock sector may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity, since it is the major driver of deforestation, as well as one of the leading drivers of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas and facilitation of invasions by alien species.”
Feral pigs: Another animal now on the “hit list.” Animal People notes that feral pigs have been living in Texas for 300 years. Now a new Bill allows landowners to shoot pigs and coyotes from helicopters. The hit list includes red foxes, bobcats and stray dogs. Bobcats are on the list as they may kill chickens. But chickens are now intensively farmed and the old Farmer Brown farms where chickens run around the barnyard, no longer exists. But poor old bobcats still make the hit list.
Fortunately there are some scientists today questioning the way we are treating the environment and individual animals.
“The way that we breed animals for food is a threat to the planet. It pollutes our environment while consuming huge amounts of water, grain, petroleum, pesticides and drugs. The results are disastrous.”
David Brubaker, PhD, Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins University
Environmental News Network, 9/20/99
We agree with Animal People when they say: “The time is right for the humane community to exercise leadership—not just on behalf of feral cats, mute swans, wild horses, or the other popular species—but on behalf of the confluence of humane consideration for individual animal life with the ecological principle that every individual, of any species, contributes positively to the evolutionary process.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Fishy Story


A California Fish Tale: one that should be heeded by all those who think catching-and-killing feral cats in an easy remedy to cat overpopulation.
In 2007 the New York Times reported that: “The poison did not work and neither did the hook and bobber. The electrical probes were somewhat effective, but do not even ask about the explosives.
“For the last decade, the state of California has waged a Sisyphean battle against the northern pike, a fish and a voracious eating machine. In the mid-1990s, when pike were first found in Lake Davis, a Sierra Nevada reservoir about four miles, or six kilometers, north of here, the discovery set off a panic over the potential effect on the local trout-fishing and tourist industries as well as the possibility of the fish migrating to fragile ecosystems downstream. Since then, millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours have been spent trying to spike the pike.
“But while the methods, including poison, electro-fishing, explosives and decidedly low-tech nets, have varied, the results have remained the same.
"We've taken 65,000 pike out of the lake," said Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game. "And we haven't made a dent."
"This is a top-of-the-line predator," said Ed Pert, the project manager. "If we don't get it this time, we may need to rethink things."
The lake was closed after Labor Day to prepare for the watery assault. The plan is simple: poison the fish with 17,000 gallons, or 64,000 liters, of rotenone, a commonly used pesticide that is absorbed through the gills and blocks the ability to process oxygen. Rotenone is widely considered safe for mammals and other nongilled animals, though some concerns have been raised about links to Parkinson's disease and some types of cancer.
It is not the first time the state has used rotenone in Lake Davis.
In 1997, officials used a powdered form of the poison, which fouled the lake, Portola's longtime water supply. (The town now primarily draws its water from wells.) The state later approved a $9.2 million settlement with the city and the county for businesses, homeowners and local residents. And, two years later, the pike were back.
No one knows exactly how the northern pike got from its native waters to Lake Davis.  "They're a voracious fast-growing predator. We don't want them around," said Peter Moyle, a fish biologist at UC-Davis who specializes in invasive species.
Sadly, we have similar thinking when it comes to environmental groups, the U.S. D.A. and feral cats: All these “experts”  think of only 2 ways: (1) Go in and catch-and-kill. (2) Ban the feeding of cats.
Well neither works and actually makes everything worse:  Other cats quickly move in to repopulate vacated areas. And starving the cats certainly does not work either, and definitely makes the situation worse.  Hungry cats will now cross busy highways to find food somewhere, and find food they will. There is trash everywhere in America. In every alley, behind every cafĂ©, food store, convenience store, fast food place. Americans throw away millions of pounds of food every day. And cats go in and ransack our trash. Not to mention all the rodents that are attracted to this available food source. Now cats also  keep the rodents populations down to a large extent. This was the very reason they became domesticated in the first place.  So imagine the rodent population explosion if we take away their chief predator?
Many islands have sad tales to tell of this very thing happening when, in their infinite wisdom, they decided to kill all the cats for raiding bird nests. Rodent populations escalated, and they raided the very nests the environmentalists were trying to save.
And, in the meanwhile, despite feeding bans and killing feral cats, the breeding of feral litters goes on. The short-sightedness of this blows one’s mind. How can otherwise-intelligent individuals not see this?  Not see that they have millions of willing volunteers already taking care of feral colonies and stopping the breeding?
I am not sure what will change their minds. Maybe if everyone who has common sense and compassion will ask every environmental group BEFORE they donate money: What is your policy on feral cats?
Of course the environmental groups are going to say: Cats are Public Enemy #1.
Don’t believe them, Do your own research.
Even the American Bird Conservancy (ABC scapegoats the cat and uses exaggerated numbers to blame the cats for the demise of birds and other wildlife) recently spelled out the perils facing the Bicknell’s Thrush: “This species is at risk from threats to its breeding habitat, including development, acid rain, and climate change. Its migration route is not well-known, but is assumed to follow a flyway along or near the East Coast of North America 
Potential threats during migration include collision with man-made structures such as communications towers, buildings, and wind turbines. Loss of Bicknell’s winter habitat has been severe and is ongoing due to agricultural conversion, logging, and charcoal production.”
 The Bicknell's thrush is an elusive neotropical migrant that breeds in the high elevation forests of northeastern North America and winters in the Caribbean. It is obvious that to protect this bird and many others:
We have to protect our American forests. We have to protect the wintering grounds in Central America being careful of the products we buy. And we have to make communication towers and wind turbines safer. Millions of birds lose their lives this way every year. It is up to us to get serious about saving birds, and get serious about implementing humane, nonlethal control of feral cats.
TNR reduces feral cats numbers. Some immediately as tame cats and kittens are removed for placement in homes. Feral colonies DO defend their territories against outside cats. Those few cats who do manage to enter will be caught and either rehomed or TNRd.
It’s really a win-win situation. Please help Alley Cat Rescue convince them, before they do some outlandish things (which they threaten to do) like feeding bans and even outlawing TNR for feral cats.
Tell them about Ed Pert, the project manager of the Pike Fish campaign:  "If we don't get it this time, we may need to rethink things." The anti-cat folks really need to “re-think things.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Small Wildcats of South Africa

There is something mysterious and elusive about cats, which have inspired many writers, poets and even great thinkers for centuries. Africa's wealth of wildlife includes a number of beautiful small wild cats. Many of them are rarely observed, as they are nocturnal, shy and solitary. However, artist, Annemarie Wessels has captured their beauty and mystery skilfully on a set of five Africa airmail rate stamps. The stamps feature:
African wildcat (Felis silvestris)
Serval (Leptailarus serval)
Caracal (Felis caracal)
Black-footed cat (Felis nigripes)
African Golden Cat (Profelis aurata)

Alley Cat Rescue is working on plans to help save the African Wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica)
You can find out more about our plan and help with this at our website:
www.saveacat.org

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Are drugs the answer to cat over-population?

 
I have copied this from the Care 2 site written 2 years ago by Angela V. 
(a) I will have to check to see if there are any updates to this information.
(b) I would like to start this discussion using Angela's conclusion as this is the real question to ask if you are asking: Will this REPLACE TNR?

None of these immunocontraceptive vaccines are expected to be a substitute for surgical spaying of owned female cats. Why? Because they do not stop ovulation, nor the attendant frustrated behavior of female cats in heat. Furthermore, surgical spaying helps prevents ovarian cancer and mammary tumors.

Cat Overpopulation and TNR...An Even Better Solution in Sight?
2 years ago
An Even Better Solution is in Sight Animal advocates breathlessly await the announcement of a new sterilization drug, which could be administered by injection, pill, or even as a food additive. The latter, depending on cost, would be a boon to managers of feral cat colonies who struggle daily to trap wily ferals. Many feral colony managers include vaccinations in their trips to the vet, but spay/neuter procedures are the "biggie," cost-wise, besides requiring invasive surgery in a controlled environment. Sterilization drugs are being developed on several frontiers:
  • Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Project
    In 1998, student Michelle Meister-Weisbarth, in conjunction with Dr. Stephen Boyle, developed a genetically engineered bacterium (Salmonella), which when fed to female cats, would prevent eggs from fertilization. "Meister-Weisbarth then introduced a gene encoding a protein derived from the zona pellucida surrounding the vertebrate egg into the salmonella. The bacterial vaccine is capable of inducing the production of antibodies which recognize the zona pellucida and block the ability of a sperm to fertilize the egg."
    CNN Article Current plans involve testing by scattering of the vaccine-laced food pellets in areas populated by feral cat colonies. Of major importance will be the study of what effect, if any, the medication will have on the psychology of the colonies. Meister-Weisbarth says it may be two to five years before the drug will be available for public use, as the FDA will want proof there is no negative impact on the environment.
  • Injectable Vaccine from University of Georgia Vet
    Dr. Richard Fayrer-Hosken, a veterinarian at the University of Georgia, has developed a drug, based on similar research, which is injectable. Fayrer-Hosken wants to test it on at least a thousand dogs before seeking approval from the FDA.
  • SpayVac - University of Florida
    The Winn Feline Foundation has given a $14,484 award to a team at the University of Florida for research in the "Nonsurgical alternative to altering feral cats: 'EVALUATION OF SPAYVAC(tm) FOR STERILIZING DOMESTIC CATS (FELIS CATU.'" SpayVac has already been proven to reduce fertility in Barbery sheep, rabbits, and several seals species, and the U. of Florida team hopes to prove its effectiveness in sterilizing feral cats.
  • RU-486 as a Cat Sterilization Agent?
    Mibolerone, a close chemical relative of Mifepristone (an ingredient in RU-486), which is an androgen steroid which blocks the production of progesterone, which is needed to sustain pregnancy. For various political reasons, mibolerone has not been available for public use, and in its present form is not cost-effective for sterilization in a larger context. In fact, in 1985, after the FDA banned the importation of RU-486 into the U.S., the Carnation company quietly discontinued its previously announced plans to market a birth control dog food, tentively called "Extra Care."
    However, it is thought that in the present climate, if mibolerone could be manufactured in sufficient quantity, with appropriate formulations, it might again present a viable alternative to surgical spaying.
None of these immunocontraceptive vaccines are expected to be a substitute for surgical spaying of owned female cats. Why? Because they do not stop ovulation, nor the attendant frustrated behavior of female cats in heat. Furthermore, surgical spaying helps prevents ovarian cancer and mammary tumors. Barring an unexpected announcement, it seems apparent that it will be at least another couple of years before any of these "contraceptive" drugs will be available While we wait impatiently for these drugs to reach the hands of those who need them another three to five million kittens will be born. At least, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Bottom Line in all of the scapegoating of cats is...


So the anti-cat folks say:
  1. “Allowing free-ranging pet and feral cats to roam outside, breed unchecked, kill native wildlife, and spread disease is a crime against nature,” says Michael Hutchins, executive director/CEO of The Wildlife Society (TWS), North America’s scientific organization for professionals in wildlife management and conservation.
  2. “There is no perfect answer. But, in my view, the best answer is to encourage cat owners to keep their beloved pets safely indoors, to support legislation (such as leash laws for dogs) that requires pet owners to keep their cats indoors or to allow them outdoors only in enclosed catteries, and to phase out TNR cat colonies, which can become magnets for unwanted pet cats and which send the message that it’s OK to allow large congregations of cats to range freely outside and kill wildlife.”
  3. The Wildlife Society believes that TNR colonies are dumping grounds for unwanted pets.
Let’s take a look at #1: We (the TNR advocates) do NOT allow free-ranging pets to roam outside. We do adoptions of dumped cats and unwanted cats and tell everyone they have to keep the cats indoors.
Still on #1: TNR advocates do NOT allow feral cats to breed unchecked. Many of us (myself included) have spayed and neutered 20,000 feral cats and some of us even more, over the last 20 years.
#2: Local governments looking for quick fixes for the feral cat “problem” never concentrate on TNR or low cost or free spay /neuter of pets. It’s easier to say “legislation, leash laws, feeding bans.” None of these help feral cats in any way. Also #2: TNR eventually does phase out feral cat colonies. I personally have seen the demise of feral colonies I have fixed.
#3. TNR does not cause dumping of unwanted pets.I have worked in animal rescue for several decades. If people want to dump their animals, they dump them anywhere. We have had cats dumped in parking lots, on highways, anywhere you can think of. Some new cats do enter these colonies, but caretakers are vigilant and immediately notice any new cat that does manage to enter ---either by knowing all the cats, or identifying them through their eartips. They will catch these new cats and get them fixed or if the cats are tame, remove them for adoption.
Examples given by Best Friends on colonies that have been reduced through TNR:
ORCAT Project
According to the Grayvik Animal Care Center, approximately 350 stray/feral cats live in the Ocean Reef Club, an exclusive island community just south of Miami. ORCAT (Ocean Reef Club Animal Trap neuter release) is a program that was established by Ocean Reef’s homeowners in 1993 to care for the cats. Since its inception, this TNR program has reduced the community cat population from around 2,000 to 350 cats.

Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association
A dissertation by Felicia Nutter, published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (2005), evaluating TNR management programs found that a controlled study of TNR and non-TNR colonies showed that within the first two years, all TNR colonies decreased in size by an average of 36 percent, and one went extinct. Within the same time period, all non-TNR colonies increased in size by an average of 47 percent. After seven years, all TNR colonies had five or fewer cats, while the non-TNR colonies continued to increase in size. Immigration into both TNR and breeding colonies was consistent but occurred at low levels in both.

And the following statement by Veronia Lennon  is what I like to call “The Bottom Line”
In 2008 Veronica Lennon wrote the following (and I believe this is the bottom line in all of these endless debates and continuous scapegoating of cats):

The American Bird Conservancy and other avian organizations like the National Audubon Society continue to fund, endorse and advance a simplistic anti-cat campaign that does not address the real issue.
Just "keep your cats indoors"? There are millions of homeless felines that do not have that option.
If the American Bird Conservancy and "Cats Indoors!" campaign supporters were intellectually honest, they would attempt to address the problem of feline overpopulation in a meaningful way. Since they reject trap-neuter-return, here are some other ideas on how they could help:
-subsidize spay/neuter clinics
-fund research for feline oral contraceptives
-start a fleet of spay/neuter mobile units
-urge bird lovers to adopt shelter cats
-donate money to existing cat sanctuaries
-stop distributing false information and harmful propaganda
If avian advocacy groups are serious about addressing the issue of feline overpopulation in a humane way, they should prove it. They should stop wasting money on propaganda and divisive tactics and do something effective to solve the problem.
Perhaps Bryan Kortis, Executive Director of New York City's Neighborhood Cats, a group whose mission is "to make TNR a fully understood, accepted and practiced method in every community," said it best: "Ultimately the wildlife and TNR organizations want the same thing — fewer feral cats. The wildlife organizations have no realistic way to get there. We do."



Louise Holton
Alley Cat Rescue
Box 585, Mt. Rainier, MD 20712
301-277-5595
National Free Feral Cat Spay Day is on April 27th. Get your veterinarian involved in helping to save lives!
http://www.saveacat.org/programs.html
http://alleycatrescue.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=18444404708&ref=ts








Monday, February 28, 2011

What is a feral cat?

Feral Cats: What exactly is a feral cat?—by Louise Holton

Any domesticated animal such as a pigeon, pig, horse, dog, or cat who lives away from human contact can revert to a wild state. These animals are called “feral.” Feral kittens are the offspring of a feral mother cat, or they could be born to a domestic mother who has become lost or abandoned, or chooses to have her litter away from humans. In order for kittens to become friendly and completely domesticated, they should be handled from a very early age—before they are two weeks old. Feral mother cats teach their young offspring to be wary of humans and to run and hide if they feel threatened.

Young kittens who have not been handled by humans will spit or hiss when you approach them. Older feral kittens will be wary of humans and flee when approached. A stray domestic cat who has had to survive on her own for a while will initially be wary of humans. However, she will regain her confidence fairly soon after re-establishing contact. There are varying degrees of wariness and shyness among both ferals and other cats who have been abandoned to fend for themselves. It requires a certain amount of experience working with stray and feral cats to be able to properly judge just how feral a cat may be, or if the cat is feral at all, or just a frightened domestic cat. Many domestic cats are killed merely for acting fearful and defensive in a frightening situation—assumed to be feral..

 ONE EXAMPLE THAT ILLUSTRATES THIS:

 In Prince George’s County, Maryland, a yellow eight-month-old housecat cat  was picked up by animal control officers along with a few other stray cats at an apartment complex. The cat, Hunter, had been neutered and vaccinated just two weeks earlier, and had apparently escaped from the apartment when someone accidentally left a door ajar. The cat was examined by two experienced veterinary technicians and an animal control officer, and was deemed “feral.” He was destroyed that same day. When the family went to claim their cat they were told that he was destroyed because he “was attacking, spitting and hissing, and trying to bite the officer through his gloves.” The agency said they held most cats for three to five days but often destroy “fractious” stray cats sooner. 

Defining and predicting feral cat behavior can be somewhat murky territory. If a domesticated, friendly cat becomes lost and has to fend for himself for a while, he could temporarily revert to some instinctively wild behavior. Some older feral cats can become fairly tame in time, yet other ferals, even when trapped as young as four months of age, may remain feral forever. Some ferals bond with their original caretaker but may never bond with a new person. During my many years of working with feral cats, I have experienced a wide range of situations with hundreds of ferals. I’ve seen them in a wide variety of circumstances--in my home, at the veterinary clinic, in city alleys, and at the Alley Cat Rescue office with our own adopted feral office cats. The only conclusion one can reach from these combined experiences is that no two feral cats are alike and one can never predict how any feral cat will react to human contact.

The domestic cat is one of the most adaptable mammals on earth and, as we have said, can become feral very quickly. When a household cat is lost or abandoned, she will immediately try to find a food source and shelter. She may find a home with humans—30% of Americans obtain their cat as a stray who arrived on their doorsteps. Or she may find some old boxes behind a convenience store where other ferals have formed a colony, and join this colony. Thirty to 60 percent of lost cats , or cats who wander away from home, will eventually come to live in a feral colony. If she is not sterilized—and most abandoned or lost cats are not--she will soon be pregnant. Usually around half of her kittens will become ill with treatable illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections, and most will die. She will teach her remaining kittens to be feral, teaching them survival behaviors inherited from her wild ancestors.

Most tame domestic cats suffer greatly and cannot survive when they find themselves on their own. But some survive quite well, which is the reason there is such a large population of feral cats all around the world. Even if only meager scraps of food can be found many will survive and breed, sometimes forming large colonies. There is generally an abundance of food discarded in bags, trash cans, and dumpsters in cities and suburbs. Feral cats are opportunistic feeders and scavenge relentlessly for food. They learn very quickly the locations of potential food sources and which households, restaurants, or hotels put out food for them to eat. Often they lie patiently waiting at dumpsters for bags of garbage containing discarded scraps.

British biologist Peter Neville has studied cats and feral cat colonies for decades. He explains them this way: “There is perhaps no such thing as a feral cat, a domestic cat reverted to the wild. Instead all cats--feral, stray, and pet--can be viewed as being the same species as their African Wildcat ancestor, and the pet cat is simply exploiting an attractive opportunity. The ‘normal’ lifestyle is living around and with man, but not necessarily to the height of luxury that we offer him as a pet. Then the success of the cat ‘living rough’ and away from the direct care of man is that much easier to comprehend.”

Obviously, many of those who work in humane organizations would not be willing to admit this. It seems to many that, in order to discourage household cats from being abandoned to the streets to “fend for themselves,” they are loathe to admit that any cat, even a feral cat, can survive on her own. This is where the myths and misinformation begin and theories about what constitutes the proper way to protect feral cats become muddied. Yet, in defense of those who feel that all cats are helpless on their own, they have usually witnessed a tremendous amount of suffering and neglect among the animals they have dedicated themselves to protecting. Many cats have been abused, relinquished to shelters for euthanasia when they become inconvenient, and some are  treated appallingly by humans. But for every person who treats an animal badly there are many more who care properly for their animals, many who treat their companion animals as part of the family. And many who care for and feed feral cats to whom they have no obligation, except that their compassion dictates that they must.

Those who believe no cat can survive on her own face contradiction when colonies of ferals are seen to be surviving quite well. And when the cats have been trapped and sterilized, provided with shelter, food, and water, the cats actually thrive. It may seem contradictory to admonish people that is cruel to abandon cats to fend for themselves while saying that many cats can survive quite well on their own. However, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to care for the animals that we have domesticated, whether by taking them into our homes, or by making their life in our alleyways a little easier. We do not condone leaving any cats to survive on their own. We believe it is in the best interests of feral cats that they be sterilized and that their lives be made as comfortable and stress-free as possible, with a caring person who provides shelter and daily food and water.