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Norwich Bulletin - 11/12/2006

The Forgotten Feral Felines

The typical feral cat does not usually snarl viciously and attack babies, as I have calmly told the very worried mothers who have called me because a cat has wandered into their yard. Chances are it is simply a very hungry cat whose owners moved and left him behind, or a female cat who was thrown out of the house because no one bothered to have her spayed and she was going into season all the time. Cats that are now homeless because their human callously discarded them when they became inconvenient.

Some cats are lucky because they are found by kind people who bring them in, look after them and with the help of a rescue organization, either offer the cat a home or find the stray a new one. Others are not so lucky Ė they pick homes where scared people chase them away, throw rocks and spray them with garden hoses. The result is that they end up either dying because they cannot make it on their own, or revert back to its original, wild state, in order to survive.

And since most of them were discarded by irresponsible pet owners who did not alter or immunize them, they either die from diseases that could have been prevented, or have litter after litter. Those kittens, born out of doors, do not all survive, and the ones that do, have little regard or trust for the human race. These are what are known as feral cats.

Most feral cats live in dumpsters, garbage filled alleys and scrounge out a meager existence on scraps of food they find here and there. Many starve to death or get killed by automobiles or become prey to the coyotes and dogs that roam our towns. Exposure to the harsh weather causes illness and painful frostbite and every litter becomes less healthy and more prone to the more serious, often fatal diseases. The average life span for a lucky feral cat is one to three years.

You call that luck? And how does a feral get lucky? Well, the first thing is finding someone who will feed him. And as he gets comfortable in the yard he has found his way to, the kind human sets a have a heart trap and gets them to the vet to be altered and immunized.

Afterwards the same kind human brings him back into the yard and sets up a little house with hay so the cat will have somewhere warm to sleep in the winter. This cat will never be your warm and fuzzy pet, but it will keep your yard clear of rodents and appreciate the little that you do. A feral cat who has a safe place to get out of the rain and cold weather, and food and fresh water everyday, is indeed lucky.

Then there are the groups of cats who have found each other and live in what is known as a colony. It is important to trap, alter and release these cats and care for them. If you simply destroy these cats, others will come Ė the only way to end a colony is to spay and neuter all of the cats and then care for them until they die of natural causes.

So how do you prevent a cat from becoming feral? Thatís easy. Spay or neuter that new kitten asap and if you have any cats at all that are not altered, please make it a priority to get it done. The mobile spay and neuter van, TEAM, goes through the state of Connecticut and will alter your cat and give it a rabies and distemper shot for only $67.

Itís not hundreds of dollars, and it will save you a lot of grief in the end. Unnuetered males tend to mark territory and their urine smells because of their testosterone and unspayed females go into season ever few months. They are loud, calling to a male, and if they get outside, you end up with five kittens to care for and find homes for. Much better to spend that $67 and go to TEAM (1-866-FOR-TEAM).

Make a difference in the life of a cat. Take in a feral onto your property Ė just one will be such a help. Altering this cat will prevent hundreds of offspring from being born. If you cannot have a cat or are allergic, buy a TEAM voucher and donate it to a local rescue group so they can help someone spay or neuter a stray. People just donít understand what a difference they could make with one small act of kindness.

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