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Feral, semi-feral, or just scared
Any community that has a stray cat population will undoubtedly have feral cats.
They are the ones who have never had a home, an owner, or any close contact with humans.
A female cat can have as many as three litters in one year. On average each litter will produce four to six kittens. Technically a single female cat, and her offspring, can produce over four hundred thousand cats in seven years.
Of course, feral cats have a much higher mortality rate than domestic cats because of the environment they live in. But even if half of those cats die, the numbers are still staggering.
Many rescues have promoted the trap, neuter, release solution. It is a humane and effective way to control the feral feline numbers. If you simply eliminate a feral colony from any given area, new feral cats will move into that area and the situation will remain the same.
Katie’s Place volunteers have encountered many feral cats over the years. We have set up a feral colony where we release true ferals once they have been examined by a vet, and spayed or neutered. Our feral colony is located on the property of one of the volunteers, and is fully fenced with a heated cabin for the cats to retreat to in harsh weather.
We are all in agreement that feral cats are no different than any other wild animal. They are cats that have never had any real contact with humans. Trying to tame a feral cat and make it a house pet is like taking in a wild coyote and trying to make it your family dog.
Domesticated cats that have been on their own for some time and begin to act like wild cats are semi-ferals.
In time, domesticated cats that have been left on the streets become very cautious and weary of humans. This is especially true if they have been hurt or mistreated.
Semi-ferals will require time and patience, but in most cases they can come around and once again be loving pets.
True feral cats will never come around.
If a cat is not a true feral, there will be signs in the first few days. Something in their behavior will indicate that at some point this was someone’s pet.
Sometimes it takes weeks, and sometimes months to see that a cat who was previously seen as a feral is in fact just scared. We need to give them time. But when it becomes obvious that a cat is truly a feral, then the only humane thing to do is to release it to the feral colony. Trying to force a feral cat to live among humans is simply cruel. They spend their life in fear. It is no life for a wild animal.
Sometimes it is hard for us to accept that an animal we have been working with for weeks simply refuses to trust us. Sometimes you cannot help but take it personally. However, in the long run, it is our responsibility to do what is right for that animal.
Magdalena Romanow is a volunteer at Katie’s Place,
an animal shelter
in Maple Ridge.