Tag Archives: stray cats

Help Lily this Christmas

I knew the place well. As a child I played there. Bumbling around like all small kids do, inventing games,or just exploring the back gardens and alleyways. Finding dead cats and kittens was a common occurrence. Usually the adult cats would be found in hedges where they had crawled into to die. The kittens would be found in bags, dumped in the nearby river. Cats were more numerous ‘back then’. They were a largely despised species, victims of religious superstition and good old indifference. Fit only to act as pest controllers but never to be fed or cared for. The endless litters of kittens usually met with the same fate. Taken from their mothers before their eyes opened, placed in a strong paper bag, string tied around the top, and hurled into the river. As kids, hunting Minnows in the water, we would come across the partially decomposed little corpses, still entombed in their rotting bags. I suppose, in people’s minds, cats and kittens, were as common as the air and as cheap.

12 11 25 LilyMaggie took the call. A man feeding a colony of ferals spotted a new cat hiding in nearby bushes. The cat wouldn’t come out and appeared fearful of both him and the other cats. The man couldn’t be sure but it appeared to him that the cat had something wrong with one of its legs. An injury of some sort. A plan was concocted and eventually the little cat was coaxed out of hiding and brought to the vet for an assessment. The ‘injured’ leg was, in fact, an amputation. The front, right side, leg, had been surgically removed at some stage leaving an awkward looking stump. The cat looked reasonably well fed and was friendly. Obviously the animal had been cared for by somebody. The initial assessment was of a stray that had wandered from her home and had gotten lost. Upon closer examination the little female cat was found to have the most appalling case of infected, ear polyps, the vet had ever seen. Polyps are lumps that grow in the inner ear canals of felines, especially older cats, and this poor mite had them in spades. The polyps had become infected and were agonising for the little female cat as she constantly tore at them with her claws. Every now and then she would vigorously shake her head from side to side and a spray of blood and pus would shoot out. Maggie named the cat, ‘Lily’ and we brought her home for temporary sanctuary until her owners could be located.

Lily was installed in two, very large, dog cages, on our kitchen table. We had nowhere else to put her. We made Lily as comfortable as possible in the cages. She was given a cardboard box, lined with soft, warm, vet bed, to sleep in, within the cages. This gave her a place of refuge away from the attentions of our own nosey cats. Lily retired into her box and remained there, day and night. Within 24 hours, The walls and roof, of Lily’s box were coated in a spray of blood and pus from her constant head shaking. We made efforts to locate Lily’s owners. The posts went up on CCN and Munster Lost and Found. No response. It was a very busy time for us. We were dealing with a case of a feral colony that was suffering the effects of malnutrition. We were preoccupied with this and not able to give Lily the attention she needed. When, one evening, we finally got the chance to sit down with Lily and have a good look at her, we immediately noticed the telltale indentations around her neck. Lily had worn a collar for a long time.

We examined her ears. We looked at her general demeanour. We saw how she hid away from everything and everyone. A brief discussion ensued and the conclusion was unanimous. Lily appeared to have been dumped because her carers grew tired of the veterinary cost of looking after her and treating her infected ears. We needed to deal with Lily’s ears. The infected polyps were causing her pain and discomfort. The constant pain from her ears, coupled with the amputated front leg, was inhibiting her from integrating into any household, let alone one as full of cats as ours. Our own vets felt unable to deal with the surgery required to fix the problem so we called upon the skills of Sinead Falvey, down in Cloyne veterinary practice, to assist. Sinead examined Lily thoroughly. We stood in Sinead’s surgery and watched as the vet’s skilful and sensitive fingers felt all over Lily’s little body. Sinead didn’t miss a thing. Lily’s ears were examined and a solution offered. Sinead would operate to remove the polyps. This would involve removing part of the ear canal as well. The operation was carried out and the polyps were removed. Behind the polyps in one of Lily’s ears was an unusual mass. Sinead Thinks this mass might be cancerous. The polyps have been there a long time. The mass has had the time to grow inwards towards Lily’s skull. Sinead took a biopsy and has sent it off to the lab. It will take about a week to get the results back.

P1180236 webSo we wait. This weekend, Lily will return home to us. She will be placed in her box within her cage. We will feed and care for her as if she was our own cat. Next week word will come back from the lab. It will be either, Benign, or, Malignant. If it is the latter, Lily will, yet again, make the journey from west cork all the ways down to Cloyne. And in Sinead’s surgery, Lily will drift off to sleep; never to wake up again to a world where a 12 year old cat, once accustomed to a home and care, was set adrift to fend for herself, partially crippled and in pain, lost, frightened, and bewildered, wondering what her ‘crime’ was, and desperately trying to make sense of it all. A little tabby too afraid to to push her way into a feral feeder even though she was starving. And this is Christmas, for God’s sake. Where was the love and fellowship for Lily when she most needed it?
I had thought that times had changed. I had believed that people no longer drowned kittens or treated cats like rubbish, fit only to be thrown out when there usefulness was over. I had hoped people had grown more sensitive to the suffering of another species. I had hoped in vain.

2014 has been a particularly rough year. We had hoped to end it with a good luck story. But Lily happened. Sometimes all we can do is reach out that final hand to stop the suffering of a wounded cat or kitten. We want them all to live. We want people to understand that cats feel the same things we do. Hurt, pain, abandonment, are emotions common to humans and cats. What does Lily feel today as she lies in her bed in Sinead’s surgery? There is the obvious discomfort from the operation but hopefully there is also the relief from the removal of the infected polyps. Lily is on pain relief medication. Sinead will see to it that Lily is as comfortable as possible. But what of Lily’s internal emotions? Can she make sense of the past few weeks. Lily had a home where she was comfortable. Those that cared for her cared enough to amputate a badly damaged limb. She had been fed and cosseted. Someone loved her once. But that all ended and Lily was abandoned. How does Lily process that? Now, put yourself in Lily’s mind. How would you feel if those you loved and trusted took you from your home one night to a strange place, put you on the ground, and drove away. There, in the dark and the biting cold, unable to properly move because you lost your front limb, and in agony from a terrible infection in both your ears, bewildered, confused, and alone, you must begin the fight for survival with all the odds stacked against you.

Please help Lily this Christmas time. The Cost of Lilly operation to take her pain away is over €300. Please help us to raise the money by donating on the links below.

Thanks, Jim 

Donate here.  Every donation will help.

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Our Offsprings are the Ferals of Tomorrow

"Our offsprings are the ferals of tomorrow"

“Our offsprings are the ferals of tomorrow”

Phone rings… “Hi, last winter, a stray cat came to my garden.  It was cold and I felt sorry for her, so I started feeding her.  You know, I would hate to see an animal suffer.  Then, in March, she had a litter of kittens, but it was fine, the farmer down the road took all four of them!  But, at the beginning of the summer, she had another litter of kittens.  7 of them! And now, I think she is pregnant again and I can’t find homes for the kittens.  I don’t mind feeding her as she keeps the mice away, but I can’t possibly keep all of them.  I don’t know what to do, can you please help?”

Sounds familiar?

This is a very common type of call received by animal welfare organisations and our answer is simply to have the cat and her kittens neutered straight away before the situation gets completely out of hand.  We discuss with the carer a way to finance the project and proceed to have the whole family neutered.  Then, maybe a couple of kittens may find a home, but at least they won’t be having kittens.  The problem is solved, but is it really?

Let’s rewind a little, back to spring time: “it was fine, the farmer down the road took all four of them!”  The alarm bell in my head is ringing!  Now, were those kittens neutered before going to the farm?  Did the farmer get them neutered?  The answer is more than likely no.

Now, let’s fast-forward to the following spring.  The farmer is happy, his little cats (3 females and a male) are doing a good job on the farm.  In April though, all three females give birth to a litter of kittens each.  It is their first litter and they only have two kittens each.  “Sure,” the farmer thinks, “a few more cats might come in handy; I have a big farm!  And maybe Jo will take a couple for his own farm.”  It’s still all fine, isn’t it?  Yes, except that during the summer, they give birth to more kittens, and again at the beginning of winter, except that those mostly die because of the severe weather.

13 11 26 a

Two years later, the farmer is looking at all the cats on his farm.  There are so many of them that he cannot feed them properly anymore.  His three little female cats have become useless at killing the rats and mice as they are so exhausted from giving birth, as for the tom, he is constantly chasing the females and has been seen at all the neighbouring farms.  Their offsprings are no good either, they have also started giving birth constantly, and now the younger generations are all sickly because they are inbred.  The farmer is looking at all the cats (he can’t even count how many there are) and is scratching his head “what to do?”.  He must admit that he did try to drown the kittens like his father and his grand-father used to do, but the females are very good at hiding the kittens in the hay, and to be honest, he likes the cats and does not want to harm them.  Maybe he should bring them to the vet to have them euthanised?  But, he cannot even catch the cats; they have gone completely wild!  He’ll talk to the vet though and see what he thinks…

14 02 06 c webThe vet is not too keen on having animals euthanised like that and if the farmer can’t catch the cats, how could he?  He’s heard of organisations doing Trap-Neuter-Return though, maybe they could help?  So the farmer gets in touch with such an organisation.  At first, he has a fit when he hears what it will cost, but it has to stop, and he needs his cats to be healthy so that they can do their job on the farm.  All the cats and kittens get trapped, most of them are neutered, but a few have to be euthanised as they are too sick.  They come back to the farm and a few weeks later, they look a lot healthier and the farm is once more clear of rats.  The farmer is still giving out at the vet bill, but he is glad that things have now gone back to normal.  Next time, he’ll make sure that the cats are neutered beforehand.  “Now, if only Jo could do the same thing on his farm, because how many does he have now?  A good 30 for sure!”

Can you remember what the caller said initially?  “I would hate to see an animal suffer.”  Of course, she hadn’t realised what would happen as the farmer is a good guy and wouldn’t harm an animal, but by rehoming unneutered kittens, she has unknowingly been responsible for a great deal of suffering.  Or maybe she thought that it wasn’t her problem?  How about when the cats start to wander away from the farm because there isn’t any food and start to come to her garden where she is still feeding the little stray, the mother of them all?  Does it become her problem then?

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Websites are full of “Kittens Free to Good Home” ads, but what does it really mean?

I think that in the work we do, convincing people to have kittens neutered before rehoming is actually the biggest challenge.  Sometimes, it’s just because they don’t know that kittens can be neutered at such an early age (see info here), but most of the time, they don’t see the point since they are going to find “good homes” for the kittens.  Why should it be their responsibility?  Times and times again, we explain that if these are actually good homes, then the adopter will not mind giving a donation to cover for the cost of neutering.  In fact, they are quite happy to do so since it saves them the bother of having to bring the kittens.  In other cases, they think that it is not their problem since the cat isn’t actually theirs.  Maybe so, but we all need to start taking responsibility if we want to put a stop to the problem of cat over-population.  It is not one individual’s problem, it actually has become a society’s problem and we all need to start taking responsibility.

Disclaimer: the story above is fictional, although it is based on real experiences.  It wasn’t written with the intention of criticising anyone, but rather with the intention of educating.  Take responsibility too: educate those around you and spread the word about the importance of neutering!

Spay that Stray

5th National Feral Cat Awareness Week, 9th to 16th of August 2014

The aim of this week is to raise the awareness about feral cats and the importance of neutering.

During the week, we will be posting information on this website and on our Facebook pag about feral cats.  You can also visit the Feral Cats Ireland website and Facebook page for more information.

Why not help us raise awareness by printing the following posters and placing them in your local shop, community centre, co-op, etc?

Feral Cat 2014_general posterDownload the PDF file here: Feral Cat 2014_general poster.

Feral Cat Week poster_TNR 2014

 

Download the PDF file here: Feral Cat Week poster_TNR 2014.

Information leaflets created by Feral Cats Ireland can also be obtained to distribute in your local vets, pet shops, etc, by emailing feralcatsireland@gmail.com.

Feral Cat Week leaflets

Feral Cats vs Stray Cats

Feral Cats

Feral cats are cats who have been born into the wild. Stray cats are cats who wandered off, or got lost, or who have been dumped by their owners. Stray cats are born into some sort of a domestic setting and have enjoyed some measure of contact with humans.

As there are no indigenous wild cats in Ireland, the country’s feral population are the descendants of domestic cats who for various reasons ended up having to live wild. Feral cats will live in either one of two ways: solitary, or in a colony. Feral colonies serve as a mutually beneficial support group for all the cats. The colony is usually a matriarchal establishment with one or more dominant females , a sub group of females and a group of tomcats who are attached to the colony. Colonies form around food sources, eg. rubbish dumps or a good hunting area. The greater the available food resources are, the bigger the colony is. Feral colonies have quite a complex internal relationship with shared nursing/babysitting duties being conducted by several females, thus allowing nursing mothers to hunt. Kittenless females will often begin lactating in order to facilitate the shared nursing duties. Tomcats attached to the colony will provide protection for kittens and have been observed intervening in fights between kittens when things get out of hand. Feral Tomcats will also defend kittens and other colony cats from humans. This practice of defending members of a colony has been observed by individuals engaged in TNR work. A solitary roaming cat can become a member of a colony once a series of feline rituals have been observed: spraying, nose touching, head butts and so on. However, a roaming group of cats will be fought off by the colony’s toms. Feral cats that live in a colony can live up to 10 years.

Feral colony

Solitary ferals lead a far more harsh existence away from the solidarity of a colony. Solitary ferals live, on average, for between one, to two, years. Hunger, illness, and disease, as well as human interference, account for this high death toll. There are no academic studies available yet, to explain why some cats prefer solitude to colony life. There are several possible reasons, some cats just prefer to be alone because it is their nature. Other cats may have been driven from a colony. Yet others may have been older kittens who wandered off from their colony and got lost.

Feral surveying his environment while eating

Both colony and solitary ferals share similar characteristics:

  • Fear of humans
  • Avoidance of humans
  • Living in secret places on the periphery of human habitation.
  • Eating in short, fast bursts, then stopping to scan their immediate environment for signs of danger
  • Acting with aggression if cornered or surprised by humans
  • Able to hunt and kill their own food, eg, rodents and other small animals

Feral cats usually run away when released and might not be seen for a couple of days

Stray Cats

A stray cat is a cat who has been born into a domestic setting and who has grown up amongst humans.

As the name implies, a stray cat is one that has been dumped by its human caretaker or who has gotten lost while out exploring.  Sometimes a cat will stray because it has been chased outside of its range by a dog or human thus losing all familiar ‘landmark’ scents. A domestic that strays is in an extremely vulnerable state. Stray cats are used to, and love, humans, whom they see as the chief provider of food, shelter and assistance. Stray cats may not know how to hunt as they have never had to. They will automatically approach any human they come across as they expect food and shelter from them. A hungry stray cat when given food will devote its entire concentration to the food bowl unlike its feral counterpart, who stops eating to inspect his surroundings for signs of danger.  Stray cats will not understand how to seek proper shelter from the elements and will search outhouses and other forms of human habitation in the hope of gaining access. The stray will have a ‘pleading’ demeanour when approaching humans. Ferals run the opposite direction no matter how badly they might need help.

Stray cat still wearing a collar, but in terrible condition

A cat that strays from its home will undergo a personality change. To put it in human terms the cat will ‘harden up’ to the situation it finds itself in. The stray will move through several stages from friendly cat through to a more wary individual to, finally, a feral state in which all friendliness towards human has vanished. This transition from domestic cat to feral will be due entirely to humans and their indifference towards the plight of such unfortunate creatures. The stray cat will often display bewilderment during the initial stages as it tries to comprehend the sudden change in its fortunes. This confusion will, in turn, change to an increased wariness, and eventually downright fear of humans. Many strays do not make it to the feral stage but will die because of their inability to adapt to the more hostile environment.

Stray cat found in a garden running towards humans

Stray Characteristics:

  • Friendliness: A stray cat will approach humans seeking help or food or will be approachable
  • A stray cat will have a physical ‘attitude’ of friendliness, eg. tail in an upright position, meowing
  • A stray cat will seek to move indoors seeking shelter
  • A stray cat might respond to human, verbal entreaties, eg. “Here. Puss,Puss”
  • A stray cat will eat in front of a human and will totally concentrate on the food provided
  • A stray cat, if not long strayed, will possess a softer coat than its feral counterpart
  • A stray cat will exhibit curiosity towards humans

The above points are just generalisations about the differences between stray and feral cats. Generally speaking, ferals will exhibit fear and hatred of humans whereas strays will approach, or be approachable by, humans. Cats are like humans: some humans are friendly, some humans are not; this is regardless of background. Likewise, the same will be observed in cats: some feral cats might be approachable whilst a stray, or even a domestic, cat might hiss, and run away.

A friendly feral staying around for a rub upon release

There will be a stage in the downward spiral of a stray cat from the role of domestic to feral when the animal could be described as being in a half and half situation. The cat retains some elements of its former domesticity while also possessing certain feral  traits. If a cat has been the recipient of food, shelter, and kindness, from a human, it will retain some memories of this while simultaneously being wary of humans. A domestic cat that loses the security of its home undergoes a series of ‘psychic’ shocks as it struggles to adjust to its new status. In the place of regular feeds, vet care and a warm, comfortable bed, it must now fight for everything. Human that the cat once regarded as protectors and providers can become those who seek to hurt or even kill it. Food has to be scavenged or hunted down. Failure to do so will result in constant hunger and malnutrition  that leads to a lowering of the animal’s resistance to sickness and disease. Shelter must be found and domestic  cats will not possess the same acuity in seeking suitable shelter.What must also be taken into account is a certain emotional disturbance within the cat as it tries to comprehend a situation  that is actually incomprehensible to it. There can be nothing  sadder than the bewildered look of an ex-domestic cat as it tries to make a reconnection with humans whom it once regarded as family.

Advice for trapping

If you trap a feral cat there are a number of vital steps that must be observed to avoid injury to the animal or the human trapper.

Feral cat after hurting himself from banging against the trap

A feral cat will react with fear and panic when trapped, no matter how well intentioned the trappers may be. It will attempt to claw or bite its way back out of the trap and may attack any human that come close to it. Remember the feral cat doesn’t like human contact and in particular close human contact.

Always ensure the trap is placed on level ground.

Never, never, leave the trap unattended, not even for 5 minutes. A cat in an unattended trap is vulnerable to attack by other animals or may tumble the trap over in its panic to escape.

Immediately cover the trap with a blanket or a towel as soon as the cat is trapped. This will quieten the animal and provide it with some measure of calm.

Upon trapping the cat, immediately transfer the animal to a larger Queen’s cage or Hospital cage (ensure that such cages have plastic coated steel mesh). Again ensure a suitable covering is placed over the cage to calm the cat.

Take care to keep hands and fingers away from cages when transferring feral cats. Similarly when carrying the cages ensure that you hold them away from your body. Cats can extend their limbs out through the cage mesh  and those limbs are well equipped with concave claws that are extremely difficult to extract from flesh.

It is advisable to cover the seats and floor of the vehicle that will be transporting the cats with a tarpaulin. Feral cats give off a very strong scent when fearful or stressed and this scent lingers.

Cats for immediate neutering or spaying must not be fed for at least 8-10 hours before the operation. Cats that are being kept longer than that must be given adequate food, water and bedding. As well as being a simple kindness towards the animal, these measures act as a spur to calming the animal and aiding its recovery.

Any holding area where cats are kept prior to, or after, veterinary attention must provide shelter from the elements as well as being secure from escape or intrusion.

Keep the locations of trappings secret or be deliberately vague about where the site is. Publicity can bring unwelcome attention upon the cats.

A trapped cat should be covered immediately

Tables to Raise Awareness about Feral Cats

To mark the beginning of National Feral Cat Awareness Week, Community Cats Network held information tables over the last two days.  We wanted to meet the public and explain the importance of caring and neutering feral and stray cats.  Cats do not have the best profile in Ireland and it was thus a difficult task to get our message heard.  We were received by a mix of reactions ranging from “I hate cats and I don’t want to have anything to do with them” to curiosity to real interest to total approval.

Information table at Hosford’s garden centre

We had brought traps with us and they certainly attracted attention.  A few people asked about them and we were glad to show them how they work.  Some people engaged in longer conversations and left with the information leaflets designed by Mayo Cat Rescue and Feral Cats Ireland, who are at the origin of this great initiative.  Although not everyone stopped, it was still exposure as many people looked and read the posters.  We have realised that quite often people do not know how to deal with feral cats simply because they are not aware that there is a humane way to trap them, but the few 100s of customers passing our stalls today and yesterday will at least know that there is a solution out there…

Information table at Hanley’s garden centre

We would like to extend a huge thank you to Trish and her staff at Pet Stop, Jim and his staff at Hanley’s and John and his staff at Hosford’s for having us there and being so helpful.

Marika and Eva holding the stall in Pet Stop

Also, thank you to all the volunteers who gave a bit of their time during those two days to help us raise awareness: Marika, Eva, Cormac, Brian, Sara, Pauline, Karen and Colette.

Colette and Karen speaking for the cats in Hosford’s garden centre

Finally, thanks to all the customers who stopped by for a chat and gave a few euros to help the cause.

Brian waiting to show how to operate the cat trap in Hanley’s garden centre

This initiative is supported by near to 20 vet practices in Cork; they will be offering a discounted rate to the public for the neutering of stray and feral cats (you can check the list of participating vets here).  This discount only applies to genuine stray and feral cats and all cats will be ear-tipped (this is a universal method to recognise stray and feral cats that have already been neutered, thus preventing them from being trapped again).  And if you do not manage to catch the cat, don’t hesitate to contact your local TNR group, they will be more than happy to help you.

Next week, we will keep spreading the word by distributing leaflets and placing posters in shops, especially farmer’s co-ops.  You too can help us to raise awareness by printing the poster below and bringing it to your local shop or work place.