Mom here. The Furry Bambinos graciously allowed me to borrow their blog for this post. As regular readers know, my husband and I volunteer for a local animal rescue group called PAWS (Public Animal Welfare Society). We foster kittens, I screen applicants for cat and kitten adoptions, my husband does transports locally taking cats and dogs to and from appointments, etc.
Now, we can also say that we have experience trapping a colony of feral cats.
It all started when my friend and co-worker Diane (name changed to protect the innocent) told me that her Mom was visiting a friend, and that there were “about six or eight friendly kittens” living outside the friend’s house. Diane’s Mom thought the kittens might be 2 to 3 months old. So Diane told her mom about me and PAWS. I checked with PAWS if it was OK for me to “harvest the kittens” (as we say), and was given the OK and eight appointments for spay/neuter at the Cleveland APL.
On a warm sunny afternoon after work, Diane and I went over to the location to assess the situation. We were armed with the smelliest Stinky Goodness they make (Flaked Fish and Shrimp Feast, in case you were wondering), plates, water, dishes, surrender forms, and cat carriers. We were prepared to collect “friendly kittens” should they present themselves for collecting. We set up on the patio, and as Diane described it, “an army of cats” began appearing from the bushes once we opened the cans of Stinky Goodness.
It’s hard to estimate the age of a cat, especially when you can’t get close enough to hold and examine him or her. By my best guess, the youngest of the felines were in the 10-month age range. And all were skittish and afraid of us – feral. We counted at least eleven – possibly more – adult feral cats.
The difference between a stray cat and a feral cat is how they feel about humans. Stray cats are homeless cats who would make good companion cats for people. They like and trust people, and will let you pet them if you encounter them outside. Feral cats are not homeless – their home is the Great Outdoors, however inclement the weather or climate may be. However, they have not been socialized to trust people, and are therefore afraid of humans.
If a kitten is not socialized with lots of human contact early in life, they will grow up feral. There is debate as to what the critical age is, but from my experience, I would put it at 3 months. Which is not to say that an older feral kitten or cat cannot learn to trust people, but it will take MUCH MUCH longer, and A LOT of work. For more information about feral cats, please see Alley Cat Allies web site.
So, our hopes of harvesting young trusting kittens were scrapped – replaced by a TNR situation to get this cat population under control. It’s Kitten Season, after all, and by the looks of a few of the cats, some might already be pregnant. We needed to move fast to trap these cats before they started reproducing!
Tune in next time to find out if we were able to catch any of the feral cats!