Feral Cat Colonies


A very kind and well-meaning friend of mine recently asked me to head a ways out of town with her to capture and bring in a colony of feral cats.  She knew they were intact because there were several kittens amongst them, and the gas station employee on whose property the cats resided vouched for their wild nature.

When the day to go out was upon us, I started to collect the necessary materials.  A carrier, towels, a first aid kit, heavy gloves...and then I thought to call her and see what she was bringing.  Unfortunately, it wasn't anything like what we would really need.

Her supplies included a borrowed live trap, and a whole lot of time.  Her plan was to sit and wait for the cats to become trapped, then move them from the trap to a cage or into town and begin again.  Then she would bring the captured cats into the local pound, who had promised her they would deliver them to the local feral cat organization.

Since there were several things wrong with this plan, and all of them are valuable points to make if one intends to participate in rescuing wild cats, I thought I'd go over the biggest issues and share them with you... juuuust in case you need to do something similar one day.
  • First and foremost - live traps take several days to work, if they work at all.  When kittens are involved, one runs the risk of separating mother and nursing young, which could easily do a lot more damage than good.  It's best to get the aid of the organization you're intending to work with, as they likely have significantly more experience and tips to pass on to you.  They are also almost always better equipped to handle the risks associated with catching wild animals, too, which you should never attempt on your own or without training.
  • Observe the colony.  Account for all cats present.  Feral adult cats are very difficult to catch and can become very violent if cornered.  They're extremely talented at getting away, so it's a good idea to have a head count and know if you're missing anyone before ever getting started.  They are a pack of sorts, or whatever the word is for a group of wild cats, and you can wind up just disturbing their dynamic and scaring them off of an otherwise safe environment just trying to round them up.
  • Speak directly with the organization you intend to pass the cats to, before you do anything with the cats.  In this instance, our pound was blatantly lying to her.  Our pound takes it upon itself to drastically reduce the cat population by several thousand annually, euthanizing cats frequently without telling the truth to those responsible for them.  When it's possible to work directly with the feral cat organization, it would be silly to involve a middle man so enthusiastic to take the kitties off your hands...and everyone else's.
  • Make a game plan with the organization with whom you are collaborating.  Most feral cat programs collect the animals, test them for serious diseases, vaccinate them, tag them, fix them, and then re-release them.  For this reason, it's a good idea to make sure the cats you think are wild really are unaccounted for - they may already be in a sanctuary or fixed.  Only kittens have a good shot at being rehomed as pet cats; most (not all) adults are already set in their ways and will only be happy in the wild.  You want to be positive what you do for the cats really does help them.  Figure out how you're catching them and how the organization will handle them.
  • Figure out who's paying.  All that work on every cat you bring in adds up quickly.  Organizations rarely receive enough donations to completely cover animal care costs.  If you can raise money before the big day, do, and make sure you aren't overburdening the organization that is trying to help you and the animals.
That's really the best advice I can give.  Rushing in before knowing the details doesn't help you or the cats, and can cause serious problems for whatever organization you ask for aid.  Even if you're trained and do this sort of thing all the time, I'd still (meekly) recommend going with another professional in the event an emergency occurs, either with you or one of the animals.

Like the boy scouts say - be prepared!

-Miss Mouse
<:3 )~~

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