The Purr Company Mews-Letter - July 2007
Hi and welcome to the July Mews-letter – Special Stray Cat Edition.
Remember how last month I was telling you about the kittens we were looking after? Well they've all gone to their new homes now and I went to see them the other day and I'm pleased to say that they're very happy and tearing about the place like there's no tomorrow.
Remember how I was also saying that we couldn't keep one, as 4 cats is enough? Well we didn't keep one but it turns out 4 cats isn't enough, as the stray we've been feeding has insisted on telling us. He decided that it was better to live with us than on the street so he pretty much just moved himself in.
I thought there would be more objection from the other cats, but in fact only Rags has a problem with him, and even he's agree to silently tolerate the new addition to the tribe. To my complete surprise, Bones has actually made friends with him and they hang out together quite a lot.
So having ensured our reputation as ‘those weird cat people' down our road, I thought this month's edition should be a special stray cat edition. Stay tuned for more about, well, stray cats - of course!!
Strictly speaking, a stray cat is a domestic cat who once had a home and is used to humans, as opposed to a feral cat, who is likely to be the offspring of a stray and rather more unsociable.
A stray cat might be nervous around people but because it has had some human contact in its life it should be able to re-adjust to living with humans once again, should it be lucky enough to have the chance!
There are hundreds of thousands of stray cats in the world, maybe even millions. Some have been abandoned by their owners, and others are much loved pets who have wandered too far and got lost while out on adventure. If your cats are keen adventurers it is imperative to microchip them to stand the best chance of getting them back should they get lost.
Life is hard for a stray cat!
Un-neutered males are always getting into fights over territory and female cats in heat, and females who are not spayed are often pregnant or feeding a litter of kittens, as well as having to scavenge for food and find shelter on a daily basis. If the kittens don't have any human contact they will turn feral and are unlikely to ever have a loving home; once ( or if ) they grow up the cycle continues.
Adopting a stray cat
Since this is what we have done this week with Domino, I can tell you first hand that adopting a stray can be a very rewarding experience.
Although Domino did officially have an ‘owner', it turned out Domino didn't like the dog who lived in his home and he moved himself out of there a few years ago, preferring to live on the streets.
Domino was un-neutered, skinny and always covered in war wounds. He scavenged food from us for many months before we tracked down and confronted his owner, and he agreed that we could take him on just 2 weeks ago.
Last week we took him to the vet to be neutered and had to keep him indoors for recovery. We expected he would go crazy from being shut indoors for the first time in years, but we were so wrong.
Domino has obviously been missing having a home and someone to love him; we brought him back from the vets and got him settled, then he just purred and purred. He loves to be stroked and rolls on his back so you can stroke his tummy and he looks at you with those adoring eyes that cats sometimes give you as if to say… thank you.
I'm so glad we've adopted Domino; I wish we'd confronted his ‘owner' sooner and then he wouldn't have had to spend so long fending for himself. But all's well that ends well, he now has a loving home where he wont want for anything.
If you find a stray cat in your house, or on the street, or anywhere else, try to befriend it. Getting a friend like Domino is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.
A social disgrace, an indictment of our species and a heartbreaking reality of modern society – the feral and stray cat population is not only a solvable problem, it's largely our own fault in the first place.
It is true that cats can be very independent creatures, and some do choose to stray, but in the vast majority of cases, the problem starts with us and is down to a couple of simple facts.
The first cause is people who either don't know how, or choose not to bother, to look after their cat properly, ultimately leading the cat to look for a better place to live. These people, either through ignorance or selfishness, lay the foundations for the misery of thousands of cats, forced to fight for what they need to survive.
This is true of both the cats they neglect and of their offspring, and to make matters worse, living wild virtually halves the life expectancy of their once beloved pet.
The second problem is a failure to spay or neuter. An un-neutered male cat will wander further and more often, will get into more fights, will spray their territory with foul smelling pheromones and will go on to make many more little cats every year. If they go feral too the problem is compounded.
If all non-breeders' cats were spayed and neutered not only would fewer cats stray in the first place but the stray cat population would also be limited to one generation.
In the USA there are large-scale TNR (Trap Neuter Return) programs that, whilst they don't provide homes, they do go a long way toward limiting the growth of the feral population. Schemes like these have yet to reach our shores, but that doesn't mean you can't do your bit.
So what can we all do to help?
The first thing we can do is to make sure our pet cats are spayed and neutered as early as possible.
There is often a feeling amongst cat owners that they should let their female cat have one litter before getting spayed, as they may feel they've missed out on motherhood if they don't. In reality, this idea is simply a human concept that doesn't apply to cats.
Cats don't know that mating leads to babies; to them it's nothing more than a biological urge. Spaying your cat removes the urge and the possibility of pregnancy so all maternal urges that might follow simply don't happen.
That's not to say a spayed female cat will be less loving. It also doesn't mean they won't have the urge to look after kittens in need, they often do; they just won't make any kittens of their own.
Neutering Male cats is an even simpler argument to make. Neutered males simply don't have the urge to mate and that's all there is to it. It's also a somewhat pleasant surprise to many people that neutered males are more relaxed and friendly, less likely to wander off and are much less likely to continue to spray.
There is nothing cruel or untoward about neutering and spaying, and in almost every instance it is actually the best thing you can do for the cat, and for the many future generations of cats that might otherwise be born into a difficult and dangerous environment.
The next thing we can do is to look after any strays or ferals in our own neighbourhood. Looking after them not only includes feeding them, but also if you can afford it, get them any necessary medical attention, including spaying or neutering, you can then let them go again if you like. Often stray cats will return to a kind home after the operation and will, if allowed, become part of the family through their own choice.
Regardless of what you can personally do for an individual stray, there is one thing we can all do – help to educate all cat owners about the stray and feral problem and the benefits of treating cats properly - including getting them neutered.
We must all take responsibility for this disgrace and we must all take positive action to fix the situation we have created.
4. Web Site of the Month
- Greek Animal Rescue