A Cats Life
Feral cats, the joys and pit falls of trying to do the right thing.
“Healthy cats may have to be put down, because of the record number of strays, the RSPCA warned yesterday”.
A couple of years ago a neighbor at the end of our street, started feeding a feral cat and its four kittens; she asked if we would help. As cat lovers we had no problem with helping to feed this hungry, hoard. However we soon realised that cats being cats, their numbers would not stay at five, for long.
I contacted the RSPCA who were willing to issue a voucher for the free spaying of the mother, but they were unable to offer assistance to actually catch her.
The capture... er well almost !!
One sunny morning I managed to shut her in my Greenhouse, then protected by leather gardening gloves and armed with cat carrier I went into the greenhouse and attempted to trap her. Things did not quite go to plan !!
Though small and delicate looking, she was a fearsome whirlwind of claws and teeth. I managed to grab her for only a few seconds,she twisted around and sank her teeth through the leather gloves and into a thumb, this put paid to my bravery! I let go of her, at which point she accelerated from one end of the greenhouse to the other, impacting on the glass; fortunately the spring clips holding the safety glass into the frame collapsed under her onslaught and the glass fell unbroken onto the garden. She was obviously terrified, (but unhurt) I know I was pretty shaken.
We realised then, that we needed assistance, and some expert guidance, so we contacted the local Cats Protection. After speaking with a lovely woman called Pat from the North Sheffield branch, we were supplied with a cat trap and loads of good advice. One by one we were able to capture all the kittens and get them spayed; paid for by Cats Protection.
However we were less than successful in catching the mother, needless to say she was pretty wary about coming into our garden, after her experience with me.
Later on in the year she started coming back into the neighbors garden, for food. The neighbor noticed that she was getting ‘fat’ , yes she was pregnant again!
On talking to Pat, we were advised that if we could find where she was going to have the litter, and we were able to retrieve the them before they were six weeks old, they could then be fostered by Cats Protection before being found new homes. After this period they are difficult to handle and are unlikely to be domesticated.
By observing the mother, we were able to find out where she was likely to have the kittens .She was seen to enter the garden of a local Pub, and vanish underneath a pile of branches, timber and garden cuttings, a sort of bonfire in the making. So when she suddenly lost weight , we realised that the kittens had been born; but we had to wait for about 5 weeks before we could make a move, until they were old enough to survive without the mother.
On a rainy day five weeks later three of us went into the Pub garden, and started to gently dismantle the heap. By the time we had removed about 90% of of it, I was thinking about giving up, but my partner insisted that we carry on to the end; and a good job she did,for at the bottom of the pile protected from the elements we spotted our first ball of fur, and then another. until eventually there were five. In-spite of the torrential rain, their nest had kept them perfectly dry.
Post script :-
They were handed over to cats protection who completed the weaning process and acclimatized them to human contact. We took one of the kittens, he was the Runt of the litter ‘Tia’ ,however there was an inherent problem with his digestive system, and unfortunately he passed away two weeks after we picked him up. The other kittens have all been found good homes.
As for the mother our neighbor managed to entice her into the trap and she has been spayed, so the cycle has been stopped, well at least in this little neighborhood.
Our first five feral cats (including mother) are all doing well; we have named them after characters from a well known fictional series’, no prizes as to ‘witch’ one!!
For information on how you can help;- www.cats.org.uk