Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How to Create a Stray Cat

This is how to create a stray cat. Buy a nice house with a large mortgage. Buy nice new, all white furniture and put in a new kitchen. Go on holiday 3 times a year and have three kids. To complete the image and the perfect family scene buy a purebred pedigree cat, say a nice Siamese, they are one of the most popular and impressive looking cats and the white body and dark pointing (extremities) go oh so well with the white kitchen and the new cushions you just bought for the large sumptuous sofas that could barely get through the front door when they were delivered. Keep doing that sort of thing for a time.

Wait for the inevitable economic crash, the bust after the boom. Then try and hang on to the job, but to no avail. The wife works part-time but the debt that you accrued over the last ten years amount to $50,000 and the family home has been remortgaged four times and now property prices have plummeted there is negative equity. You stop paying the mortgage and the HP payments on the sofa got too much so you lost that. Next you lose the house.

You pack your bags and cart away what possessions you have left. You, the wife and the kids shut the front door for the last time. Inside the home is your Siamese cat, without food or water and locked in. You just couldn't see a way to paying for her. The cat had to go. That's how to create a stray cat in the recession.

{based on the true story of Bandy a 1 year old Siamese cat who was left in a foreclosed house and who became a stray cat with no where to stray to}

From how or create a stray cat to feral cats

Australians are Hostile to Stray Cats

Why do I get the distinct impression that Australians are hostile to stray cats? I mean Australians as a nation not individual Australians lots of whom are very much for, and care for, the stray and feral cats. And lets not forget that stray cats are quite possibly domestic companion cats that are simply outdoors. All over the internet are stories of stray cats in Australia being ill treated.

There seems to be a kind of culture that approaches that found in China with respect to the stray cat or indeed feral cat. This culture seems to have been promoted or even generated by a long term and on-going campaign by government officials who have claimed that the poor maligned stray cats and feral cats of Australia are responsible for the death of millions of native wild animals. A reality check indicates that this is not the case. Here are a few facts that come from a very reliable source, Sarah Hartwell (unless otherwise stated), who was assisted by http://www.catassist.org.au:
  • there are pro and anti feral and stray cat camps. I sense that the anti camp is winning because of government backing (my view)
  • there are no accurate figures on the numbers of stray cats and feral cats in Australia. This fuels guesswork and alarmist assessments. The figure is, apparently, between 3 and 30 million.
  • an influential survey carried out in 1994 by Dr David Paton claimed that cats kill 3.8 billion animals and birds annually. A vast number. But this survey, which may be etched in the minds of some Australians, has been found to be lacking in objectivity (Dr. Paton disliked cats) and accuracy. It is, in short, misleading. More birds are killed by cars than cats in Australia (survey result not guesswork).
  • another study of 1994 (by Reark research for Petcare Information and Advisory Service) confirmed that cats preferred hunting introduced wild species (rabbit and mouse) rather than native Australian species thus debunking the claim that precious native species are being slaughtered by cats.
  • habitat destruction by people is probably the biggest killer of native Australian wildife (my view)
  • it seems that a considerable percentage of vets are also against the feral and stray cat. Witness the case of Possum who was shot 27 times and the owner couldn't find a vet to assist until after 4 tries a kind a decent vet did assist. (see Worst Case of Cat Cruelty) -this is my view and not Sarah Hartwells.
  • Ms Hartwell supports my view that wholesale shooting of feral cats is inhumane and it doesn't work either. (see Ground Shooting of Feral Cats and the Vacuum Effect). She also supports proper, humane and organised action using TNR techniques. The Australians seem incapable of accepting this. It isn't, it seems, in their nature as it would take a long term approach and a concerted approach.
  • all the signs are that, generally, as an electorate, Australians are hostile to Stray cats.
Some selected posts on this topic:

From Australians are Hostile to Stray Cats to Home Page

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stray Cats Smell

Do stray cats smell? Timmy, the cat I feed and give a bit of tender loving care to, does. He washes etc. But he always has dirty paws, a messed up and scratched face and he smells of a very badly kept room. You know those homes where the owner or tenant has simply given up (don't blame them) or they are old etc. and the whole home is a complete disaster, with piles of newspapers, mess on the floor, a massive pong of filth, old dirt, that kind of place. Well Timmy smells of that kind of place and I wonder if he is time sharing. I don't think he is, though, as he is very hungry when he comes in, as if he hasn't eaten since the last time I fed him.

He may be living in some sort of run down place, a garage or something that has junk in it and he smells of the junk he lies on. He occasionally stays with me for a while but seems eager to get going back to his filthy home. When I pick him up I get dirty and feel itchy (due to his allergens) at the same time. I still love him though!

It is much harder for a stray or feral cat to keep clean. When I washed him he hissed! Timmy's head wound has healed nicely (see cat abscess). I feel (and this is not a boast) that I have saved his life.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stray Cats Learn to Stay

Pippa on a bed in the flat for the first time. She has eaten and she is having a rest.

Stray cats learn to stay in a new home, if what we do is better than what the "owner" does. Of course, we do not try and entice a cat away from her his owner but if the stray is Pippa (see above) and if she is not that happy in her home she might stay despite that fact I am doing nothing different than normal.

I saw Pippa out the kitchen window dicing with death walking near the road. She approached the flat, and seeing her, I opened the window and called out fearing that she might get hurt. She heard me and recognized my name but would not jump up through the window (no surprise as it is high and she is unsure). However, about 10 mins later she came in through Binnie's (my cat) cat flap and was I pleased to see her. I fed her and loved her. And for the first time Pippa went to one of the beds in the flat and installed herself on it to wash herself and have a rest. I loved her some more and she is still there right now as I type this post. She is a complete sweety but nervous. She likes good quality cat food and is jet black.

Also for the first time the "owners" have added a name tag to her collar. Her name is Kelis. I will still call her Pippa because she has this Pixie-like face.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stray Cats are Very Stoic

Stray cats particularly, are very stoic. They are very accepting. I am referring to a story, about a not that unusual event, in which a cat was resting inside the engine compartment of a car (perhaps it was cold) when the owner turned up and turned on. The car driver smelled burning and realising there was a cat stuck in the engine compartment drove to the Baltimore SPCA for help. I am shocked that she was unable, as reported, to recover the cat. What was going on? It can't be that difficult, surely, to open the hood (bonnet in Britain) and get the cat out. I would certainly not move off if I knew (as she apparently did) that a cat was on top of the bl**dy engine. Well she did!

With great good fortune the cat survived with third degree burns to one paw and the others blistered. He was on top of the engine during the drive. He is unchanged and relaxed, accepting people and being very nice about it all. I take care of a stray cat called Timmy (see the header) and he is similar. He is uncomplaining and very laid back. He seems to accept discomfort very well. When he was in a fight recently and I took him to the vet he behaved impeccably. It may have been the first time he was in a cage but he took it all in his stride. It seems that the more difficult life that they endure makes them more quiet. It knocks the rough edges off their character. It also teaches them to endure better. It is the equivalent to putting a banker on the street for a few months. It would improve them! Although I am not advocating that cats and bankers should be turfed out on to the street - just bankers.

Stray cats are very stoic and make great companion cats. Get down to that cat rescue center!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Difference between Stray and Feral Cat

feral cat
Feral cat - a boy cat and it shows - photo by Wabana

The difference between stray and feral cat is that the stray cat is a domesticated cat that has strayed from its home. The cat is at the first stage of being feral. It is pre-feral. Its offspring will be feral if they are born outside of a permanent human home, meaning on the street or in the woods etc. Feral cats are domestic cats that are evolving back to wildcats but they are ill equipped to survive outside the human environment because of thousands of years of domestication.

The feral cat's life is considerably shorter than a domestic cat's life and a permanent indoor cat's life is potentially the longest of all because it is the most protected (but stress brought on by the unnatural environment may reduce lifespan).

The feral cat might live 3 years, while the domestic cat should live 15+ although purebreds live shorter on average (say 11). The true wildcat will live a decent length of time, say 11 years or so because despite the harsher lifestyle they are well able to cope.

Feral cats are often quite a mess health wise, being caught up in territorial fights and getting ill. Domestic cats are protected from this and receive medical care (usually). See damaged cat ears. I feed two stray cats and my companion cat was a stray. The 2 cats that I feed are quite well but one, the male gets hurt in fights requiring veterinary treatment because his injuries turn to abscesses.


Feral Cats of Los Angeles

The feral cats of Los Angeles. There are one million. There are about 60 million feral cats in the United States. About 2.2 million feral cats (some say 14 million) are euthanized each year in the USA. Thee are about 80 million domestic cats in homes in the USA. Most of these live decent lives but they are cancelled out by the tough, short and sometimes miserable lives of the feral cats. Is this going to be the outcome for the forseeable future of the arrangement we made with the wildcat 9,000 years ago when the cat domesticated him/herself? At that time it worked. Can we claim that, overall, domestication of the cat actually works based on the above figures? I am not sure.

Update: A colleague of mine, Valley Girl (VG), has made a nice post about how people dump unwanted companion animals at Angeles National Forest. This apparently happens infrequently but VG makes the good point as to what that means. Does it mean one incident every week or more? Any dumping of pet like this is irresponsible. The "owners" of these cats and dogs (and rabbits) think that the animals will survive by reverting to the wild but this is not true. Domestic cats are conditioned and adapted to be domestic and find it hard to survive in the wild but will no doubt do so for a period of time. This is a cruel practice, though. Companion animals are for the life of the animal and we should not enter into an agreement to adapt a cat, say, unless we are totally committed to long term care. Here is VG's post:

Angeles National Forest Dumping Ground for Unwanted Animals

Stray Cats of Winnipeg

The stray cats of Winnipeg are multiplying and it is becoming an area of concern. Is the increase in stray and feral cats due to the economic downturn? Possibly, yes as there are reports in the USA that this is happening. What is a bit shocking is that the euthanasia rate for the stray cats of Winnipeg at cat shelters is four times higher than for dogs!

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And the numbers are, as usual, large and daunting. 34% of the 5,900 cats admitted to the Winnipeg Humane Society shelter were euthanised (2,000 in 2008). The problem of feral cats goes on across the globe. I have just made a post about a successful trap, neuter, spay program in Doha, Qatar, not a place, necessarily where you might think that this would happen but happening it is and successfully on all accounts. Do they have a TNR scheme in place in Winnipeg? If so it needs to be carried out with a level of conviction to make an impact. In Doha they have four government teams involved in managing feral cats.

Stray Cats of Qatar

The stray cats of Qatar in Doha, are being managed humanely on an official basis with the help and advice of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the Qatar Cat Coalition. Like many major cities in many countries, Doha in Qatar had a "feral cat problem." A lot of people don't like to see stray cats in public places. Not everyone is tender towards them, in fact, many are downright cruel and one can see their argument. But the big issue is how to deal with it and the only way, and this has been supported by the authorities in Qatar, is to go through what might seem to be the slog of trap, neuter, medicate and return.

View Larger Map

It seems that, initially, ad hoc attempts were made to deal with the complaints. No doubt these were pretty ineffective and probably cruel. The Qatar Cat Coalition (QCC) became involved and asked the WSPA to step in and advise during a meeting with central government people. It seems that this was dealt with (at this stage) in a professional manner, with the three best organisations involved at the same time.

This in outline seems to be the order of events (and some people in places in Australia might well learn from this):
  1. Complaints by the public about feral and stray cats
  2. Local authority probably round up and kill cats in reaction to complaints
  3. This fails to reduce population of feral cats as unneutered feral cats are very good at surviving by breeding and fill the void (see vacuum effect)
  4. Qatar Cat Coalition (QCC) calls for change in policy as a result
  5. Meeting set up with government+QCC+WSPA and a humane program devised based on TNR (trap, neuter and return)
  6. Qatar Gov. officials visit a project in Dubai where TNR is practiced
  7. Dubai authorities provide glowing report and the evidence is in front of them
  8. Qatar authorities ask QCC and WSPA to set up TNR scheme in Doha
  9. WSPA delivered an initial training course on trap neuter return methods, which is well received (note: it is nice for people involved in this kind of work and motivating, to be doing things in an humane manner)
  10. Practical training is set up to train Government and QCC workers in humane TNR. Vets are involved too
  11. 2008 - In Doha there are 4 government managed trapping teams, monitored by the QCC
  12. The stray cat and feral cat populations are managed at last
  13. The Qatar government ask WSPA and QCC to get involved with a similar scheme to control stray dogs.
The stray cats of Qatar in Doha are now managed humanely. The only way, it seems to me, to do this is as described. Shooting and ad hoc killing of feral cats will fail and demotivate not to mention cause a lot of suffering to innocent and vulnerable animals to whom we owe a duty to treat properly because, ultimately, we put them there.

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