A Free-Roaming Cat Family (AKA Feral) and Me, Part 2 of 4

A Free-Roaming Cat Family (AKA Feral) and Me, Part 2 of 4

Little yellow kitten eating

I prefer the term “community” to “feral,” which means “wild” or “savage,” because humanely cared for outdoor cats become more like domesticated cats than wild cats fighting to survive. Once cats are neutered, they become quieter as mating behaviors like yowling and fighting stop, and healthier, because deadly diseases can be spread during mating.

Emily, who helps feed a colony of 200 community kitties, tells me it’s too late for socialization when kittens are 8 weeks old. The time limit is about a month. The most humane solution for outdoor cats is to trap, neuter, and return them to the area from whence they came.  Emily helps manage such a program. In the past 20 years, she has trapped more than  1,500 cats and had them neutered. Kudos to Emily and all the others who help these cats live outdoors, and get them fixed so they stop birthing babies every 3 or 4 months.

I give the cats water as well as dry and wet food but I don’t see them drinking it much. Emily tells me free-roaming cats nurse longer because they don’t get enough water. She advised me not to get the family neutered until the kittens were 8 weeks old.

They made 8 weeks on Saturday, 21 July. Emily loaned me her trap and showed me how to set it. I tested it; put tuna in oil inside, watched mama and her biggest white kitten walk inside and eat the food. The following Sunday, Mama Cat and her kittens headed to Cat Friends to be fixed. I hoped she would fatten up. She’s skinny as a stick from nursing the kittens for so long. Now, weeks later, she’s still skinny, perhaps because this dedicated mama won’t eat much until after her three kittens are fed.

I’m glad this is her last litter. Cats who keep having babies become more aggressive because they’re constantly fighting to defend their new litters of kittens. My hairdresser said her neighbor’s cat is constantly birthing kittens so she’s always ready to fight. That Queen Cat, as multiple-litter females are called, has beaten up two neighborhood dogs so far.

During frequent downpours in rainy Manoa Valley, the cat family stays dry. Mama Cat moved them from patio to under the house six weeks ago. They are safer there, sleeping on top of boogie boards and ice chests and Barry’s and my cardboard boxes, beneath the tarp we threw over the boxes to keep spiders out.

I spend hours Googling articles about community cats. Their ancestors were domesticated. Cat owners abandoned them with no food, no water, and no birth control. Inhumane owners, unfortunate cats.

Thanks to Emily’s help, this cat family will have no more kittens. Emily loaned me a large food trap for Mama Kitty. I almost didn’t catch her because I had to manually drop the back door since I couldn’t set the front door. Mama Kitty twirled fast as the wind inside the cage until I covered the cage with two towels and she couldn’t see out. I nearly captured her three wee ones in a cat kennel by hooking the door while they were busy eating. But Little Yellow got away.

So it was back to Emily to borrow another trap. The trap caught Little Yellow, who managed to stick her paw through one end of the wire cage and bat at some leaves. How could anyone deliberately kill a playful little kitten like L.Y.? I will never understand.

People say feeding free-roaming cats is feeding the problem. I agree, unless feeding is done as a prelude to trapping, to get cats used to eating in a certain place. Otherwise, feeding these animals increases their ability to give birth to even more kittens who are destined to suffer and die premature deaths. Getting these cats off the streets will prevent not only their own suffering, but also the suffering of their kittens.

In Hawai’i, anyone can check out a trap from the Humane Society or Cat Friends for $100 deposit – the money is returned when the trap comes back. Cat Friends charges $5 to neuter a cat. They notch the ear (left for males, right for females because females are always right) and chip the animal. The cats are supposed to be returned to the zip code from whence they came.

Experts say the only program that works to curb the feral cat population in an ethical, effective way is T.N.R. – trap, neuter, return. Catch and kill doesn’t work because of the vacuum effect – some trap-savvy cats are always left uncaught, and their offspring quickly fill the gap left behind by the missing cats. Catch and kill becomes even more inhumane when cats are shot or poisoned or otherwise inhumanely killed. Horror stories abound. I know of one violent man who seduced feral cats with cans of tuna then bashed their heads in with a baseball bat. I wonder if he is a serial killer. I read about hunters who shoot feral cats, skin them, and sell their fur.

Bird advocates claim feral cats kill billions of birds every year. Those cats must be faster than my little prey-stalking-belly-creepers. Every time they run after a dove pecking grain on the ground, the bird quickly flies away. They don’t even get close.

T.N.R. stabilizes feral cat colonies, improves and protects cats’ lives, is the humane thing to do, and answers community needs. (For more details on T.N.R., check out the article at https://www.alleycat.org/resources/why-trap-neuter-return-feral-cats-the-case-for-tnr/).

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