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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

A Free-Roaming (AKA Feral) Cat Family and Me (Part 3 of 4)

A Free-Roaming (AKA Feral) Cat Family and Me (Part 3 of 4)

My cat family lives outside. The only times we touch are when Mama Kitty initiates contact. She now trusts me to feed her and her kittens, so she rubs against my legs when she’s hungry. Sometimes she gets underfoot, almost tripping me when I walk down a rocky path to place their bowls of wet and dry food on concrete blocks.

People trying to domesticate free-roaming cats tell a different story. My friend Rhonda had two kittens, both rescued, one completely sweet, docile and rarely upset, and the other, Pixie, sweet and purring then suddenly angry and scratching. “These were my children’s indoor/outdoor pets,” Rhonda says. “They said Pixie had ‘mood swings’.” Sometimes other children, who would come by to play and try to rest their head on Pixie’s pillow, ended up getting scratched or bitten.

Trying to domesticate a free-roaming cat or kitten is a long, hard, time-consuming task and it doesn’t always work. Rhonda had fits just trying to get half-feral Pixie into a carrier to get her to the vet for shots once a year. And when Pixie arrived there, it took the vet and an assistant to hold her down. The vet said she would never be completely domesticated.

I, however, am committed to helping these four female cats live healthy outdoor lives. The cats are starting to scratch again. So I’m figuring out how to keep fleas off them because I can’t apply Frontline or other chemical flea treatments to their backs because I don’t dare touch them. I would never spray chemicals on the ground that might hurt the cats. I ordered Wondercide Flea and Tick Spray from Amazon (I’ll spray a wide swath of ground where they eat and sleep with a hose.) From Natural Pet, I ordered Brewer’s Yeast and Garlic pills (to combat fleas and ticks) as well as HW Protect Herbal Formula (to fight heartworms). Reviewers of these products say they work better than the chemical stuff. I hope that’s true. As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. Please keep your fingers crossed for me and the feral female felines family.

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