They hide in the shadows, their multi-hued fur coats shaking, and slivered eyes consistently scanning their surroundings, fear of humans obvious.
Mason, Dallas, Carolina, and Dakota are feral cats. They live by their wits in a wooded acreage of land on the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri. Several other cats occupy the same space of land with Mason, Dallas, Carolina, and Dakota. These cats are the lost generations of domestic felines who for one reason or another found themselves without a home or a human family to care for them.
This colony is only one of many that populate Missouri, as well as most of the major cities of the United States. There is also news that this widespread problem exists in other countries around the world as well where human population exists.
Feral cats have been defined as cats which were once domesticated, but were abandoned, lost, or ran away. First generation of ‘feral’ cats are called strays, and only later referred to as ‘feral’. The distinction between a wild animal and a feral animal lies in the typically urban habitat of feral animals and the fact that members of the species are traditionally domesticated. Aside from tradition, in areas sparsely occupied by people there is little reason to call a wild-born cat “feral,” as opposed to “wild.”
Adult feral cats are nearly impossible to domesticate, while strays are sometimes re-socialized. Feral kittens, however, can be socialized before they reach about twelve weeks old. Feral cats often form colonies in a particular location around a common food source, such as a dumpster, open garbage dump, or where people offer handouts. The colony size is necessarily dependent on the size of the food source. Abandoned or lost domestic cats often join feral colonies out of necessity, the only readily available food source having been claimed by the colony.
A feral cat lives a more tumultuous and dangerous lifestyle, than their domesticated counterparts. The lifespan for a feral cat is usually around two years, while a housecat often lives to be fourteen to twenty years old. The risks of disease from malnutrition or injury due to fighting and traffic are three times as great to a feral cat, than to a house cat.
Feral cat colonies are of great concern to the communities where they reside because of their potential to drastically alter the ecosystems through predation. The question of who is responsible for these animals must be addressed.
There are several animal organizations, as well as private citizens, who have taken the feral cat overpopulation very seriously. They have begun to ‘TNR’ feral cat colonies in their communities.
‘TNR’ means to Trap, Neuter, and Return. “TNR,” became popular in the 1990s as a humane way to control the population of feral cats. With TNR, the cats are typically trapped, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated against rabies and distemper (an often fatal virus). They have their left ears “tipped” (clipped) for identification as a sterile cat, and then are released into a “colony.” The colony is usually managed by volunteers who feed and monitor the cats.
Some city, state, and local officials don’t believe that ‘TNR’ is a viable method of handling feral cat populations. Feral cats who have been fixed, vaccinated and returned to the area in which they have designated as their territories still pose a risk to ecosystem. Even though they might have human caregivers who regularly feed them they still often prey on wildlife such as birds and other small creatures.
These people believe that the best method in dealing with feral cats is to eradicate them permanently.
TNR participants oppose kill methods because it is inhumane and unethical to destroy cats whose existence is entirely a result of human irresponsibility.
Humans need to make more responsible choices regarding animals. Do not take on more than one cat or dog if you are not sure you will be able to properly take care of them for the duration of their lives. Spay and neuter your animals to reduce the chances of an unwanted pregnancy occurring.
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