NOT all cats taken in by animal charities and shelters are for rehoming because they are found to be feral.
Feral cats are the same species as the domestic cat, but due to lack of human interaction from birth or as very young kittens they are wild and scared of people.
Anyone trying to pick one up could be clawed or bitten by the cat in its attempt to get away. Left to themselves in the wild these cats will breed and form a colony and it is estimated that in Britain the feral cat population is around one million.
In Barrow both Animal Welfare and Animal Refuge have their own feral cats which they will never try to rehome.
The manager of Animal Welfare shelter in Rawlinson Street, Elaine Montgham, said they have a small group of ferals which live very happily and peacefully alongside the domestic cats which they take in with the aim of rehoming. They like other cats, but if a human tries to touch or pat them they run away.
Animal Welfare has happily looked after these cats for years now and are happy to do so. They have been spayed or neutered and will spend their lives in the charity’s care.
Animal Refuge secretary Anita Green also has several ferals after being called out to a young mother cat who had given birth in a cemetery.
The mother was very friendly and had obviously been a family pet at some stage so Anita was able to find a good home for her, but the kittens were extremely wild and it was not possible to find them new owners.
There are selected farms and stables which make good homes for these wild animal as they provide warm, dry shelter for the cats, but at the same time they are free to come and go and are not expected to be friendly to their “keepers”.
Anita said they still need to be fed because they usually cannot catch enough food for themselves.
There are some farmers and stables who welcome ferals and are happy to look after them because they keep the vermin down. Some will even have an old caravan for them to come and go from. These cats are never going to be pets and are completely different in nature from a stray or abandoned cat.
As a national charity, the RSPCA believes feral cat colonies should be allowed to exist where the following safeguards can be met:
- An individual or group takes responsibility for making regular welfare checks on the cat colony. Feral cats do get sick more often than the family pet cat and so need someone to care for them.
- The owner of the land on which the feral colony lives agrees to let them stay. If the owner agrees to the cats staying on his land then attempts will be made to trap the cats. They will be neutered and given a health check. Any animal which is too sick or injured to be returned to the colony must be put to sleep to save further suffering or the spread of disease to other colony cats and stray cats.
- A feral cat will have an ear “tipped” to show it has been neutered so it will not be re-trapped. The RSPCA recommends the removal of part of an ear to allow for future identification of neutered animals. The ear tipping is done while the cat is under anaesthetic.
Please contact the RSPCA before taking any action which will affect a feral colony – the 24-hour advice line is 0300 1234 999.