While more and more people are becoming aware of feral cats, it still seems to come as a shock to them when they learn the volume of kittens that can be produced! It is my personal theory that Kind-Hearted Cat Lovers have created the cat over-population situation. Let me explain.
In “the wild”, a litter of, say 4 kittens, would have a 50% mortality rate by the time the kittens were 4 weeks old. Then an additional 50% would die by the time they were 4 months old. Death can be due to predation, disease, unfortunate genetic mutation, or just too many kittens in the litter. Predation can be from coyotes, raccoons, dogs, cars, birds of prey and even tom cats have been known to eliminate the kittens fathered by another tom, somehow they seem to know. The mom cats cannot be with the kittens 24/7. Disease can be as simple as flea infestation resulting in anemia. All kittens have some form of worms, some are healthy enough to handle it, while in others it can lead to death. Poor nutrition can result in an increased amount of upper respiratory and other ailments. If the colony has been reproducing at a fast pace and there have been no vaccinations administered, an entire colony can fall ill. Cats are prolific reproducers. Environmental factors can produce mutations and mistakes when the genes are synching up, resulting in tiny errors. Kittens grow really fast, too, and those tiny errors may not be a problem when the kitten is just born, but an insurmountable problem when they reach 4 months. Organs that are just not quite right can support a creature weighing a pound, but when that creature grows to 4 pounds it will fail. You may have heard of “fading kitten syndrome,” and this may be a cause. A mom cat can give birth to 1 to 8 kittens. Colonies will increase production to match and exceed resources available. If everything works out right and none of the kittens die, it is the rare mom that can continue to support 8 kittens to weaning even if there is sufficient food. She would have to eat constantly and her body would give out, if not her milk supply. Somehow the moms know this and make a decision. This can be why you find the single kitten, crying in the window well or middle of the driveway, this is the one left behind as she reduces her load. She may also abandon kittens that she senses may have an illness or weakness, knowing that her efforts will not pay off in the long run.
So, back to the Kind-Hearted Cat Lovers (KHCLs)
The KHCLs come upon a litter of kittens, the mom is out shopping and the KHCLs assume the kittens are ABANDONED!!! and sweep them up to SAVE!!! them. They take them to a shelter, after dozens of phone calls with much begging and promises of monetary donations if the shelter will just save these kittens. Now, these are kittens that up to 75% of whom would die on their own. The shelter expends every resource (money, time, space) to make each and every kitten live. As they should. This can be an enormous drain on the shelter and has caused many to go belly-up as the kittens get older and the frequency of adoptions are reduced as the kittens age. Shelter conditions can go downhill despite the efforts of staff and volunteers – overcrowding and the resulting illnesses and expense to treat those illnesses. The shelters in this situation are then unable to pull adoptable animals from animal control – directly leading to increased euthanasia due to lack of space. And in the meantime, the mom cat, free of this last litter, is pregnant again and will produce another 1 to 8 kittens in a few weeks.
“TNR IS THE ONLY OPTION” would be the best motto to follow.
You hear “Adoption is the only option” – that is if the alternative is euthanasia. A few people have heard “We cannot adopt our way out of this” and that is much more accurate. There are not enough homes in this country or the world, to place all the cats that are living right now, as you are reading this. What TNR does is prevent births and by preventing births it is preventing the deaths of kittens yet to be born and the adult cats that are already here and waiting for homes in thousands of shelters across the country. What TNR does is save money – for the caretakers who can have their cat food bill cut in half after spay/neuter, for the shelters who spend so many resources every “kitten season”, for animal control who has the emotional cost as well as the financial and for the taxpayers who need to see their tax dollars spent more wisely. TNR saves lives – the kittens that can be adopted where there is space, the increased health of the colonies following TNR and the reduction of cats coming into shelters and animal control. We need to reach out to all KHCLs, educate them in the ways of TNR. TNR can require the hard choice to leave kittens where they are – if they are already too feral to be turned tame quickly, better to neuter and leave them, care for them with good food and shelter, than to have them be semi-feral, unhappy cats in a shelter. Many ferals, once they are no longer influenced by hormones, become very friendly and affectionate and may choose to become indoor cats.
I need to mention on-line adoptions. Many people, unable to get cats/kittens into shelters, have turned to advertising them online. While it is preferable to have the cats adopted out by a shelter who will always accept them back if the adoptive family has to give up the animal, sometimes it isn’t possible and many people adopt the cats out themselves. Many shelters have their applications posted on their own website. Use the forms, ask the questions. They should always charge an adoption fee. There are unscrupulous, horrible people out there who are the complete opposite of KHCLs and they can be crafty. Also, people do not always respect and care for that which they have gotten for “free.” In addition, just as a shelter would make sure that the cats are up-to-date on vaccinations and have been neutered, so should a private adopter.
As I am writing this, our number of cats for the calendar year is 541. In all of last year, we processed 525. We are 3 months ahead of last year in number of cats and may hit the 700 mark for the year if we keep going like we have been.
We have only been able to do this thru the help of our volunteers and the many generous donations we have received.
Please help us hit that 700 mark. If you can work volunteering into your schedule – trapping in your neighborhood, speaking with your elected officials, attending or helping at one of our events, fostering friendlies or injured cats, transporting cats or donations, please contact us.
Please continue to make monetary and in-kind donations – PayPal makes it very easy and if you have supplies that we can use, give us a call. Our cost for each feral is $30 and your $30 donation is an investment in reduced cat over-population!
It is only thru your support that we can continue to meet our goals!