By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances
fe·ral [feer-uhl] adjective
1.existing in a natural state, as animals or plants; not domesticated or cultivated; wild.
2.having reverted to the wild state, as from domestication: a pack of feral dogs roaming the woods.
In most every city, town and village one would not have to try too hard to find colonies of cats living outdoors. Check around barns, dumpsters, in alleys or in wooded areas. The truth is, our feline friends are pretty darned resourceful and many manage to live quite peacefully and happily on their own. Where food is plentiful and shelter is available, feral cats do more than survive---many thrive! And, add a little help from their friends –otherwise known as feral cat care providers---and they do quite nicely, indeed.
While it would be ideal if every cat were born into a happy, loving, indoor home, many simply are not. Several thousand years ago, humans made a conscious choice to domesticate the cat. We used them first to protect our grain supply from rodents, and ultimately they became our beloved companions. In some ancient cultures...and many would argue in many modern day cultures...cats were worshiped as gods. As part of the deal we made when we took them into our homes, we agreed to provide all their basic needs including food, water, shelter, veterinary care and love.
Cats have held up their end of the bargain quite nicely. In fact, they have surpassed dogs in popularity as house pets! We, on the other hand, have not always held up our end of the bargain. We have allowed cats to overpopulate by failing to control their prolific breeding. We have abandoned them by the millions resulting in huge populations of feral cats in almost every corner of the world. Thankfully, there are many caring people who have taken it upon themselves to help address the crisis. Programs have been developed through which feral cats are humanely trapped, neutered, provided all other medical care needed and returned to the trap site or to another safe area where they can be routinely monitored. Caregivers commit to daily feedings and track any potential health problems that may arise. New members of colonies are trapped and neutered to prevent the colony’s numbers from burgeoning out of control.
In a perfect world (where is that?), every cat would have a warm lap to snuggle in. But in the real world, many do not. Are they miserable? Thanks to the support of organizations and individuals committed to their protection, most are not. Many would not be happy living a life of confinement, even in a household with nice people, plenty of food and a warm fridge atop which they could nest. They stand on that proverbial wall between a wild state and a companion state. On October 16 join national advocacy group, Alley Cat Allies, or a local feral cat protection group in your community to celebrate National Feral Cat day. Help pay back the debt we have to our feline friends!
To find out what you can do to support feral cats and trap/neuter/return programs in your community, visit Alley Cat Allies at http://www.alleycat.org/. I would conclude with a catchy line like “hug a feral cat today”, but that’s not really recommended! Don’t go out and hug a feral cat, but it would be great to join a local organization and “feed a feral cat today!”