When I first moved into my house, the previous owner’s cat came around so I put food out for him. This attracted a feral female. I thought she was a kitten, but neighbours told me she’d been around for several years.
She had kittens in my garage. At the time I didn’t know that there is a prime socialization period in kittens between five and 12 weeks. I made feeble attempts at making friends with them, but they remained skittish.
One cold November night, when the thermostat plunged to -30, she brought her three kittens to my back door and meowed until I let them in. Down my basement steps they went. The mother, her son, and his two sisters.
I ended up with three pregnant females. The kittens were socialized and adopted out. The Clampetts – Granny, Jethro, Ellie May, and Daisy – were fixed and vaccinated by a rescue called Little Cats Lost. In gratitude for their help, I started feeding the feral cat colonies that this rescue maintains and does TNR (Trap NeuterRelease). A rescue called KittyHawk has taken responsibility for caring for many TNR colonies and I’ve been working with that great organization.
But this summer has been different than past years. I’ve been contacted by many people who reported pregnant cats or mother cats with their kittens. Just a few weeks ago, a pregnant cat came to my attention. We caught her and she gave birth to eight kittens in a safe place. The young woman who brought her to our attention had been feeding her for weeks though she didn’t have money for her own necessities.
Thank you to those of you who take care of a community cat by offering food and shelter. Our relationship with ferals tends to be symbiotic: they provide valuable rodent control. I’m sure my old house would have been reduced to ashes by mice chewing my electrical wires, if it weren’t for my cats.
Yet homeless cats are often not appreciated and are viewed as pests. This is why I’m begging my neighbours to neuter and chip their feline friends. Many cats that are given access to the outdoors meet an untimely end. Unfixed cats will wander far from home in search of romance and end up lost. Cats can be startled by a loud noise, chased by coyotes, and run too far from home to be able to scent their way back. Some cats are left behind when owners move to a pet-less building.
Cats in distress need to be taken into Animal Care and Control (ACC). Cats who appear to be healthy should just be left where they are as they could be an indoor/outdoor cat and have a home. Turning those cats into ACC means that they might never find their way home. Only approximately 18% of cats turned into ACC ever go home.
The best solution would be for everyone to keep their cats indoors. Some people feel they can’t and to those I beg you to make sure your cat has some ID, a collar with your phone number, or a chip. Let’s take care of the cats in our community.
Manon is a resident of Boyle Street and an active volunteer in the community. This column contains her own opinions, and is not affiliated with the Boyle Street Community League.