Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | July 8, 2008

Ignoring the plight of feral cats

“No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

For the last several weeks, I’ve been aware that a cat gave birth to at least three kittens underneath the playhouse in our backyard.

I don’t know if the mother is a stray or an unspayed pet that’s allowed to roam the neighborhood. Our inventory shows one white kitten, one gray kitten and one calico kitten.

I really want to do the right thing by these kittens. I’d like to make sure they are sterilized and adopted into loving homes, thus preventing them from becoming fertile feral cats that multiply the problem.

That problem is substantial: One female unspayed cat can be responsible for more than 400,000 kittens over seven years; one male unneutered cat can sire 2,500 kittens in a single year.

Doing the right thing requires trapping the kittens with a live trap to prevent getting scratched in the process. As one web site said, holding a feral kitten is like holding an animated cactus.

With that in mind, I set about finding a live trap to borrow. I contacted Morgan Hill’s animal control services and was told that they don’t help at all with cats. When I pressed, I was told that they do have a live trap to loan, but that it was currently being used. I put my name on the waiting list nearly two weeks ago.

Next, I contacted a local nonprofit cat rescue group. They would only help me trap the kittens if I agreed to foster them.

With a two kids, a dog, two cats, a full-time job, part-time work, extensive volunteer commitments and no knowledge about fostering kittens, I cannot make that commitment.

According to my research, it’s best to trap feral kittens by their eighth week for optimal socialization. I can’t tell by looking how old these kittens are, but I’m guessing they are rapidly approaching their eight-week birthdays.

Meanwhile, despite being ready and willing to do the right thing by these cats and my community, I’m stuck. I’m waiting for a loaner cat trap from Morgan Hill. I can’t get the local nonprofit “cat rescue” group to help me rescue these kittens.

That’s not all: I know that if I do trap the cats, I won’t be able to take them to the nearby animal shelter in San Martin because I don’t live in unincorporated Santa Clara County. I’ll have to take them to the animal shelter in the city of Santa Clara. It seems counterproductive to me, but I’m willing – despite gas prices nearing $5 a gallon – to make the long drive.

“Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want.” ~ Environmentalist Joseph Wood Krutch

The lack of feline animal control services isn’t limited to Morgan Hill. Last year, The Dispatch ran a story detailing the runaround Gilroyan Margaret Baker experienced while trying to get some agency to take the abandoned kittens she found.

Baker, who said of Gilroy’s animal control policies that ignore the suffering of feral cats, “You people make it very hard to do the right thing,” eventually dropped the cats off at Gilroy City Hall, where employees adopted the kittens.

“It’s deplorable,” Baker said of the runaround. “How can anyone do the right thing?”

Baker was one step ahead of me: She had the kittens in hand. I can’t even get that far.

Taking a cue from cats who ask for what they want, I’m asking that the agencies in South County take these steps:

• Make more loaner live traps available.

• Forge an agreement between the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill and Santa Clara County to allow city residents to take stray animals to the San Martin animal shelter.

• Establish ordinances in Morgan Hill and Gilroy to require residents to license their cats – as is the case for dogs – and dedicate that money exclusively to funding feline animal control services.

The lives of feral cats are short, violent and painful. Because feral cats avoid humans, most of us don’t see how they suffer.

Mother Nature has given me a chance to reduce the problem with the kittens that were born in my backyard, but I cannot get the help necessary to do so.

Taking these three steps would go a long way toward reducing the number of suffering feral cats.

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” ~ Nobel Laureate Albert Schweitzer

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Responses

  1. I asked a co-worker about feral cat rescue about this…she suggested you might look for a ‘TNR’ program (Trap, Neuter, Return) in your area. Obviously, that doesn’t get them adopted, but it does cut down on the reproduction aspect…

  2. Hi Amy! The problem with TNR is that these kittens are too young to be spayed or neutered, so someone has to take responsibility for them until they reach that age. I can’t foster them, the local cat rescue agency that runs a no-kill shelter won’t do it, so my only option (besides ignoring the kittens) is to trap them and take them to a shelter, where I hope they’ll be adopted, but I realize they might be euthanized.

  3. *Additionally

    Even if rescues don’t have any openings in foster homes, they will often handle adopting out kittens once they are old enough. Some might even help you with spay/neuter, vaccines, ID tags & micro-chipping. –That’s quite a bit of bit of responsibility & work that they are willing to take off your hands.

  4. Lisa, There are many volunteer rescue groups from whom you can borrow a trap. You might have to put down a deposit which will be returned when you return the trap. –I’m not sure that you got accurate info about loaning you a trap only if you will foster the kittens. They won’t loan you a trap if you return it full of kittens when all of their fosters are already maxed out, often with motherless kittens who need bottle-feeding.
    Rescues are networks of volunteers, most of whom have full time jobs, busy lives, but who make animal advocacy & protection a priority. Most give of their time & income to take care of animals that others will not.
    I’m not saying that you can necessarily bottle feed kittens w/ a full-time job unless you have helpers. However, you’ve got the mother there & wouldn’t need to bottle feed. Just trap her, have her & the kittens in a bathroom or fenced off corner of a room & come in to socialize the kittens when you’re home. Wear long gloves or wrap towels around your arms & hands to prevent kitten scratches.
    There’s plenty that you can do. Bemoaning that other members of your community won’t take them off your hands, as if they have any more time or resources than you do, is part of the problem. Fostering one batch of kittens with their Mother is a short-term commitment.
    Most fosters have a lot more than a couple kids, a dog & 2 cats to deal with. This does not preclude fostering a small litter. Set an example, & involve the kids.
    The degree of city & county services are largely reflective of the overall attitudes in the community. The attitude of being put upon and helpless to stretch oneself to do the right thing is that attitude. Getting involved is the solution.

    *Additionally, even if rescues don’t have any openings in foster homes, they will often handle adopting out kittens once they are old enough. Some might even help you with spay/neuter, vaccines, ID tags & micro-chipping. –That’s quite a bit of bit of responsibility & work that they are willing to take off your hands.

  5. Jo,

    It is breathtakingly arrogant for you to presume that you know whether or not I can take on fostering of kittens.

    I DID get involved — to a far greater degree than most folks would. Because of my involvement, three kittens and an adult male will not increase the homeless cat problem. Because I wrote two newspaper columns (here’s the latest one: https://mypointexactly.wordpress.com/2008/07/29/show-me-the-evidence/) on this topic in less than a month, awareness in my community about the issue has been raised.

    I am bothered — and justifiably so — when the shelter that my tax dollars support refuses to take cats from me. I am bothered — and justifiably so — when I can’t take cats to a shelter that’s minutes from my home because my city and county governments can’t get their acts together on this issue.

    The holier-than-thou attitude that I see in many no-kill shelter and feral cat colony advocates and the concomitant inability to see shades of gray in complex situations turns many people off from getting involved.

    -Lisa Pampuch

  6. Wow…lets just start by saying that san jose has not helped out.if you look at the NEW san jose animal center,you will see the problem that everyone has.The problem is too big and w/o public help,it will not be taken care of.Most shelters are full and can not take in more,so it is up to the public to do the RIGHT thing by helping in their own way.This would mean spending a little of your own money to do gods work to help out the needy,like tnr or fostering yourself.people,do not know how rewarding it is to help out helpless innocent creatures to have a live of love and joy.Noone says that you have to keep the fosters forever,but you just might find that you fall in love with them and not want to give them up.
    so try not to blame others for you not being to help,but take the action to get the solution taken care of.If you believe in no kill,then do not take them to a place that is gaurenteed to do it.

  7. 1. I don’t live in San Jose, my column did not address San Jose.
    2. Do you help every possible charity in every possible way? If not, you’re a hypocrite. I’m under no obligation to do anything; whatever I did is more than is required. It’s, again, breathtakingly arrogant for you to presume to tell me what to do with my time.
    3. I never said that I believe in no-kill.
    4. Of the two kittens that I took to a shelter, one was too feral to be adopted and was euthanized, the other will be put up for adoption. (I wrote about it here: https://mypointexactly.wordpress.com/2008/07/29/show-me-the-evidence/.) So much for your “guarantee.”

  8. Hi,
    1) I just wrote a huge response to you and wordpress did not post it…said error. >:-(
    2) (((hugs))) for trying your best with those cats! I understand the run around and frustration because I am in a similar situation (only with more cats- there is a colony of about 8 here)
    3)And my local shelter is not a no-kill, and there are no cat groups around…in fact the local vet looked at me like I had three heads.

    Well, I forgot what else I put in the other post (the one that did not post). But hopefully, the people in your town (and mine) will get their acts together.

  9. WE ARE ALL IN GOD’S HANDS
    I LIVE IN ILLINOIS, IN A SUBURB CLOSE TO CHICAGO.
    I HAVE FED THE WILDLIFE ALL MY LIFE, AND NOW IN ABUNDANCE FERAL CATS AND THERE KITTENS. THEY COME FROM THE FARM HOUSE’S CLOSE BY AND THE FOREST PRESERVES AND FROM THE APT. AND TOWN HOME COMMUNITIES IN THE AREA. I HAVE TRIED CONTACTING ORGANIZATIONS, AND YES THEY WANT ME TO PAY FOR, AT A MINIMAL COST TO SPAY, SHOT’S, CHIP, AND FOSTER OR RETURN OUTSIDE TO THERE COLONY, FOR ME TO BE THERE CARETAKER, BEING LICENSED.
    I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND THAT ALL SHELTER’S ARE FULL BECAUSE OF WHAT THE ECONOMY HAS BROUGHT OUR WAY. AND ALL THE FOSTER HOME’S ARE FULL TOO. I DO NOT OWN, AND CANNOT MYSELF AFFORD
    THE COST OF WHAT THE ORGANIZATIONS ASK OF ME.
    I AM WILLING TO SIT OUTSIDE AND PLAY WITH THE KITTENS, AND THERE MOMS OR ALFA MALES. FEED THEM AND WATCH OVER THEM, WITH MY SPIRIT, SOUL, AND HEART, TOTTALLY ENGULFED IN THERE WELFARE.
    MY QUESTION IS WE DO NOT FIX, NEUTER, OR SPAY, THE FOX, COYOTES, RACCOON’S, POSSUM, SKUNK, SQUIRRELS, OR BIRDS AND WHAT IS WILD SHOULD STAY WILD UNLESS AN ANIMAL ADOPTS YOU. WHICH I AM GRATEFUL AND HUMBLED TO HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED INTO MANY ANIMAL FAMILY’S AND NOW AM THE GODMOTHER OF A KINDLE OF KITTENS AND THERE AUNT.
    IT’S HUMANS THAT MAKE RULES.
    BUT IT IS GOD WHO NEEDS ALL THE HELPING HANDS HE CAN FIND WITH A SOFT VOICE, GENTLE TOUCH, AND FOOD, DRY DURING THE DAY, AND MOIST DURING THE NIGHT ALL SUPERVISED WITH A WATCHFUL EYE, AND PRAYER TO GOD AND JESUS TO PROTECT THOSE LEAST AMONG US.
    IF I HAD THE MONEY AND NEW PEOPLE IN THE KNOW, WITH CLOUT, I WOULD TRY MY VERY BEST TO CHANGE WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY NEIGHBORHOOD, THEN MY TOWN, THEN THE WORLD.
    GOD BLESS YOU
    & NEVER GIVE UP HOPE, FAITH, LOVE OR YOUR VALUES IN LIFE,
    THAT WHICH FEEDS YOUR INNER SELF, FEEDS YOUR SPIRIT AND SOUL.


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