Monday, February 25, 2008

Feral or stray?

It's hard to believe, but it was just a few years ago when I first heard of mass spay/neuters of feral cats. Oh, let's be honest, when I started this I stumbled over spay or neuter for female or male cats and I wasn't quite sure what feral meant either.

Actually that's still open for discussion. Are all cats living outdoors considered feral? Or are feral cats only the wild ones untouched by human hands? The second is my interpretation. I think you start with "stray" cats living outside, divided into feral and tame.

Anyway, it was my friend K who told me it was a dream of hers to participate in a mass spay/neuter project and I think she shared an article with me about one in California. She lives in a neighborhood with lots of stray cats living outdoors in the hot summers and long cold winters of Minnesota. She feeds them, but it's not a good life.

For such an event, a mobile veterinarian medical vehicle comes in to a central area. Volunteers trap dozens of stray cats. One-by-one the cats are brought in for the surgery. The neuter surgery for the males is relatively simple and the cats recover quickly. Spay surgery for the females is a significant surgery and they need more time to recover.

In a trap/neuter/release (TNR) situation, the cats have the tip of their left ear removed and the cats are returned to their home territory. The ear is tipped so the cat is not brought in for subsequent TNR projects. It also helps a cooperative animal control to identify which animals are part of a managed feral colony.

If two-thirds of a colony is spayed and neutered, you can start to make a difference in the growth, behavior and health of the colony. The goal is to monitor the colony spay and neuter all the cats in a colony. The cats are also given some basic medical care, and the problematic spraying, fighting and yowling should be greatly reduced.

K and I have participated in several of these projects now and one of the "problems" you encounter is that not all the cats are feral (i.e., wild since birth), often many of them are just stray animals -- abandoned or allowed to roam. They will be spayed or neutered along with the rest, but should they be released or should we try to find homes for them? It seems obvious that we should find homes for them, but with shelters running at capacity that isn't always possible

Another moral dilemma for animal rescuers. It is not work for the fainthearted. I wish all cats could be fat and happy siblings, together forever, like Layla & Luke.


Katie said...

Who are those cuties in the picture? Were they some of your fosters?

-d ma said...

hi d-
glad you left a note on my blog. Theo/Drib says hi.