By Liz, celebrating release week!
I’m so excited that this book is out this week! This was such a fun one to write, and really got me in the holiday spirit. It’s Christmas-themed (which is kind of obvious by the cover) but it also covers a topic that’s really important to me – feral cats.
I’ve been doing cat rescue for a long time and thanks to some of the wonderful people I met along the way, I got involved in some feral cat missions. I’ve trapped cats, done feral cat clinics, and accidentally found some friendlies in feral colonies along the way who became part of my family.
I wanted to make this book about a feral cat community and their caretakers because it’s something that still isn’t widely understood outside of rescue people. Strays and ferals often get lumped together into one category, where there’s a very big distinction. All ferals are, technically, stray cats, but not all strays are feral. There are often stray cats who have been dumped by their owners, or ran away, or have come to live on the streets under varying circumstances, who perhaps find a colony to live with because there’s a food source.
Feral cats are cats who are not socialized. They have either lived outside since very early on in their lives, or perhaps are part of generations of ferals – meaning they were born outside. Some colonies are lucky enough to find a caretaker who traps them humanely so they can get spayed or neutered to stop the reproductive cycle, vetted appropriately, and returned to their area, and then feeds them regularly.
Caring for colonies is a tough job. Trapping alone and getting through a whole colony can take months, depending on the size of the colony. And once someone makes a commitment to feeding a colony, it’s a twice per day effort. It’s not uncommon for caretakers to run into people in the neighborhoods who don’t understand this concept and they can be resistant. Sometimes, they can even be the recipients of threats, intimidation, and even violence.
So when I wrote this book I wanted to call people’s attention to the plight of not only feral cats, but feral cat caretakers, and give some basic principles about ferals and caring for them. Here are my top five:
- Ferals can’t simply be “relocated.” If they’ve been living in an area, it’s their home and they are used to it. Putting them somewhere new rarely works, and can cause them to try to return to their old space. Even if a relocation is successful, oftentimes other cats can come in and fill the void that’s left, which doesn’t solve the problem of removing the cats.
- Ferals depend on their caretakers just like your furry best friend who lives inside with you depends on you. Once they have someone feeding them and caring for them, they depend on that person/those people to keep it up. If you make a commitment, don’t let them down.
- Contrary to some myths that are still being perpetuated, ferals are not dangerous and will not attack humans or other pets. Actually, they are so scared of people they normally won’t come out until there’s no one around. Even with regular feeders, it takes a feral a while to trust – but if you earn it, they may come out to say hello.
- Ferals don’t spread disease. This is a common argument/myth that detractors often use. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs, where the cats are fixed/vaccinated, definitely mitigate any potential for this also.
- Ferals should never be brought to a shelter. Sometimes kind-hearted people think they’re helping by trapping a feral and bringing it to a shelter; but really they are putting that cat in danger of being euthanized. A feral isn’t an adoptable pet, so they don’t belong in a shelter.
So, if you’re looking for a charity to support this holiday season and the plight of feral cats has tugged at your heartstrings, check out Alley Cat Allies, or if you know of any local rescues who support ferals, please consider making a donation. And hopefully, A Whisker of a Doubt will help spread the word.
Readers, do you have any experience with feral cats? Tell me in a comment below.