Thursday, 12 June 2008

Let Nature Take its Course

Although The Moggie Blog was created to tell you about some of the cats who pass through our shelter, we were told about Gus by another organisation and felt that his story should not go unnoticed. Our friends, another charity operating in a town near us, were notified about Gus, who was living as a stray on premises privately owned but open to the public, at some distance from their base. No charities nearer the premises were prepared to help. Advice given to the finder by the nearest organisation was to "let nature take its course". Our friends were told about Gus about 4 weeks after it had been noticed that he had sustained an injury to his neck. Employees of the premises were told not to feed Gus and the other cats living on the site in the hope that they would go away. Our friends took a trap and tried to catch Gus on several occassions. They were unsuccessful, but managed to catch and neuter two female cats and to remove their kittens for rehoming, and to catch and neuter a further three toms. All the adults were returned to the site. Gus proved to be more elusive and showed his contempt for the way humans had treated him by repeatedly spraying on the trap and walking away. Eventually our friends located an employee who - contrary to his instructions - had fed Gus and the other cats. He was able to simply pick Gus up and put him in a cat basket. Now neutered, Gus has had lots of dead skin removed from around the wound site, the wound has been cleaned, and is healing, but he is still very wary of humans and will try to bite when his wound is dressed.

The story of Gus raises several points. Firstly, and most obviously, it is nothing but cruelty to leave an animal, any animal, with such a dreadful wound. At best the wound might heal badly, but more likely, at worst, the wound would become infected and could cause the animal to suffer a long period of pain and distress, culminating in a painful and protracted death. At this time of year, open wounds such as this would attract flies, and maybe larger vermin.

Secondly, not feeding the cats won't cause them to simply go away. They will look for food sources and safe places to nest, and set about the business of starting a colony. A single un-neutered female cat can multiply very quickly and it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility for there to be 20 cats a year or so later.

The best approach is to work with local rescue centres, to try and neuter the cats. If there are too many for the rescue centre to handle, maybe you could assist by allowing several of the older cats to return once they've been neutered. Given a safe place to eat and a regular supply of food, they will provide an effective and safe rodent control. If you are the manager or owner of a location or site which has a fledgling colony, encourage your employees to start a food rota, the cats can be fed daily in a safe place and it is unlikely they will be seen much around your premises during the day. They will come out at night and earn their keep by ratting etc. Most charities will take any kittens as they are easier to tame, and there may even be some tame adult strays in the colony who can be rehomed. If you act quickly, there shouldn't be too many feral cats who are unable to be tamed.

The worst thing you can do is to "let nature take its course". Apart from the suffering that the injured and sick cats will endure, they will breed and nature taking its course will result in many many more unwanted cats.

Such locations, including farms and factories inevitably end up 'supplying' small kittens to employees or nearby houses and distant relatives - many of whom take on the kitten without considering the long term. By doing this they add to the cat population. This means we struggle to find homes for our cats and thus cannot admit needy animals. Sadly many of the kittens 'handed out' to the community are never blood tested nor neutered. That spreads, further afield, diseases and breeding cats. At the end of the chain somewhere another litter is denied admission by hard-pressed rescues or put to sleep, drowned or dumped. Last year, the charity who took Gus, a small local charity, neutered over 1200 cats, many located a long way from their "patch". And still the excess of unwanted cats continues.

As for Gus, he is on the path to a happier future. His wound will take some time to heal, but whilst his physical wounds are recovering, his carers will begin work on his psychological wounds. They will start the long process of teaching him that humans can be trusted. That he can learn to live alongside people, relying on them for food and warmth, and maybe one day he will be confident enough to be rehomed as a domestic pet. If not, we believe our friends will try and find a home for him on a stables or farm, or maybe return him to the original site. Had they let nature take its course, he would by now be dead or dying, alone, unloved and unwanted.

Is this really what Mother Nature intended for her purry furry little guests?