Monday, 1 February 2010

Wild thing - I think I love you :)

As many of our readers will know, the primary role of Haworth Cat Rescue is that of a rehoming centre. We take in strays, and cats who are no longer able to remain with their owners and find them new homes.

Most cats are in and out of our centre within a couple of weeks, undergoing neutering, microchipping and any other veterinary treatment beforehand. Stray cats tend to be with us slightly longer as we need to advertise them first, in case their owners are still looking for them.

In most cases, it is a relatively quick process and the cats aren't unduly troubled by their enforced holiday at our Cat Rescue.

In some cases, however, cats can be with us for many weeks and sometimes months. Typical cats in this category are elderly cats, cats with chronic medical conditions, cats with behavioural issues and feral cats.

Feral cats are quite simply cats that have not been domesticated. They are usually the result of a domesticated cat being dumped or getting lost, then getting pregnant and having her kittens in a quiet place away from humans. The kittens grow up without any trust in people, and see humans as an enemy. It is learned behaviour, not inherited, so a domesticated cat can give birth to a litter who become feral, who in turn can give birth to a litter who (if handled) can be completely domesticated. Sometimes adult cats can be domesticated but it is a difficult and long process, and not to be undertaken lightly - the success rate is very low.

Kittens under about 3 months can usually be domesticated if they receive intensive handling, but older cats take much longer and many never tame. What they may do, however, is become comfortable with certain people, so although they may not become lap-cats or allow themselves to be stroked, they may approach certain people quite closely, and even take an interest in whatever is going on.

Many people fear feral cats, and think that they will attack, however, like may wild animals, their instinct is to flee, not fight. The only times people are at risk from feral cats is when the cat is cornered - and may inflict injuries on people as they try to escape - or if a mother cat has a litter of kittens she is protecting.

Some organisations euthanase feral cats, however, we aim to give them a chance of a life with some quality, and so we look for suitable outdoor homes on a farm, stables, smallholding, or even a nursery or public gardens etc. Anywhere where they will have shelter, food and not need to mix with people if they don't want to. We have rehomed feral cats in the past to safe factories and light industrial units too - where the cats do a great job at keeping rodents at bay - and probably amuse the staff too (just don't tell the boss!).

Eva and her mum Gracie, pictured above are two young female cats who are both feral. It is likely that Gracie's mum was abandoned, and managed to raise her so that in turn she had kittens of her own. Eva is only about 6 months old and we don't think Gracie is much older. Both ladies, now neutered, have been with us for some months now, they aren't as happy in their current situation as they would be in a safe outdoor home, so we hope that before long someone with a mouse problem decides to get the best deterrant nature provided!

We are currently fundraising to build a new centre and we intend to have a feral sanctuary attached to this, so that feral cats waiting for new homes can at least have some freedom whilst they wait, and don't need to live in cat pens.

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