Walk on the Wild Side

By Julie Grant

Cat Welfare Sussex is one of the only local organisations to actually participate in the catching, neutering and relocation of feral (wild) cats.

About Feral Cats

In their wild state cats live in colonies, similar to prides of lions. The females raise their young together and often act as surrogate mothers to each other’s kittens whilst the dominant males protect and control the colony.

Depending on the location and food, a feral colony will usually form when a domestic cat or cats have become lost or abandoned. Within a few days the cat will revert to its wild, inner instincts protecting itself by becoming furtive and wary.

They hunt by night, stealing food wherever possible from rubbish bins or even entering people’s homes and stealing their pet’s food. This will often result in bloodshed for the poor resident cat or even the unfortunate owner who tries to rescue their pet.

When left to breed indiscriminately, a female cat usually produces two litters a year - once in spring and again during the summer - with three to five kittens in each litter.
Even though the mother may have originally been a domestic cat, her kittens will be born wild. A feral cat in captivity will give birth to kittens that will be domestic.

Those kittens will breed from the age of six months old and in turn, their kittens will be born wild, forming large family groups within a very short space of time.

Our Work With Feral Cats

Cat Welfare Sussex has worked tirelessly across the area to prevent indiscriminate breeding in towns and rural areas, and our efforts have not been in vain. The large local colonies have diminished and our work now is more preventative. Our reputation has grown, and by working with members of the public, other animal organisations, and local councils we are usually able to humanely trap and neuter most feral cats before breeding starts.

We consider that our work is vital to the environment and for the welfare of the cats. Left without veterinary treatment feral cats can carry diseases some such as toxacara and ringworm. These can in turn be transmitted to man, and feline diseases such as cat flu enteritis and feline aids can be passed on to domestic pets.

These cats can also do untold damage to their immediate areas: defecating and spraying (territory marking) fighting and calling all cause great public nuisance. A consequence of this can often result in great cruelty being inflicted towards the offending cat itself by humans.
All our cats are sent directly to our vets at the New Priory Veterinary Practice who have a wealth of experience in dealing with cats of this nature. The cats are neutered, vaccinated and health checked and also treated for fleas and worms. No healthy cat is ever put to sleep and euthanasia is only used as a last resort to prevent suffering due to untreatable illness or injury.

Feral Cats In Our Cattery

The cats then come into our cattery to be monitored and to wait to be rehomed. Younger cats and kittens can, if caught early enough, tame down to be homed as domestic pets.
The adults are usually relocated to stables, smallholdings, garden centres etc, where they can exhibit their excellent hunting skills and earn their keep in food and shelter in return for keeping their new home rodent free. This way they have the best of both worlds, the freedom to hunt and roam free, have veterinary treatment when required, sleep in a nice dry barn and have two meals each day.

In their natural existence cats live together in groups, so we always rehome them in pairs. In some cases we are able to keep whole families together as many rural homes have large enough areas for the cats to patrol, and are often more than happy to take four to six cats at a time.

That said, finding homes in never easy and the cats in our care always exceed the homes available. If you know anybody in a rural location that could offer a home please don't hesitate to contact us.

So remember...

When you next sit quietly, watching your pet cat sleep contentedly by the fire, remember, she is sister to the fearless, formidable feral cat, and her wildness is but a whisker away.

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