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At the GSPCA we are always trying to find cats and occasionally kittens new and loving homes.
The cats at the Shelter come from a wide variety of back grounds such as owners who can no longer care for their feline friends to those that come in as strays and aren’t claimed, cats that have been treated cruelly to ferals.
We are always looking for rural homes for our feral cats and if you can help please do get in touch.
What is a Feral Cat?
The domestic cat is a descendant of the African Wild Cat. Feral cats are once domestic cats, or the descendants of once domestic cats, and their offspring, who are now living in the wild and there are pockets around the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Originally they may have been pets, or the descendants of once domestic cats abandoned by uncaring owners, or who have simply wandered away from home and got lost, often due to not having been neutered.
These wild-living cats then often form colonies wherever there is shelter and a food supply e.g. farms, industrial estates, abandoned areas of land, rubbish tips etc. Urban ferals congregate near dustbins, markets or where animal lovers provide food. Where there is one feral puss there are sure to be others. They may perform a useful function by hunting rodents attracted to edible refuse, but to some members of the public they are seen as an annoyance forever in fights and breeding into epic proportions.
If you believe the cat is not a feral but rather a stray then please check out a page full oof advice on what to do if you find a stray cat in Guernsey - http://www.gspca.org.gg/services/lost-found-advice
Why Humane Control is Needed
Feral colonies can act as reservoirs of viruses such as FeLV/FIV (Cat leukaemia and aids) which can be transmitted to domestic pet cats when interacting with ferals. They are more prone to be involved in road traffic accidents and it’s fair to say that a feral life is a hard life and many don’t make old bones. In an un-managed colony, feral cat numbers can increase to such a degree that they may become unhealthy through continued breeding, interbreeding, poor nutrition and fighting (especially among unneutered tom cats).
Every year at the GSPCA we see stray cats arrive at the Shelter very sick carrying FIV and FeLV. Did you know you can vaccinate your pet cat against FeLV? Please contact your vet for details.
Left un-checked, it is a continual breeding cycle, where female cats may have one litter partially weaned and already be pregnant with another litter. Becoming continually pregnant also takes a high toll on the female cat, and often leads to potentially fatal diseases. Kittens are often abandoned to fend for themselves or eventually die if food becomes scarce.
It has been estimated that up to 80% of feral kittens die in their first year through accident or disease, but since kittens attract more attention and sympathy from people than do adult cats this is often when rescue organisations are contacted and, as a result, find themselves in possession of spitty, hissy kittens which need to be tamed and eventually homed.
If the kittens are not rescued, they will continue to expand the colony by breeding from as young as four months old, making the problem worse. Taming feral kittens for a domestic home is usually possible if they are caught at a young enough age (ideally 6 - 8 weeks) and socialised by a patient fosterer, however there will be some which will never tame however much love, effort and attention is given to them, and in those cases outdoor homes must be found.
The number of suitable outdoor homes available are limited, and rescue organisations continually struggle to find places for them, therefore controlling future feral numbers through neutering is the only sensible solution. Both the GSPCA and other charities around the Bailiwick are looking for rural homes that can help with feral cats.
By neutering and managing colonies, the future stray and feral population can be reduced humanely.
Humane Control - Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)
The humane way to control a feral colony is to trap and neuter all the mature adults and return them to the colony site. If kittens are caught young enough they can be tamed and homes found for them. Trapping and neutering a large feral colony can take weeks (or months), and then regular monitoring is needed to make sure that no cats were missed. To help identify neutered cats, many vets clip the top of their ear (called 'ear-tipping') which causes no distress to the cat.
Sadly, it is often impractical to treat sick or injured ferals in the same way as a domestic cat. Feral cats are unused to human contact and get highly stressed when handled. Long term veterinary care for a feral cat who has to be regularly caught, sedated and treated is just not viable so, sadly in some cases a rescue is faced with the difficult decision to have the cat put to sleep. Again, the sooner a colony is reported, and managed, the better for the health of the cats.
Both the GSPCA and Guernsey Animal Aid Cats can help with feral cat colonies so please do get in touch with either charities to find out more information.
If you find yourself dealing with a feral, or semi-feral population of cats, then your first course of action is to contact your either organisation or if on Alderney the Alderney Animal Welfare Trust.
Not all rescues have the resources or the money to deal with ferals but most will be able to advise as to who will be able to assist. The most important thing is not to ignore the ‘growing’ problem, as each month that passes may well see an increase in the numbers of ferals and associated kittens to deal with.
At the GSPCA we hire out cat traps and can advise on what to do if you do have a feral cat problem.
Feral cats pose a big problem for rescues, because they take a large amount of time and resources (both human and financial) to deal with. However, the sooner you report an un-managed feral colony, the smaller the problem! Rescues rely on co-operation from members of the public (to gain permission to go onto land, or to help with trapping) local veterinarians (because ferals are often trapped at night after many vets are closed) and they need specialist trapping and handling equipment, which is often in short supply. Many rescues rely totally on volunteers, many of whom work during the day, so having time to trap and transport ferals is a big challenge. With co-operation from members of the public, and anyone able to offer voluntary help, the task is not so daunting.
Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Les Fiers Moutons
Guernsey, Channel Islands
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 01481 257261
Emergency Telephone: 07781 104082
Guernsey Animal Aid Cats, Tudor Lodge Deer Farm, Forest Road, Forest, GY8 0AG
Telephone – 07781 101052
Email – email@example.com
Alderney Animal Welfare Trust - Le Val Alderney Guernsey Channel Islands GY9 3UL
Telephone 01481 822 610 Fax: 01481 822 616