EWN Article 24/06/10: Feral Cats – A Lesson Learnt

This is my article published on Thursday in the Euro Weekly News. It follows on from my article last month about feral kittens.

I wrote last month about my dilema regarding feral kittens, and whether we should even attempt to re-home them. So far they have actually not been that hard to find adoptants for once we have managed to get them to Germany, but fostering them here is difficult and vet visits are stressful for everyone involved. We have to date only re-homed vulnerable feral kittens, and whilst I would like to say never again, I have mixed views on this one, since our 6 ‘devil’ kittens have all found great homes and, being young, have responded very well to human kindness.

Where I have become far more certain however is in my views regarding feral cats. I will no longer try to re-home an adult feral as I now know from direct experience that this does not work well for the adoptants, and more importantly for the cat. For me to even try this again the cat would need to have progressed to accepting stroking from several humans, not to be terrified of strangers, and appear very comfortable living inside.

When I first started working with the stray cats here, I believed that I could create a happy ending for all cats, but after some decisions that I now believe were wrong, I have come to that for a really feral cat, to be fending for itself outside in the sunshine, IS a much a happier ending than to be trapped in an apartment with humans it does not like, or to have ended up as a runaway in a much colder country.

I thought I had found a perfect home in Germany for 2 beautiful strays that we had fed here and loved for 2 years. It was in a lovely village, with a lady who had experience of wilder cats. They would be safe and looked after but free to roam the fields at will. One of these cats, Monty the siamese, would roll onto his back for me to stroke him, leading me to think he had become tame. This however proved to be very much not the case. Monty over 2 years had learned to trust me and Pam. We were his people. He did not like his new owner in Germany, and chose to run away from his ‘perfect home’ with his little lady friend Mimi.realise

I have read before that a feral cat will chose a person to trust, but will often only ever trust that one person. We must never believe that they have become tame, and the person they have learned to trust is the person that I now know needs to adopt them. Monty I believed needed to live outside and not in my apartment, so I really thought I had found the perfect solution, but I now think that Monty and Mimi needed to stay here with us.

There is one feral cat who may eventually get re-homed. She has recently moved (age 3) from a friend’s garden, where she has been fed from a kitten, into her house. She has wanted to come inside for several months and appears to want to be a family cat. There remains the risk however that she has chosen her family, and no other will do! If she continues to respond to more humans, and likes to live inside, then I may later make an exception of her, or maybe she will be lucky, and my friend’s own cat will accept her.

The beautiful pedigree-looking grey male however, who frequents another friend’s kitchen for food most days, will stay where he is, and fend for himself after she moves out. He is wild and appears to have been looking after himself quite well up to now. I will keep an eye out for him when I walk down the beach, but I really believe catching him for re-homing would not be doing him a favour.

The girls and the vet at the animal protectora that helps us are clear on this issue. Spain is a warm country, and locally there is plenty of food for wild cats to catch or scrounge. Just as we expats mustn’t feed lots of strays, without putting in place a sterilisation programme, we must also be wary of assuming we know what is best for the wild free-spirited cats.

I have definitely learned a tough lesson via Monty and Mimi, and I only hope they are well in their chosen life of freedom, enjoying the German countryside which looked much greener and prettier than here, and not too cold! I think of them a lot and I wish them their happy ending! Bruno and Jack pictured definitely have theirs. This is their one year anniversary in their new home.


Jack & Bruno

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