English: Portrait of a female feral cat (Felis silvestris f. catus), made in a public park at Livorno, Italy. The left ear has a cut as a sign that the cat was sterilized by a veterinarian in a cat population control program (left female, right male). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Anne Forline
Gloucester City News
Friday, October 19, was National Feral Cat Day.
The mission of Gloucester City’s Feral Treasures is to help reduce the feral cat population with a humane cycle of trap, neuter and return (TNR).
One of the group’s volunteers, Doran, understands why people might be upset about Gloucester City’s cat population.
However, she said, “It’s not the cat’s fault it got dumped.”
Doran serves as Feral Treasures’ secretary and she is joined by a team of dedicated volunteers.
They include Sue, who is the group’s president; Theresa, who serves as the organization’s trapper; and also Kathy, the treasurer, who is also trained in helping wildlife.
This team works hard to manage several colonies scattered throughout Gloucester City. Doran declined to name the locations of the colonies for several reasons.
First, she said, “We don’t want people thinking it’s okay to just drop off more cats in an already managed colony.” Secondly, “People are not always kind to cats.”
Shaking her head in disbelief, she added, “I can tell many countless, terrible stories about the cruelty I’ve seen done to cats.”
Doran acknowledges that there is a definite wild cat problem, but questions why someone would get a cat and not have it spayed or neutered.
She asked, “Did you know that one unneutered male cat can travel around in a one mile radius and mate with various females and the outcome of that could produce up to 60 kittens?”
At maturity, unneutered male cats begin to exhibit behavioral problems, such as spraying, while the females emit pheromones, which attract male suitors.
To curb negative behavior, people often open their door and let the cat out at night. Doran noted that this creates a snowball effect of lots of pregnant females that ultimately give birth to many kittens.
She asked, “Have you ever noticed that kittens from the same litter sometimes all look different? That is because the female cat can become impregnated by different males.”
In October 2009, Mayor William James and City Council had passed Ordinance #033-2009 after determining it was necessary to allow for a Trap, Release and Neuter Program.
It states: “Trap, Neuter and Release is permitted in the City of Gloucester… to be the most effective and humane way to decrease the over population of the feral cats in the city.”
A feral cat is an un-socialized cat that is unable to live indoors, and therefore the feral cat does not fall under any ownership laws or violations for any person, and does not fall under the leash laws of the city of Gloucester City.
Additionally, Gloucester City’s Code 18-4.1 addresses abandonment or dumping issues. If anyone is caught illegally dumping a cat (or any domestic animal), that person is subject to a $500 fine.
In the several managed colonies throughout Gloucester City, a TNR volunteer checks on the colonies. That person can visually identify which cats belong to the colony because their ears are “marked,” showing they have been spayed or neutered and have had their shots.
If a colony is not managed, cats will venture out in order to find a food source, which means cats will resort to trash cans or dumpsters.
However, with a managed colony, the cats will generally stay close to their colony’s area and food source, Doran explained.
She noted that cats are very territorial about their colonies. Within a managed colony, there is an established hierarchy and the cats know who belongs.
The colony often does not readily accept a newly abandoned or dumped cat. Often, that cat is chased away by the others after a fight. Then, it will wander until finding its own food source or is accepted into another colony.
During a recent visit to one of the managed colonies, Doran and Theresa spotted several kittens that had not been marked. Working quickly and carefully, they were able to capture one of the young kittens so it could be taken to the Animal Welfare Association (AWA) for spaying and shots.
Of the little grey and white kitten that was captured, Theresa said, “This one has a chance of getting
She explained that finding and trapping young kittens as soon as possible is critical. There is only a short period of time, maybe two months of age at most, when a young kitten must be removed from the colony, spayed or neutered and socialized. If not, then it must be returned to the colony.
Part of the work Theresa does for Feral Treasures is to socialize and foster some of the young kittens that have been pulled from the colony.
A socialized, young kitten has a far greater chance of finding a forever home, she said.
Feral Treasures is in the process of undergoing a “major trapping.” The group will endeavor to trap, neuter and return approximately 20 feral cats.
The organization Treasures has standing appointments every Monday, Thursday and Friday with the AWA.
(Note: Part Two of this story will be in next week’s issue of the Gloucester City News.)