What are Community cats?
Community Cats are unowned cats who live outdoors, in virtually every place where people live. Like pet cats, they belong to the domestic cat species (Felis catus). Most of these cats have different needs to the ones that are socialized and adoptable. They are quite self-sufficient and are happy living outdoors and would not enjoy the lifestyle that domesticated cats lead.
Feral Cats are Community Cats who are not owned and are not sufficiently socialized to humans to be candidates for adoption. They originate from lost or abandoned cats that were not spayed or neutered.
Many people don’t see these cats who generally fear humans and avoid them if possible. They tend to forage for food at night when humans are asleep. Feral cats can cause problems with their noisy mating behaviour, spraying and fighting. Residents can also be disturbed by the number of Community Cats that sometimes congregate together in family or social groups known as “colonies”.
In many cases feral cats perform a welcome service in the form of natural rodent control and are often appreciated by farmers, stable owners and smallholders. However, it is strongly advisable to keep the feral population under control and prevent unwanted litters of kittens. Neutering these cats, providing them with regular meals and some form of shelter from the elements, will allow these cats to live long and healthy lives.
There are three classifications of feral cats:
- True Feral – a wild cat with no previous human contact or only negative contact.
- Semi-Feral – a shy or fearful cat that has had some positive human contact.
- Converted Feral – an abandoned domestic cat that has reverted to semi-feral behaviour. True feral cats can never be tame, and will suffer a great deal if forced to live inside a house with humans. The most compassionate option for these cats is to let them remain feral. Trying to tame these cats will only cause undue stress and harm to their health and mental well-being.
Stray Cats Are Community Cats who were previously owned. They may have wandered too far from home and got lost or may have been left behind when their owners moved house or passed away. These cats may find themselves hungry and homeless through no fault of their own. They may have reverted to a wild state in order to survive.
These cats have sufficient potential for re-socialization, making them suitable candidates for adoption. While feral cats must be taken in as young kittens if they are to be socialized and adopted, it is often possible to re-socialize mature stray cats and find them homes.
What is a Cat Colony?
Community Cats often live together in social and family groups centred around a common food source e.g. farms, stables, industrial estates, markets, hospital grounds, parks, rubbish tips and the gardens of private houses.
Colonies can range from 2 -100 cats depending on the location and proximity to adequate food supplies.
The cats form close bonds with each other and will often defend the colony’s territory from other cats who might seek access to their food and shelter.
Good management of the cat colonies will benefit both humans and the cats.
Cats breed rapidly. A cat and a litter of kittens can easily grow into a colony of fifteen to twenty cats within a year.
Are People who feed community cats making the problem worse?
If people only feed Community Cats but don’t get them neutered or spayed then the problems of growing numbers and nuisance behaviours will only increase.
But NOT feeding these Community Cats isn’t the solution. These cats will suffer if not fed regularly and malnourished mothers will produce sickly or even diseased kittens who may not survive.
Regular feeding of Community Cats is the best way to manage the problem. They will be easier to Trap and once spayed or neutered, they will be healthier and happier and many of the nuisance problems, like yowling, fighting and spraying will disappear.
What is a Colony Caretaker?
A Colony Caretaker is someone who looks after the health and well-being of a colony of feral cats. The Caretaker feeds and provides clean water for the cats, provides shelter, and is responsible for humanely trapping and taking the cats to a Vet for neutering or for any other veterinary treatment that may be needed.
The cats are healthier and no longer breed. Any newcomers to the colony are neutered promptly so the colony doesn’t grow in size.
What is the Vacuum Effect?
When feral cats are removed from an environment, more cats will move in to take advantage of whatever meagre food source is available and quickly fill this void. These new unneutered cats will breed to the capacity of the site.
Great information from International Cat Care about Unowned Cats here.