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Ferals

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
On the Halifax cat licensing thread, catcaregiver and I have gotten into a discussion of feral cats. I figured I'd move it to a new thread with a more accurate title to give others a chance to comment (and spare the people who want to talk about licensing cats in Halifax).

Continued from previous thread:

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You are talking about two different situations and two different kinds of cats again, and I don't really understand what you mean by ferals being "released". Are you talking about the hypothetical "cash cow" from my previous post?
The "R" in TNR? The cats are returned aka released after being neutered, tested, vaccinated, etc. I'm not sure what that particular statement has to do with any money-making schemes. That's simply what is done, regardless of any past, present, or future licensing, fines, proposed legislation, etc. Meanwhile, healthy cats who don't happen to be feral are being euthanized all over the country. Healthy cats who may or may not survive for a while if they were neutered and released in some predetermined area.

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I don't feel guilty for spaying/neutering a feral cat and releasing it.
Even if that feral is hit by a car the next day? Next week? Next month? Next year? Either way, the life expectancy of these cats is absurdly low.

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I would however feel guilty if I took a completely tame cat and released it onto the streets when it has never had to live that way.
Plenty of tame cats live "on the streets" all over the place. Just because they don't run from people doesn't mean they can't "survive" outside (if you're content with what passes for "survival" in feral populations).

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Or killing them, right? Why are you avoiding saying it? There is no place to move feral cats.
I have seen tons of plans for outdoor shelters for cats. Why not move them into their advocates' backyards? Why not build large-scale enclosures to house colonies? The one-time expense of building an enclosure that simply contains the cats is all I'm asking for. Heck, even if you live in an urban area, there are rural areas with very cheap land all over the country. A few undeveloped acres would be dirt cheap, fencing is not that expensive, and overhead wouldn't be any more than bringing food to any other colony (if we want to nitpick, fuel would be more expensive if the urban caretakers are the ones heading out to feed the cats in the sticks). The cats don't require heated, indoor accomodations. They don't need cages, full-time staff, etc. If they have access to food and water and no one sees them for several days at a time, what is the real difference? If you don't see a feral ever again, you never know what happened to it. If you don't find an injured feral until it's too late, it's no huge crime of animal cruelty. If you don't check on the feral cats that happen to be inside a fence for a few days, what is the difference? I'm not asking people to provide them top notch veterinary care throughout their golden years.

Are people afraid that they'll have to go to great lengths and expense to care for these ferals if they simply "own" them? Is it more distasteful to let them die from easily treated/prevented diseases and injuries if it's happening in your own backyard? Might someone point fingers at you and claim you are a bad cat owner for allowing these things to happen?

I don't get it. I walk a fine line between wanting everyone to make sure they're financially able to provide veterinary care for their pets and accepting that some people would rather give fifteen cats a good home for as long as they can remain healthy with minimal care than let thirteen of them get euthanized as young, healthy cats because he/she can't afford to provide the same level of care to fifteen vs. two. I certainly wouldn't begrudge someone who wanted to contain feral cats in a relatively safe environment but couldn't afford to provide them with a lot of veterinary care, leading to euthanasia for things that TCS members might consider fairly minor.

As for killing them...it happens every day in every state in the United States. Ferals and non-ferals alike. I don't like it, but I have yet to figure out a humane alternative. Personally, I'd rather a thousand cats get humanely euthanized to avoid just one cat hit by a car, but not immediately killed and left to die slowly. Or just one cat tortured by cruel kids.

For those of you just joining us, I don't agree with the idea of free-roaming cats, feral or not. Outdoor cats that remain on someone's property or cats that are otherwise contained, but not inside, do not bother me in the slightest. I'm not out killing feral cats in the dead of night, and I'm not doing anything to hamper the efforts of TNR folks. I simply don't agree with them. Perhaps I'm an ogre, but I just don't think every type of life is always preferable to death.
post #2 of 22
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Originally Posted by JenC511 View Post
The "R" in TNR? The cats are returned aka released after being neutered, tested, vaccinated, etc. I'm not sure what that particular statement has to do with any money-making schemes.
The "R" in TNR stands for "return" not "release" (at least that is the way I was taught) so I did not make the connection that that was what you were referring to. I was following the flow of our conversation and the quote of mine that you used when you made the statement about ferals being released led me to believe that my previous post was what you were referring to. Ah well.

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Originally Posted by JenC511 View Post
Even if that feral is hit by a car the next day? Next week? Next month? Next year? Either way, the life expectancy of these cats is absurdly low.
Yep. My participation in TNR is merely to give the cat a chance at a healthier life while stopping the increase in feral cat population. These cats deserve to live just as much any tame cat does. It is not their fault that they were not born into the lap of luxury.

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Originally Posted by JenC511 View Post
(if you're content with what passes for "survival" in feral populations).
And I am; because unlike you, I think giving ferals a chance at life is better than killing them. Life is a gamble for all living creatures. None of us are guaranteed a long life. The ferals I care for are happy and healthy.

There are several suggestions and comments that I consider absurd so I'm not going to address them because it would take more time and energy than I'm willing to expend. You and I will just have to agree to disagree on the topic of feral cats.
post #3 of 22
Adding my 2c worth, as a longtime member of Alley Cat Allies and Alley Cat Rescue, and a student of various media on the issue of feral and homeless cats, I don't agree at all with taking the lives of healthy cats, period. I DO advocate spay/neuter universally except for small populations of "purebred" cats for those who insist that this category of cat is somehow more desirable and the only type of cat they will spend the time and money on that should be spent on EVERY cat but isn't. As for feral and homeless cats living short lives, this is simply not always the case. I personally know of managed feral colonies where many cats are middle-aged and above, and quite healthy, because they do receive veterinary care when they need it, having regular caregivers who monitor them closely and who care about them very much. Life IS a challenge for each and every living being, even the most privileged of human beings, so the argument doesn't hold water to me. Every being who is actually born deserves the best life possible and care and respect from all. The fact that we live in an ever more cruel, apathetic, sociopathic, materialistic, self-obsessed, out-of-touch and out-of-control society does not negate the truth of that timeless and universal standard, and those of us who do care about cats should each do everything we are able to do for them. TNR is a viable option for many feral cats. May it always remain so. The idea of buying land and building shelters and having managed caregiving is also an excellent one and I hope that people who can will do so. Best Friends Animal Society in Utah has frequent seminars on sanctuary startup. http://www.bestfriends.org is the place to go for that.
post #4 of 22
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Originally Posted by catcaregiver View Post
I think giving ferals a chance at life is better than killing them. Life is a gamble for all living creatures. None of us are guaranteed a long life.

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Originally Posted by JenC511
I have seen tons of plans for outdoor shelters for cats. Why not move them into their advocates' backyards? Why not build large-scale enclosures to house colonies? The one-time expense of building an enclosure that simply contains the cats is all I'm asking for. Heck, even if you live in an urban area, there are rural areas with very cheap land all over the country. A few undeveloped acres would be dirt cheap, fencing is not that expensive, and overhead wouldn't be any more than bringing food to any other colony (if we want to nitpick, fuel would be more expensive if the urban caretakers are the ones heading out to feed the cats in the sticks).
Apparently dirt cheap to you is extremely pricey to me. If someone has the heart and makes the effort to provide food and vet care to feral cats, you believe they are also obligated to use their backyard or purchase land? If not they shouldn't do anything?

Wanting to provide shelter like that and having the means to do it are 2 different things.
post #5 of 22
Coming from somewhere where land is not cheap, I know most of the people involved in the TNR program here could not afford an enclosure like the one you talk about. Land is expensive, building materials are not cheap either. It really depends on the area in which you live.

There is a feral colony (some are quite friendly and probably more stray than feral) behind the Parliament buildings in Ottawa where they do have little enclosures and 'houses' but the guy who takes care of them gets donations, most feral caretakers do not and the cost of speutering itself can get too much at times.

I also think giving ferals some kind of chance at life is better than no life, but on the other hand, we experience several months of very cold weather and few stray/feral/completely outdoor cats live through the cold months.

The number of pick up requests in winter is high. So part of me also thinks it is better to humanely euthanise them than for them to die frostbitten and cold, unable to fight for food.

The original topic came up because of licensing and the difference of ferals and strays, and as much as I agree with TNR and am to some extent involved in local TNR groups, I also see how much of a strain ferals, even TNRed ones, cause for animal control and the shelters.

People trap them and bring them to the no kill shelter I volunteer with, even when they have tipped ears because they are not being cared for by the people who TNRed them. Then they are sitting in a cage, often in quarantine for quite some time, because they can not be handled by volunteers and that is no life either.

Having said that, Autumn was one of those ferals and I can now pick her up and cuddle her, but did they know that when she was brought in, no, she was mean and lunged at people and tried to bite and scratch constantly. How do you justify spending the boarding cost of an animal for up to a year when you could use that space for 20 other strays that would be adopted sooner.

I guess my views completely differ depending on where a person lives (the climate and typical lot size etc), how busy their Animal Control and shelters are, and so many other factors
post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by JenC511 View Post
I have seen tons of plans for outdoor shelters for cats. Why not move them into their advocates' backyards? Why not build large-scale enclosures to house colonies? The one-time expense of building an enclosure that simply contains the cats is all I'm asking for. Heck, even if you live in an urban area, there are rural areas with very cheap land all over the country. A few undeveloped acres would be dirt cheap, fencing is not that expensive, and overhead wouldn't be any more than bringing food to any other colony (if we want to nitpick, fuel would be more expensive if the urban caretakers are the ones heading out to feed the cats in the sticks). The cats don't require heated, indoor accomodations. They don't need cages, full-time staff, etc. If they have access to food and water and no one sees them for several days at a time, what is the real difference? If you don't see a feral ever again, you never know what happened to it. If you don't find an injured feral until it's too late, it's no huge crime of animal cruelty. If you don't check on the feral cats that happen to be inside a fence for a few days, what is the difference? I'm not asking people to provide them top notch veterinary care throughout their golden years.

Are people afraid that they'll have to go to great lengths and expense to care for these ferals if they simply "own" them? Is it more distasteful to let them die from easily treated/prevented diseases and injuries if it's happening in your own backyard? Might someone point fingers at you and claim you are a bad cat owner for allowing these things to happen?
Caring for ferals is far more complicated than you may think.

For years and years there was a feral cat colony located on undeveloped land adjacent to our property, fed by the factory workers next door to the plot. Unfortunately, in time the factory closed, and a developer offered the town quite a bit of money for the property, and built apartment buildings there. The colony had to be dissolved; our last cat, who had lived in it for eight years, was part of that colony, and evaded trapping.

It took us ages to gradually move Straycat from our yard to our garage, and then into our house, and he was never tame. As soon as we began to feed him, we became his owners by law, and were not only legally responsible for vaccinations, neutering, and veterinary care, but also for any damage he caused. It was impossible to make him an indoor cat. He literally climbed the walls. The simple act of feeding him meant that we were financially responsible for the food he stole from people's shopping carts (a favorite habit), the koi he stole from an aquarians' exhibition, the neighbor's guinea pigs he killed, etc., not to mention the cost of having half his teeth removed because of abscesses.

Feral cats do require shelter in winter, as do strays. It's not simply a matter of fencing in an area and bringing food and water. Straycat had a cat flap that made our furnace/laundry room accessible from outdoors at all times. It was a rare bitter winter morning when I didn't find up to six or eight cats in that room, waiting for breakfast. Most of them were neighborhood cats looking for a warm bed and a meal, whose stupid owners let them out at night despite the weather.

The argument that all cats should be kept indoors doesn't work where I live, as the local shelter requires all cats adopted from there who weren't born at a shelter or foster home to be indoor/outdoor cats. That's very common in Europe. We have a terrific adoption rate, and have taken cats from other shelters, because a rodent plague here means (indoor/outdoor) cats are in high demand. Under German law, only dying animals may be euthanized, so shelters would have a major overpopulation problem if they demanded "indoor only" cats.
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
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Originally Posted by Rockcat View Post

Apparently dirt cheap to you is extremely pricey to me. If someone has the heart and makes the effort to provide food and vet care to feral cats, you believe they are also obligated to use their backyard or purchase land? If not they shouldn't do anything?

Wanting to provide shelter like that and having the means to do it are 2 different things.
Living in the land of the $500k starter home, I understand that property is very expensive in many areas. Having also lived in places where $50k will buy you a house on a good-sized lot, I know, without a doubt, that it would be very doable to purchase five, ten, twenty undeveloped acres, fence it, add plenty of shelters for significantly less than one month's operating expenses at my local shelter. Trapping, neutering, and food costs are already in place in managed colonies, so I'm not including those. Admittedly, I do not know the recommended population density for any given area, so I don't know how many cats you could reasonably contain in such an area.

There are people transporting cats and dogs all over the country for rescue groups. Someone with an SUV or a truck could cram a lot of carriers in there, make a two hour trip, and deposit another load of trapped and neutered cats in a much safer environment than many of these feral cats are living. Please keep in mind, I'm not so naive to think this can all happen overnight.

Obviously, I don't think TNR groups should just give up and do nothing. I fully support their efforts to at least neuter the animals. I even donate money to several of them because I would rather the cats be neutered than not. I just don't agree with returning them to roam free in populated areas.

I also don't have any animosity toward the TNR groups because they didn't cause the problem. They are making an effort to do something about it. Personally, I couldn't trap an animal, neuter it, and release it to an uncertain future. I don't want to wonder if every dead cat on the road is one I trapped. I don't want to wonder if every cat in some newspaper story about some new cruelty case is one I trapped, had my hands on, and could have euthanized before it ended up in some horrible situation.

icklemiss21:
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Land is expensive, building materials are not cheap either. It really depends on the area in which you live.
That's why I would suggest trapping, neutering, and relocating the feral cat colonies to cheap rural areas. They aren't native to any particular geographic region or ecosystem (at least, not in the United States), so their survival doesn't hinge on remaining in place. They can eat cat food just as easily in rural Missouri as they can within the city limits of St. Louis.
post #8 of 22
I just went through my receipts. This year I have spent over $1040 just for spaying/neutering and vetting stray/feral cats. This doesn't even include the cost of feeding them. That may not sound like a lot but this is all out of my pocket. I'm not part of a 501(C)3, I don't get donations or even a tax break for doing this. Not to mention that I have my own multi-cat household that I care for! It's hardly reasonable to think that I can afford to buy a (cheap?) piece of land here in the Phoenix area, nor is it reasonable to think that I alone would be able to drive to wherever this piece of land might be every day to take care of my feral colony. There has not been a suggestion yet that is practical IMO.
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
catcaregiver, I have been referencing TNR groups when discussing possible alternatives. I wouldn't suggest individuals attempt to take on such large scale projects alone.

Is there any particular reason you don't work with a non-profit group?
post #10 of 22
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Originally Posted by JenC511 View Post
catcaregiver, I have been referencing TNR groups when discussing possible alternatives. I wouldn't suggest individuals attempt to take on such large scale projects alone.

Is there any particular reason you don't work with a non-profit group?
I thought I had said I was one person doing this. I was under the impression that you understood that and that your suggestions applied to me as an individual doing TNR, as well as for TNR groups. But regardless, your suggestions just really aren't practical. There is no group in my area (that I'm aware of) that would even remotely consider your suggestions. I contacted a group once to see if they knew of any place to relocate ferals (I was hoping there might be an alternative I could offer to people bringing trapped ferals to Animal Control to be killed) and they told me there is no place to take ferals. TNR groups aren't wealthy, they're probably lucky to get enough donations to even do spay/neuter and vaccinate let alone buy a piece of land and make it habitable for cats. You're talking about a huuuuuuge task that would require a large amount of money.
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by JenC511 View Post
That's why I would suggest trapping, neutering, and relocating the feral cat colonies to cheap rural areas. They aren't native to any particular geographic region or ecosystem (at least, not in the United States), so their survival doesn't hinge on remaining in place. They can eat cat food just as easily in rural Missouri as they can within the city limits of St. Louis.
I lived in cheap rural Missouri and all of my feral cats were born there. I strongly disagree with relocating cats to rural areas (cheap or not). I tried to do that with 2 cats. Used every protocal recommended by Allie Cat Allies and many other sources. It didn't work. One cat disappeared within a month and the other within about 4 months.

A city cat does not simply adjust to rural life. There are very different dangers in both locations and a cat that has learned to be savy in one will fail in the other. I managed a feral colony for years in a rural area and the cats born there faired very well, some living to be 14 years old. The city transplants failed.
post #12 of 22
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Originally Posted by Momofmany View Post
I lived in cheap rural Missouri and all of my feral cats were born there. I strongly disagree with relocating cats to rural areas (cheap or not). I tried to do that with 2 cats. Used every protocal recommended by Allie Cat Allies and many other sources. It didn't work. One cat disappeared within a month and the other within about 4 months.

A city cat does not simply adjust to rural life. There are very different dangers in both locations and a cat that has learned to be savy in one will fail in the other. I managed a feral colony for years in a rural area and the cats born there faired very well, some living to be 14 years old. The city transplants failed.
You make a good point. Moving tame cats is an ordeal, let alone moving ferals. It's just not so simple of a task.
post #13 of 22
My turn because this is something near and dear to my heart. First of all Jen, I am not, nor will I ever be associated with a feral rescue group. You may ask me why, but I keep my own counsel as to why. I have my reasons. I have an enclosure such as you mentioned. It cost my husband and I a little over $2,500.00 and will house up to fifty cats. It attaches to our home by some irrigation culvert type tunnels.

Your arguments about TNR playout all over the country in meetings between cat rescue folk, chamber of commerce members, and politicians. It is an age-old argument for which the ONLY answer lies in us as people being responsible pet owners. This means spaying and neutering all cats that we bring into our home or our life.

You cannot possibly believe that there is cheap rural land available for rescue groups who are strapped already? With development of land for human use, there is very little left to go around to deal with feral and stray cats.

With the exception of the more popular rescue groups who are publicly in the news and have numerous ways to raise monies, most rescue groups are made of small amounts of volunteers who pay for the spays and neuters and try and educate people as they go along. Only the extremely organized groups can move large colonies of cats successfully.

You are also wrong about the life span of a feral or stray cat that has been TNR. Most of them do go on to live long lives, but they stay out of the eyesight of people so it is very difficult to report the stats. On a personal note, I have them live up to 17 years being completely outside cats because regardless of how much I would want them to live inside the enclosure or the home, some feral and stray cats aren't meant to be kept.

The solution rides in educating the masses about spaying and neutering and getting vets to lower their prices on spaying and neutering year round- which, most of us involved in this type of lifestyle know that will never happen.

I would rather release a cat into the world, then keep it confined in a home where it terrorizes others, sprays the walls, fights with the resident cats or attacks the dog because it cannot adapt to a life in a "cage" no matter how luxurious that cage or home may be.

I have had cats dropped off at my place that after months of working with them, because their feral tendencies were to ingrained, or they had suffered to much at the hands of ignorant cat bullies and will never trust, they have been released outside to be barn cats and wander out property.

Fencing is NOT cheap, not cat fencing at any rate. And even the best of cat fences will not keep a determined cat from escaping.

I will quit now, because your argument makes me sad. It is clear you really don't understand the plight of the feral and the stray cats in the world, nor do you understand how limited most rescue groups finances are. There is no easy answer to this problem, if there were, my life and those of Amy, Tania, and others here would be much different. We wouldn't be worried 80 % of the time about the newest rescue to show up, we wouldn't be in prayer 20% of the time asking God to help us find the means to help these cats, the money for the next spay, the funds for the operation of the kitten whose tail and paws got stuck in a fan belt. You can't keep ALL the strays and ferals indoors- that is simply not possible, because as people, we have irresponsibly caused the problem of to many cats in the first place.
post #14 of 22
Just want to chime in to say I think all you people involved with TNR are angels. Thank you for all you do.

Where I live the local Humane Society does TNR. We had a cat get into our warehouse at work that I thought was Feral. After weeks of feeding him, he finally warmed up to me and now he is neutered and tame and living at my brother's house. I think he was a stray and not Feral.
post #15 of 22
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Originally Posted by hissy View Post
My turn because this is something near and dear to my heart. <major snippage to save space>
You can't keep ALL the strays and ferals indoors- that is simply not possible, because as people, we have irresponsibly caused the problem of to many cats in the first place.
I just want to say that this was an excellent post. I wish I could have said it so well.
post #16 of 22
I'd like to commend Hissy for her well thought out reply.

In my area we get lots of cats dumped, of course none fixed, so we get wild offspring.


no matter how much a person loves animals, it is not pleasant to have an un-altered male spraying your outdoor furniture cushions, or whipping up on your resident cats.

It's a shame, a problem and a shame, and I just don't think there is one blanket answer that fits every situation.

I do the best I can for them, the ones I can't help I take to the professionals and let them deal with it.
post #17 of 22
I used to have the problem of male cats spraying everywhere outside of my house, on my truck tires and even on the windshield! It was disgusting. Thankfully that has stopped since I started having everybody altered. My resident cats are indoor only so fortunately I don't have the problem of the ferals getting into fights with them.
post #18 of 22
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Originally Posted by ckblv View Post
Just want to chime in to say I think all you people involved with TNR are angels. Thank you for all you do.

Where I live the local Humane Society does TNR. We had a cat get into our warehouse at work that I thought was Feral. After weeks of feeding him, he finally warmed up to me and now he is neutered and tame and living at my brother's house. I think he was a stray and not Feral.

It has been my experience in the twenty some years I have been working with strays that most "ferals" are strays with feral tendencies. Their survival mode is such that in order to stay alive in the world, unless they revert to their true natural state of feral cat, they cannot possibly stay alive. Depending on what they have endured, how long they have been forced to live outside will depend on how "feral" they appear.

Now there are true feral cats in various places in the United States, but I have truly only encountered four true ferals in all the years working with them. All four had to be euthanized because they couldn't adjust to people or other cats.
post #19 of 22
I would like to add another thought about moving feral cats to enclosures. I've known 2 people who have done that. I gave an enclosure to one of those people. Their experiences were similar to what MA stated. Some cats adjust and others, regardless of what you do with them, do not. You can encounter 2 extreme behaviors in this scenario. A cat is so wild that they attack all other cats in the enclosure and for the safety of all involved, you must release them. The other is a reverse role, also known as a pariah cat. The one that is attacked by all other cats for unknown reasons and for the safety of that cat, must be removed.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and get all homeless cats speutered. Instead I promote causes for low/no cost speuters to reduce the need to manage the problem of feral cats.
post #20 of 22
Amy, I have a pariah cat who just recently has reared up and said "Enough!" Mercedes is now openly attacking the cats that have in the past tormented her. It isn't hostile fighting, but it is clearly a message that she has had enough. This all happened after Prowler passed away-
post #21 of 22
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Originally Posted by hissy View Post
Amy, I have a pariah cat who just recently has reared up and said "Enough!" Mercedes is now openly attacking the cats that have in the past tormented her. It isn't hostile fighting, but it is clearly a message that she has had enough. This all happened after Prowler passed away-
The change in house dynamics after a cat passes is always surprising. My entire household sighed a huge sigh of relief when we lost Tigger (age 9) to cardiomyopathy. Apparently he bullied everyone in ways that were lost to me. My Shep was a pariah inside the house and alpha cat outside. I didn't like that she went outside but for her emotional health, we had no option. When she crossed the others found another to pick on. Oh, to be inside their brains for just one day!
post #22 of 22
Prowler was my gatekeeper- she wasn't a bully at all, but her leaving impacted every cat and myself differently.
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