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Stupid, stupid question...but

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
how do cats exactly become feral?

Ok, I know that there are stray cats that wander off from home or are dumped off? But where are these prevalent numbers coming from?

How come there aren't feral dog packs?I know they exist but nowhere near the numbers of feral cats...

So, I guess my stupid question is....Is it just an owner who opens their door and never sees their unspayed/unneutered cat again? or dumps them off in the woods? and they meet up with other cats to mate with and that is it?
They start multiplying into a colony???

I suppose I am just naive and really curious. I live on the river here and you NEVER actually see the cats (but you hear them when they squabble! Its piercing!)....I imagine them as living underground and not appearing as regular housecats do...

Now that I have really embarrassed myself fully, I will bow out

I think you all do a terrific job
post #2 of 18
There are feral dog packs...much more prelavent in other countries then the US because here dogs are often picked up by Animal Control. For cats however, oftentimes you won't necessarily see the colony during the day..and unless someone call the Animal Control directly...these cats are often left to their own devices.

A really good site to learn about feral cats is Alley Cat Allies:

http://www.alleycat.org/

About feral cats:

Feral cats. They sleep in our parks, military bases, alleyways, farmyards, barns, college campuses, and deserted buildings. Abandoned by their human families or simply lost, unsterilized housecats eventually band together in groups called colonies. Without human contact for a prolonged period, the colonies become feral. They make homes wherever they can find food, be it in dumpsters or under a boardwalk. Mothers teach their kittens to avoid humans and to defend themselves. And their numbers steadily increase, even if meager scraps are all the food to be had.

No one knows exactly how many feral cats live in the United States, but the number is estimated in the tens of millions. They are often wrongly portrayed as disease-ridden nuisances living tragic lives and responsible for endangering native species. As a consequence, feral feline communities too frequently are rounded up and because they have had little or no human contact and are thus unadoptable they are killed.

But removing and killing feral cats does not reduce feral cat populations. It only provides space for more cats to move in and start the breeding process again. Unspayed, feral female cats spend most of their lives pregnant and hungry, as will the female kittens that survive. Unneutered tomcats roam to find, and fight to win, mates, and often suffer debilitating wounds in the process. Half of all kittens born in feral colonies die within their first year.

Alley Cat Allies has a solution that not only reduces feral cat populations, but also improves and extends the lives of colony members: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
post #3 of 18
Definitly not a stupid queston I had thought about this myself, and I think that some people just dump there cats, also if thay are not speyed they just have kittens in the wild/dump/outside and it just goes on from there.
post #4 of 18


But also, as to why there are so many, I looked it up online to be sure, but according to Spay USA: "An unspayed female cat, her unneutered mate and all of their offspring, producing 2 litters per years, with 2.8 surviving kittens per year can total 11,606,077 cats in only 9 years."

So you can see how a few strays can lead to a large colony.
post #5 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by eatrawfish


But also, as to why there are so many, I looked it up online to be sure, but according to Spay USA: "An unspayed female cat, her unneutered mate and all of their offspring, producing 2 litters per years, with 2.8 surviving kittens per year can total 11,606,077 cats in only 9 years."

So you can see how a few strays can lead to a large colony.
From Nathan Winograd:

What are these myths?

That "two cats = 470,000 in seven years." If this were true, we would literally be scooping cats to get out of our driveway the way we upstate New Yorkers scoop snow in the winter! Exaggeration undermines credibility!

We honestly do not know how many feral cats there are:

No guesses. They can bite you in the rear! For example, how many feral cats are out there? Some say 60 million, others 100 million. To you that's 60 million ferals who need TNR. To anti-cat zealots, that's 60 million feral cats eating birds. The fact is we don't know, so let's not pretend that we do. Just say what we know.
Shatter the myths!

When people ask me how many feral cats there are...I say...I'm not sure..but they all need to be spayed/neutered so we don't add more.
post #6 of 18
My shelter uses that example (or something like it) on their handouts, I'd always assumed it to be true.

Two unspayed animals of the opposite sex can still add up to Many Many kittens in few years anyway.
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by eatrawfish
My shelter uses that example (or something like it) on their handouts, I'd always assumed it to be true.

Two unspayed animals of the opposite sex can still add up to Many Many kittens in few years anyway.
That's presuming no medical maladies, and that all the offspring survive.

The number is possible, but because of the utopian nature of the possibility, it's highly unlikely to ever happen. Not to mention the detrimental effects of the inherent inbreeding in such a model.

I like how Katie looks at the problem...one cat at a time, it adds up quickly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TNR1
When people ask me how many feral cats there are...I say...I'm not sure..but they all need to be spayed/neutered so we don't add more.
Spotz
post #8 of 18
Here we have both feral dogs and feral cats. There is a pack of dogs, varying in number form 3 -7, who roam the apartment complex and hte fields across from where I live. There is an animal control run by the city, but it is pretty ineffective and all animals taken are routinely killed - there is no shelter. Some puppies born to the dog packs are trapped and taken as pets, but mostly no-one cares for the kittens, though I do know a few people who throw food out for them, just encouraging the problem.
post #9 of 18
Feral dog packs do exist in remote areas usually, but animal control is quick to round up the dogs- why? Because they pose a greater risk to the public than the cats do. Plus feral dogs run from you, but they don't usually hide as well as feral cats do.
post #10 of 18
I think completely wild cats are the offspring of strays who were abandoned or escaped pets. Or maybe even a couple of generations from cats who had no association with humans.

I've only come across five truly feral cats -- they had never been touched by a human. Each saw me and sized me up only as a potential adversary with no sign of "is this guy gonna feed me or pet me?" or even "is this guy gonna kick me or abuse me?" passing through their mind. They simply had no point of reference.
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info.
I never have heard of TNR so this is interesting.
Nano, that is really quite interesting about the cats having "no point of reference".
Makes you think. These cats must be true survivors.
post #12 of 18
The question is really not how cats become feral, but rather how they become tame.

A cat who does not have close, regular interaction with a human by 5 weeks of age will be feral by default, and will remain feral unless intensive socialization with humans takes place before approximately 12 weeks of age. Feral simply means unsocialized with humans. Feral cats are the descendents of abandoned pet cats and are the same as pet cats in every way with that one crucial exception.

Feral cats tend to congregate around a food source (sometimes it's a person who feeds them, but it also might be a Dumpster or pretty much anything else where they can scavenge a living). They multiply until they reach the carrying capacity of the food source. Then they keep reproducing, but the principles of natural selection and population ecology keep the population from exploding insanely. Put simply, many more kittens are born than survive to reproductive age.

The reason we don't see packs of feral dogs in most of the US is that Animal Control has pretty successfully managed the dog population. Feral dogs congregate in packs, are active during the day, and are sometimes aggressive toward humans. In this way, they draw attention to themselves and because they're obvious, they are also relatively easy to mange (though the management practices were and are often far from humane).

In contrast, cats are much smaller, they congregate in family groups called colonies but don't run in packs, and are most active at twilight and at night when there is less human activity. They simply are much less visible and unlike packs of feral dogs, they pose virtually zero risk to public health and safety. So managing their populations is rarely considered a public health priority. However, when population control efforts are undertaken, they also require much more diligence in order to achieve success, because of the above mentioned factors. This is why population control efforts for cats that involve trapping and killing almost inevitably fail, while caregivers who commit to sterilizing every cat they feed are able to make a huge difference in the population over time.
post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by vegansoprano
A cat who does not have close, regular interaction with a human by 5 weeks of age will be feral by default, and will remain feral unless intensive socialization with humans takes place before approximately 12 weeks of age.
While I agree with the rest of your post, I must strongly disagree with that statement. Ferals kittens under 12 weeks of age are easier to socialize, but I believe that most feral cats of any age can be socialized at least to the degree of living happily with humans. They may never be lap-cats, but they can learn to trust. Just here on this forum, Lucky was around 6 months old when Sandy took her in, and now she truly is a lap cat. Pengy is years old and suffered abuse from humans, and while it is taking a lot of time and patience, she is coming around.

It's so frustrating to me to see the expert websites say things like that, because there are a lot of really great cats out there who are being overlooked simply because they aren't small kittens anymore. Some time and a lot of patience could do a lot for them...more than TNR and regular feedings for the colony can do.

For those not familiar with Ferals and TNR, here are a couple links for you.

Feral Cats

TNR
post #14 of 18
There are rare cats who do become totally tame even after living as feral kittens for 6 months or longer, but they are the exception. Usually, efforts to socialize these cats takes a huge amount of time and effort and the end result is that the cat is comfortable around his primary caregiver but still is fearful of other humans.

It is inaccurate that it is "best" for a feral cat to be indoors with a family. These cats are not pet cats and have absolutely no desire to live indoors. Making them into indoor cats requires breaking their fundamental nature and spirit, and it is an action that is undertaken by humans with their own needs in mind, not the cat's. What the cat needs is to be fixed and vaccinated and to be respected for what he is - feral and free. He is a wild animal, just like a squirrel or raccoon, and it as disrespectful to the adult feral cat's nature to force him to live as a pet as it is to force a squirrel or raccoon to live as a pet.

Even if socializing adult ferals truly were in their best interests, it cannot be justified simply due to the enormous numbers of stray and feral cats. While you are spending literally thousands of hours hoping to bring one adult feral around to possibly be a candidate for adoption to a patient, quiet, adult-only home (which is in itself an impracticality considering the thousands of well-socialized cats who are killed in shelters every year for lack of adoptive homes) - there are hundreds if not thousands of other feral cats in your very community who are desperately in need of sterilization and vaccination. There are dozens if not hundreds of very tame abandoned pet cats who desperately need foster homes and adoption, and at this time of year there are hundreds of young kittens who will easily be socialized and be excellent candidates for adoption. You can help literally dozens of these cats - and often save their lives - or you can spend the same time and effort fighting the fundamental nature of a single adult cat in a way that may or may not be successful. We must concentrate our efforts first on humanely reducing the population, and second on saving as many lives as possible (which necessarily means placing the most vulnerable, the friendly strays and young kittens). The big picture must be considered at every turn, and the true best interests of the cats (not what we think is best for them) must be our primary focus.

http://www.wildaboutcats.com/tnr.htm
post #15 of 18
"A cat who does not have close, regular interaction with a human by 5 weeks of age will be feral by default, and will remain feral unless intensive socialization with humans takes place before approximately 12 weeks of age. Feral simply means unsocialized with humans. Feral cats are the descendents of abandoned pet cats and are the same as pet cats in every way with that one crucial exception."

I am sorry but bullspit!!!! This is so not true, and if you doubt me than I invite you to come here and meet Ghost who was socialized at two years old, Cyclone who was socialize at 5 years old- and others socialized not tamed at one- to three years old. It did not take intensive socialization to gain these cat's trust. It did take time, patience and understanding.

There are different levels (generations) of feral cats, it all determines the history of the mom having the kittens. The longer a cat has been outside, the more it returns to its traditional wild roots. What happens to the cat while out in the wild will also determine how it interacts with humans that are trying to help it.

My cats live indoors, outdoors or both. They interact with other cat lovers- ask sashacat, cassandra starr and others who have been here to meet them. They run from people that do not care for cats, that is called self-preservation.

So excuse me if you think they are not worth your time to save, because they are entirely worth MINE!
post #16 of 18
You have one cat who was fully socialized at two years old.

I have two cats who have lived with me since they were 8 *weeks* old and I still cannot touch them.

Both cases are exceptions to the norm.

These cats are worth my time to save. I do this by sterilizing and vaccinating them, which improves their health and prolongs their lives. But I have 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year, just like everyone else. And that time has to be spent helping cats who actually need my help, not those whom I just want to believe would be better off if I interfered with their lives.

The stray cat who will run up to anyone...the 8-week-old kittens who will be ready for adoption after a couple of weeks in a playpen...the healthy feral adult whose real need is to be fixed and vaccinated...these are the cats I can help by the dozens, each and every year. And I can help their feral kin, too, by sterilizing and vaccinating them, again by the dozens each and every year. I could never take every one of these cats into my home, nor would that be in anyone's best interests.

Practically every alley in this city is filled with cats. And the shelter's freezer is full of cats' bodies because the bottom line is that we're just not spaying and neutering them fast enough. When thousands of completely tame cats who have known and loved a human are betrayed with a lethal injection at the shelter because there are no homes for them, it just doesn't make sense to fill our homes with cats whose home is truly the outdoors, where they have lived their entire lives since birth.
post #17 of 18
I know you are new here and so don't know the history of the members. Hissy has worked with ferals and abused cats for around 20 years. She stopped counting at 250 (many years ago) rescues of cats who mainly were feral and generally untouchable that were socialized and most of them adopted out. Her experience with and knowledge of ferals is pretty much second to none.

I appreciate that you do everything you can to help the homeless animals in your area. TNR is a great service to these animals to stop the reproductive cycle. If there were more people who would do that, we wouldn't have the horrible overpopulation problem that we do. I understand the logistics you speak of considering the 3-5 million animals that are euthanized in shelters every year because of the lack of homes. However, I do still firmly believe that you do a grave disservice to these amazing survivors by saying that they cannot be socialized and that they should stay where they are. They do deserve a chance for a safe and stable home, just as every cat (and dog) in a shelter deserves the same.
post #18 of 18
I was talking about at present. Last year I had 23 cats, mostcome to me well into the adult years. I work with them and rehome them, and those who I cannot find a place for stay here with us on our farm. Over the past 20 years I lost count of how many ferals and strays I have worked with. I stopped keeping track at 500. I specialize in the ones that people either want to shoot, poison or ignore because they are "to old." I have only had one failure and that was Queen Mother a very aggressive 6 year old calico
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