PET HEALTH from Dunstable Animal Clinic
"LONELY SOULS" by Mary R. O'Shaughnessy, D.V.M.
In the past three days I neutered and spayed 21 cats, only four of which had permanent homes. The other 17 were an assortment of stray, semi-wild, and wild, (or feral) cats that were spayed or neutered for a local cat shelter. Ten feral kittens trapped by shelter volunteers were brought in to be vaccinated, blood tested for FIV ("feline AIDS") and leukemia viruses, and handled and socialized in hopes of becoming adoptable pets. Six more feral and semi-feral cats are waiting quietly in the kennel room to be spayed as soon as I finish writing this article. Shelter volunteers report they will be bringing in another 16-20 cats and kittens in the next few days. This is a few more than we usually do in a three day period, but the fact remains that the shelter brings us homeless cats and kittens several times a week, every week of the year.
The time and effort put into these animals by my staff, myself, and especially the shelter volunteers is enormous, and yet the animals which pass through our clinic are only the tip of the iceberg. Many, many more are living in backyards, barns, towns vacant buildings, dumpsters and apartment complexes in virtually every community throughout this country.
Unfortunately, far too many people are not committed to spaying or neutering their pet before it reaches maturity. The result is a mushrooming cloud of unwanted offspring, some of whom become strays, who bring up litter after litter of kittens on their own with only minimal exposure to people. When these kittens bring up their own kittens, the result is a feral cat. The instincts of their wild ancestors become stronger than the influence of domestication, and although they look like a house cat, they behave quite differently. Close approach by a person is likely to send them into a full blown anxiety attack. They will bolt with amazing speed, sometimes crashing into objects in their panic.
I would much rather work with a feral cat than a "just plain mean" house cat. Ferals are rarely aggressive or spiteful, they are just lonely souls who have never known the love and kindness that a human can offer them. Although generally a project undertaken by adults, my technician's 9 year old son has been carrying around a 7 month old feral cat in his arms all week. It is heartwarming to see this rough-and-tumble little boy hold her so quietly and carefully, and equally wonderful to see this little cat put her trust and faith in him.
You can help with the homeless/feral cat problem in several ways: 1. Donations of food, money and time are always needed and appreciated. 2. Become involved in a trapping/neutering project. Salvageable animals are gradually handled and socialized in foster homes until they are ready for adoption. Others are re- released after being neutered, to safe areas where volunteers provide food for them regularly. 3. Become a "foster" family. Foster homes are frequently needed for many reasons. It can be very rewarding to hand raise and bottle feed a litter of orphan kittens, socialize and win the trust of a terrified feral cat, or witness the miracle of birth by temporarily caring for a pregnant stray. 4. Consider adopting a feral cat. Feral cats make excellent additions to multiple cat households as they become very bonded to other cats, and with time, patience, and a soft voice they can learn to trust you as well.
Well, it's time to go spay those cats. For more information you can contact us at Dunstable Animal Clinic, 978-649-6513, or contact Kitty Angels Cat Shelter at 978-649-4681. Thank you.
Kitty Angels, Inc. P.O. Box 638 Tyngsboro, MA 01879
978-649-4681 - www.kittyangels.org
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