How did we wind up caring for so many cats? It seems like we should have somehow, some way, been able to take evasive action. We certainly didn’t move up here to Dry Creek Hill planning to tend a cat colony. So, what happened?
First, remember that we may have dealt with 78 cats during the years of the colony, but they weren’t all here at the same time. I think the most we ever had at once was 45, maybe 46. That’s a lot of cats, but it’s less than 78.
Second, our property had a feral cat problem before we arrived. The prior owners said “You’ll have a lot of cats up there” as we took possession. We stepped into an existing problem, although it was often unnoticed because many of the cats stayed hidden in the woods. We were only seeing the tip of the iceberg when we saw a cat or two wander across our clearing. When we started caring for the cats they moved out of the woods into our clearing where food, water, and relative safety was available.
The cats came into our care in a variety of ways. Some arrived alone as adults. In fact, if we had started trapping and neutering when we first saw and felt sorry for some of those adults we would have had a smaller population problem in the long run. But we hadn’t grappled with the issue yet and it took us a while to decide we had to get serious about things. After all, we were not experienced cat wranglers. Not yet, anyway.
Some cats were born to the adults that first settled down in our yard. After we got over how cute the litters of kittens were we came to our senses and began our trapping and neutering program in earnest. That stopped the “litters born on premises” problem.
But we still had kittens in the colony because mother cats we had never seen before arrived with litters in tow. We trapped and neutered the mothers and kittens as soon as the kittens were weaned and old enough for the procedure.
A few kittens arrived on their own with no mother to be seen. Some of these were probably dumped by uncaring people and some were clearly feral. We trapped and neutered those arrivals as soon as practical. Three of them were obviously socialized and they became our house pets.
So, could and should we have been able to avoid the cat explosion? Yes, we could have reduced the total by moving more quickly into our TNR program. But we were new at this game and it took us a while to learn the ropes. And even then we would have had quite a few cats to take care of. They were out there in the woods, whether we wanted to admit it or not, having kittens and patrolling our property. We could have ignored them for a while, but they were there and multiplying.
Others before us had tried to ignore the issue with no success. We may have made the problem more visible by bringing the cats into the open but you can’t deal with a problem that you refuse to see. We just didn’t know how much we would see when we took pity on that first cat in the cold rain.
- Feral Cat Fridays: Looking Back
- Feral Cat Fridays: The Dynamic Duo (And A Joker)