South African neighbourhoods, shopping centres, office parks, churches, hotels and the likes are all pretty likely to have one very undercover thing in common – feral cat colonies.
Where do ferals come from?
Stray or unwanted, unsterilized cats wander, find likeminded cats, an area with shelter and a food source (rats, birds etc) and before you know it, a feral colony is born. These colonies are often referred to as community cats as many of these cats have been thrown out, abandoned or become strays.
Almost every neighbourhood, local centre, office block and factory has a colony or a community of cats who are fending for themselves and survival is top of their list. Some of these cats are fairly domesticated as they grew up in homes and around people. Some of them may be more wary of people as they have never known love.
The sad reality is that feral cats lead a far from idyllic, free-range life. They are quite often the victims of illness, accidents, cruelty, injury, and starvation. Without intervention, most feral cats lead short lives, filled with stress and suffering.
As these cats are so misunderstood, often a large part of the community sees them as a nuisance, which raises the question – are they really foes or could they be our friends?
Controlled feral cat colonies are good. Unsterilised feral cat colonies are not.
Healthy feral cat communities have great benefits, and if kept under control by sterilisation they help us with rat & other vermin population control. Provide them with a safe haven, along with a few feeding and water stations, and these cats will exist in harmony with humans whilst doing us a favour.
It’s up to us to get on the side of these vulnerable creatures and make their lives as comfortable as possible and to ensure that all cats within these colonies are sterilised and given supplementary feeding.
So… Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?
NCat (The National Cat Action Taskforce) is an organisation helping with the plight and future of these cats. I, for one, am a big supporter and encourage businesses and individuals to contact them for advice where feral colonies are present.
These cats can live longer, safer lives if we, as kind and caring human beings, offer a little bit of care and assistance to them.
Let’s not forget – they didn’t ask to be there, but through human indifference they find themselves in these situations.
Benefits of Feral Cat Colonies according to NCat:
- The National Council of SPCAs as well as Onderstepoort advises that businesses and residential premises should maintain healthy colonies of feral cats by means of feeding and sterilisation to keep rodents and snakes under control.
- The cats are fulfilling the vital role of keeping the premises rodent-free, and are therefore, in fact, working cats. Feeding them regularly ensures that they remain healthy and fit enough to fulfil this function.
How can you help?
If you see cats within your community find out if there is a ‘feeder’ – someone who offers supplementary feeding to the colony. Security guards are usually a good source of information as they are on the property day and night and have a good understanding of the cats, how many there are and if anyone cares for them. These cats will be scared in the day but at night most are active, away from the noise and threat of humans, delivery trucks, cars etc.
If there’s no known feeder, you could volunteer to feed a couple times a week or rally a team up to help by posting on your local Facebook groups for instance – you would be surprised at how many people are willing to pitch in. You can also contact NCat to alert them, and they can offer advice.
Consider asking the business to help in raising funds to contribute towards the cost of feeding the colony as well as sterilization. It’s vitally important to sterilize because feeding a feral population without this leads to population growth which in turn becomes unmanageable.
Chat to your local vet who may be able to assist with a reduced rate to sterilise these cats or ask them tp point you to someone who can.
Together we can make their lives just a little bit simpler and easier.