FERAL CATS – WHO CARES?
By Ann Evans
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Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
We’re a nation of animal lovers yet the problem of feral cats continually grows. Ann Evans talks to Coventry Cat Group a small charity that is striving to help these unfortunate unloved cats.
Ferals – they are the unwanted and unloved cats, living rough in all weathers, struggling to find food, becoming sick, getting injured with no one to care for them. They continue to breed and inter-breed, so that all the health problems associated with inter breeding exacerbate the situation. Yet three quarters of cats regarded as feral are in fact domestic cats that have strayed, become lost, or simply not been taken care of properly.
Fortunately, Coventry Cat Group are a non-profit, non-destruct charity which is doing its level best to alleviate the feral problem. Their team of dedicated volunteers go out and trap feral or semi-feral cats in special ‘crush’ cages. The cats can then be checked for a chip to try and find their owner – if they ever had one; then sedated so they can be neutered and treated for health problems.
These cats are then taken to the Coventry Cat Group’s specially built shelter, or to the homes of volunteer foster carers, who spend weeks, months and even years, gently socialising the cat so that eventually it can find a forever home.
Judith Stanley has been a volunteer for 12 years, she explained: “Cats and kittens are assessed and checked by a vet after we’ve brought them in. Feral kittens always find good homes, as do many of the feral mums and dads once they’ve been acclimatised to being around people. We are fortunate to have a great team of volunteer trappers, fosters and socialisers – although we could always do with more!”
Lin McManus has been the Centre Manager for the last four years, but has been helping out, fund raising, and ‘cat cuddling’ ever since she was a child. She said: “We could really do with more farms, stables, smallholdings and rural places offering to take a neutered working adult cat. Some cats are happiest living outside although shelter, a warm dry bed and food still needs to be provided for them. We would love to hear from anyone who could help by taking a cat that could carry on hunting naturally.”
She went on to explain that sometimes a feral cat just can’t settle at the centre and becomes stressed at being locked up. When that’s the case, it is TNR – trap, neuter, return back to where it came from – providing its safe for the cat.
Volunteer James Kettell is the charity’s ‘cat whisperer’ – a man with endless patience who has been working with feral cats for the last 25 years. He said: “Ferals need time, you can’t rush them. You have to earn their trust. I’ve tamed hundreds of all different ages. Every one an individual. It’s step by step taming. They turn on you but you just try again. It’s a very slow process and some will never come round.”
James added: “Ferals are the poorest of cats. Nobody wants them because they don’t behave like domestic cats; they won’t come for a fuss, won’t be stroked or picked up, so nobody wants them. Our charity is so important. We advocate for the feral cat.”
The charity which is an associate member of the Association of Dog and Cat Homes has to date successfully rehomed well over 1,500 cats. They are very grateful to the supportive vets they deal with – Ross Butler at Bell & Partners and Simon Pudsey of Medivet in Coventry. They are also grateful to their supporters and their wonderful team of volunteers. They especially want to thank Pets at Home’s Support Adoption for Pets, for additional grants enabling them to build the necessary structures to house the cats, and an isolation unit.
SUMMER OPEN DAY
Coventry Cat Group celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. They rely on the generosity of the public to help with fund raising and donations. They are holding their annual Summer Open Day next Sunday, 3rd September. There will be stalls, a raffle, tombola, lots of cake and a chance to meet some of their lovely feline residents. Contact them though their website for full details.
Discover ways in which you can support Coventry Cat Group: http://coventrycatgroup.org.uk/