EWN 20/05: The Feral Kitten Dilema
This is my article published in Euro Weekly News in May. Since I wrote this article, Nelson pictured, has been returned to the organisation in Germany that I work with, and must find a new forever home.
It seems that, although his new Mum loved him, he didn’t get on well with one of her cats, and was not making good progress, showing lots of signs of stress. This underlines again the problems with trying to re-home feral kittens, which I discuss in my article. He is the second of our ‘nervous’ rescues to be returned from their first home. I posted recently about Lucie’s problems with the dog in her forever home. She was also returned, to her foster home, but has now found a second, better for her, adoptant. I hope the same for Nelson and quickly.
I have always had clear aims in my work with the stray cats here. I started out wanting to sterilise the semi-feral and feral females that were being fed around the port, and by doing so, control the population, and then I moved on to also organising the re-homing of kittens and tame semi-feral and abandoned cats. The whole idea was that the more feral cats were happier left where they were, being fed or capable of fending for themselves and were not really right for re-homing anyway?
Why therefore have we recently sent our 6th very feral kitten (Nelson pictured) to Germany in the past few months? Am I going soft or is there actually a good reason?
When Nelson went to the protectora for his final vaccinations, even Karin who works there, asked me to stop bringing such feral kittens. We had to hold him down with thick leather gloves to avoid being bitten and for Nelson it was all very stressful. Then he had to be caught in a net to get him into his box to travel to Germany, and tranquilisation was not even attempted for him. In addition the van driver was badly scratched whilst catching a feral adult cat that had escaped from its box during the last transport. Not one of mine thankfully. Karin asked me why I was spending time re-homing cats like Nelson when there were beautiful tame cats that needed homes?
This was a good question, so when I actually agree with her, what is my excuse? I think the answer is that each stray cat case is individual and each of the 6 feral kittens have been special cases. In addition, whilst it has been a huge hassle to get them to their new homes, in all 6 cases, great homes have been found, and the kittens have responded and changed their behaviour rapidly.
The first 4 of my 6 were all from one litter. They were 3 little black ‘boy devils’ and a slightly less ferocious tabby sister. They were caught with their mother in Darsena 2 here, would have needed feeding long-term, were at risk from maintenance workers who had already killed the 5th one, AND were so covered in fleas that we knew they were very likely to become sick and die. You get my drift? Far from being ok outside they were actually extremely vulnerable.
Next came Cosmo a beautiful white boy who joined the stray cats in Jenny’s garden one day and was actually causing quite a few problems. He needed moving and was so beautiful we decided a life on the streets was not for him. Finally came Nelson. He is also very beautiful, being part siamese, and he was all on his own being kindly fed by one of the cafe owners. We were also vaguely hopeful that he may have been an abandoned kitten who, once caught, would like us, that is until he started hissing and spitting!
Once again I DO agree that ferals are on the whole best left outside, and that there are lots of cats who are far more ‘fit’ for re-homing. This is why I am so happy to be able to help Mojacar PAWs find homes for their beautiful cats, and why like some weird kitten ‘addict’ I tell myself and Karin each time that there will be no more wild ones! I have the feeling however that there will always be another ‘special’ one, and I am glad that Nelson in now in a loving home, has cat friends there, and has all the time he needs to get to like his humans.
SO I have some very secure transport boxes that no feral kitten could escape from, I will be buying a new net as the last one was sacrified during Nelson’s last capture, and I will be keeping my thick gloves! Never say never!!! It is fine to have a sensible plan, but in life there are always exceptions.