Sunday, January 16, 2011

Forest Feral Cats - Information

Forest feral cats come from a long line of abandoned domesticated cats.  In the late 1970’s two Norwegian Forest cats were left behind when their master moved away. 

I was told that the residents of the neighborhood tried to capture these cats but they were so frightened that they ran into the woods: 50 acres of densely wooded terrain with creek, lake and rock ridges.  The cats were presumed dead however occasionally people would remark that they viewed a cat in the forest.

Over the years the woods became a dumping ground for domesticated cats.  People were abandoning cats on a regular basis.  Some of the abandoned cats were adopted, but many of them starved to death because they did not know how to forage, others died in the extreme weather: cold and heat, some died of diseases, many cats became part of the food chain and were killed by predators and some of the abandoned domesticated cats were killed by humans. 

Cat carcasses were found with arrows penetrating their abdomen or neck region.  Even though there were many cat fatalities a few of the domesticated abandoned cats found their way in the woods and over the years the Norwegian forest cats bred with these cats, and a small colony of cats survived.  

These forest feral cats sleep in the daylight hours and come out at dusk to forage, mate and socialize.  Feral cats are terrified of humans and avoid contact with them.  The only time one will view a forest cat is when they enter someone’s yard in the early morning hours or at dusk.  These cats are seeking, food or water.  

I am colony caregiver for 12 feral and stray cats.  I care for the forest cats as well as stray and abandoned cat in my community with the help of my husband and two neighbors that volunteer their service. 
We trap all cats for sterilization, tests for disease, vaccines, wormer and a dosage of revolution for fleas, ticks and ear mites.  We always try to socialize the cats.  If we can get them at a young age a year or under then taming usually can be achieved, otherwise we release the cats to a controlled colony.  Where we will feed, provide shelter and care for the cats for the rest of their lives.  

Sgolis Notes:
Many people will live their entire life in the city and will never view a feral forest cat.  These wild cats have a strong nature of the pack much like the wild cats in Africa. 
Each cat participates in the pack; some will hunt and bring back their prey to a sick or nursing queen cat. The male cat will watch over the kittens while the queen cat takes a break.   Other cats will lie on the high rocks watching the area for trespassers. 
In the winter the wild cats will take shelter in hallow trees or thicket dens and they will all sleep together and thus providing ample body heat.
All of the photographs that you view on this post and on the entire cat adoption and rescue blog are original photographs by Susan Golis

Photographs of Feral Forest Cats
A queen feral cat will have 4-6 kittens and out of that only 2-3 will survive to 12 weeks.  Out of a litter of 4-6 kittens two kittens may make it to three months.  The survival of forest kittens is maybe 1 kitten out of a litter of 6.  The population of feral cats is controlled by nature.

I have tracked these cats, by following their paw prints in the snow, and I have viewed their dens through the lens of my camera.  I do not trespass on their territory as these cats will feel threatened by my presence and the queen cat will then move all of the cats to a safer area.  So I respect these cats and watch them from a distance.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Adult Feral Cat Bonds with Colony Caregivers

Training an adult feral cat that resides in a colony is not easy however if the caregiver is  around the cat on daily basis and cares for for the cat for years, the cat will bond with the human and allow you to be a part of their world.

As a colony caregiver I have seen the inside of a thicket den while a feral cat stood on the upper branches and looked down on me. The cat could have hurt me but it did not because this cat was Lucy and she has bonded with me.

This winter I have not seen much of the feral adult cat that I call Lucy.  I put out food and fresh water for her every day but I see her rarely.  I think she is hiding because of the weakness in her paw that was injured last summer.  

My neighbor that resides across the street from me reported that Lucy is sunning herself on his deck in the afternoon and her sponsor he tells me that Lucy visits him often and that he feeds her and puts out fresh water. 

 Since Lucy’s spay she is staying close by and is not venturing too deeply into the woods.  My colony helper and I have agreed that Lucy is welcome to come indoors however we both respect her and feel she wants to live outdoors for the rest of her life then we will respect her and continue to care for her at the colony.
Lucy knows that she is safe at my home and that my shed-shelter  has warm insulated bedding for the feral cats.  That my pond never freezes over and that the small fountain has fresh clean water poured into it daily.  

There is always a bowl of food at three different feeding stations.  Yes Lucy feels safe at my home, and she also feels safe at the other caregiver’s homes.  It will be a tossup as to who she chooses to be her full time indoor caregiver.

This month Lucy is hanging out at Bruce’s; he has acres of densely wooded land and all of the feral cats find his land to be appealing to their needs. However, recently the feral cats are on edge because Bruce rescued a Bombay cat named Shirley.  

House cats generally do not get along with feral cats as they have no respect or manners.  

Lucy would prefer that she was the only female cat and has made it quite clear to Shirley that she is not welcome; from chasing Shirley up a tree and biting her tail to hissing fights and showing Shirley her razor sharp claws.  Then last week Lucy could take no more as the house cat tested her patience by eating out of Lucy’s food bowl.  

Lucy took off after Shirley; she was determined to chase Shirley out of the yard.  Shirley leaped to the top of Bruce’s back steps, ran inside the door, slid across the floor and jumped onto the table.  

Lucy did not hesitate she came inside after Shirley.  Of course when Lucy realized that she was indoors she did stop on all four paws and retreated to kitchen door, but instead of running away she stopped to rub all over the door.  She put her scent on the door as if to say this is my door and not yours, a message to all of the other colony cats. 

Bruce spoke softly to Lucy in a reassuring voice and thus Lucy was not afraid of being indoors.  For a feral cat this is a huge accomplishment, not one person forced her to come inside, Lucy came indoors on her own.