A Closer Look at Community Cats Common Misconceptions and Ways to Help

Through no fault of their own, Colony/Community cats face many challenges: 1)They must endure weather extremes such as cold and snow, heat and rain 2) Community cats face starvation, infection and attacks by other animals 3) Unfortunately, almost half of the kittens born outdoors die from disease, exposure or parasites before their first year 4) Community cats face eradication by humans. Poison, trapping, gassing and steel leg-hold traps are all ways that humans—including some animal control and government agencies—try to kill off community cat populations.
If a community cat survives kittenhood, his average lifespan is less than two years if living on his own. If a cat is lucky enough to be in a colony that has a caretaker, he may reach 10 years. Community cats who live in a managed colony—a colony with a dedicated caretaker who provides spay/neuter services, regular feedings and proper shelter—can live a quite content life.

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David ReedColony cats
Australian feral cat population millions smaller than thought

The study, which found feral cats now covered 99.8 per cent of Australia's land mass, questions the target set by the government and how useful it may be in achieving the goal.

"This particular target may not provide a useful measure of conservation benefit, nor may it be readily measurable, and it may become an example of Goodhart's Law - that once a target is set, management effort becomes focused on achieving the target in the most efficient way rather than solving the problem to which the target relates," 

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David ReedStatistics
The Clam Trap

The Clam Trap was invented and is only used for TNR (TRAP-NEUTER-RETURN) for trap savvy and difficult to trap feral cats. Help reduce the number of stray cats by trapping them, getting them fixed and releasing them back to their environment. 

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David ReedCat traps
What Bayside and COBB before them should have done and be doing currrently.

"By definition 'feral' cats have no dependency on people. Urban stray and homeless cats are very dependent on people, even if that simply means going through garbage bins to find food and seeking shelter under buildings.

“In many people's minds "feral" means vicious and nasty but that is actually not the definition. Feral has become (inaccurate) shorthand to describe all unowned cats.”

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Fiona Probyn-Rapsey on Australia’s war on feral cats

 It is significant then that cats come to the fore in the Commission, when the research suggests other factors are also at play, including: foxes, the loss of aboriginal fire-based land management and what they refer to as the ‘rapid continent scale replacement of a purposeful and long-established indigenous land management regime by a substantially more exploitative and transformative set of land management practices’. Another word for this is settler colonialism. It brings the cats, foxes, sheep, cattle and pastoralism that rapidly alters habitats, landscapes through the annexation of Aboriginal land and the removal of Aboriginal people from their land. The authors note that pastoralism (mostly sheep and cattle) is now the dominant land use across much of Australia and that this has brought with it land clearing, habitat destruction, the restriction of firestick farming, persecution of animals such as macropods and koalas, and the effects on waterways of this system (water extraction, pollution, river modification, drought) leaves extraordinary animals like the platypus in ‘significant decline’ (4536). While the commission calls for a war on cats, the research makes ‘war on settler pastoralism/colonialism’ another possibility.

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Feral cats are not the problem, humans are!

Humans hate to take responsibility for our actions especially when it comes to the fallout of those actions surrounding domesticated companion animals. In the case of feral cats, this is doubly so. Humans domesticated the cat, humans abandon their cats, and humans fail to spay and neuter their cats. And, when a cat is abandoned and not fixed they populate ..amazing I know but true. Then, humans blame the cats for their predicament. It’s the cat’s fault it became domesticated, it’s the cat’s fault it got abandoned, and it’s the cat’s fault she gets pregnant, cos little Johnny Cat just refused to use that kitty condom. Sound ridiculous? Well, it is about as ridiculous as hating cats because they suddenly find themselves abandoned and alone. Abandoned unfixed cats, breed and for some, soon become a “feral cat problem.” Although, personally I don’t see a “feral cat problem” only a “human problem.”

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David ReedColony cats
How to tell how old a kitten is.

"If you've found, adopted, or inherited a kitten, you need to know how old it is. Kittens develop at a far faster rate than humans, and the needs of a two-week-old kitten are different from those of a 6-week old kitten. Although you can't know it's precise age, an informed estimate will help you take care of your new friend properly."

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David ReedKitten facts
The famous Hermitage Museum keeps 74 cats to keep its basements mice-free

Elizabeth of Russia ordered domestic cats to be placed in the palace to patrol its basements and hallways to destroy the growing population of mice. Cats proved to be an extremely effective solution to the mice problem, and the queen decided to keep them as resident vermin destroyers.

When the palace was turned into a museum, the cats remained on the palace grounds to protect the collection from rodents. A population of cats has been continuously living at the Hermitage since the 18th century, except for a brief period after the World War II when famine crippled the Soviet Union.

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Did cats really cause "the extinction of 22 Australian mammals"?

This paper is available here and titled "Ongoing unraveling of a continental fauna: Decline and extinction of Australian mammals since European settlement"

It is a brief, published paper of a larger document "The Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012" which is over 1,000 pages and costs over $100, which is probably why most people quoting the "22 extinct mammals" statistic... haven't read the full paper.

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Where the money goes

“It’s an all-time record!” crows the piece. PetRescue claim they have helped rehomed more than 105,000 pets. And to be sure, this would be a fantastic result.

After all, it had seemed like rescue was burning out. That PetRescue’s rehoming rate was destined to plateau - struggling to grow due to the overwheming demands of rescue, on the individuals who choose to do it - largely for free.

But 105,000 adoptions would be great news - a sign that the rescue world is thriving. A near 20% increase on the 85,000 pets rehomed in the 2015/16 financial year according to their previous reporting.

Except.

If we assume this report was generated on the 1st May 2017, and was run for 12 months to end April 2016 - the last pet rehomed on that date was Polar (ID410281 = rehomed pet number 87,831)

If we then remove about 4,000 pets for May (to get an even 12 months), at the very most, the number of pets rehomed via the PetRescue website is 84,000.

84,000 - not 105,000.

Why does it matter?

Because PetRescue has access to more data on the health of rescue groups than any other organisation in the country. And these stats are telling us that we might have rehomed LESS pets than in the previous twelve month period.

That is, rescue groups are not only starting to hit the ceiling of their maximum capacity... they're probably starting to slide backwards.

I’ve written before that the new financial model PetRescue is operating under is largely unsustainable. Rescue groups doing the rescuing - unfunded - while PetRescue generates $1 million dollars in annual revenue, with more than half of this in direct donations.

Donations that probably once went to rescues directly.

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David Reed
Your pet is not safe.

It might be hard to think about, but your local pound is a dangerous place. Disease, mistreatment and unnecessary killing is 'business as usual' in our Australian animal management system. In fact, the biggest risk to the life of any healthy pet in this country is getting lost; and being impounded and killed.

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David ReedPound