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The Origins of the Grahamstown Feral Cat Project

 

The need for this project arose out of the community itself, to offer a humane alternative for the feral cats of Grahamstown. Many concerned members of the public did not initially want to get too involved in a hands-on way, but some were prepared to pay for sterilization of ferals that they had become aware of in the CBD. For various reasons, the management of feral cats falls outside the jurisdiction of the SPCA. Besides, it is something of a specialised field. Thus we welcome any offers of volunteer assistance from those who may feel they have time or expertise to offer this project.

Lorna Grant and Natalia Kavalenia were the moving spirits behind this initiative.

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Lorna had for health reasons been unable to do large-scale trapping for a few years and felt extremely frustrated to learn that "nuisance" ferals were being reported to the SPCA who had little choice in most instances but to trap the innocent offenders and take them off to be humanely put down. (Ferals cannot easily be homed, except by those few dedicated ailurophiles who can often gentle them and turn them into wonderful companions.)

Natalia too had been searching for a way to help the feral cats she had become aware of, and so Lorna and Natalia got together and decided to do something about it. Neither felt that destroying these cats is acceptable - they have been born and survived against the odds, they have found niches for themselves in our town, they breed and they are now a part of our environment. The problem with leaving them to Nature to control is that people don't like the sight of kittens lying dead in the road, of starving, sick adults giving birth to still more kittens, of males fighting for territory or causing a disturbance during the breeding season. Another problem is that if left to breed unchecked the numbers could soar and have a negative impact on local birds and small wildlife. These cats, struggling to eke out an existence in ever-increasing numbers could become unhealthy and spread disease, not only amongst themselves but also to free-roaming domestic cats. All in all, not a very happy picture.

Cats do not gravitate to a place where there is no food source. The reason there are so many in the CBD, notably in the New Street area, for instance, is because of the restaurants and the student population with their interesting eating habits. The rodents this attracts provides another reason for the cats to be drawn to these areas. Without city predators of any kind (apart from humans) the rodent population would explode, so the cats have a beneficial impact on the environment by keeping rodent populations down. Poisoning rodents is harmful to the environment by harming creatures that feed on the dead rats.

This initiative needs the support of city businesses and members of the public who would like to assist in any way. We want residents (especially the kind donors to this project - thank you for your vote of confidence so far) but also visitors to view our city cats with pride, because we hope to keep them in good condition with regular feeding and care, as far as possible. We also encourage concerned members of the public to assist these feral cats - once their sterilization has been taken care of - with feeding, so as to limit the impact they have on small wildlife. It is hoped the project will be ongoing for as long as there are feral cats in need of a helping hand and the funds to allow us to get it done. It can't all happen overnight - cats can be wily creatures around traps, and time and patience are needed. Whenever possible, we try to home cats and kittens of suitable temperament. However, without premises for keeping large numbers of homeless/wild cats and kittens, nor much chance of finding good homes for them, we choose to focus more on the sterilization and care of feral populations.

Trap, Neuter, Release

Trapping, sterilizing and releasing feral cats back into their environment is a globally recognised humane alternative to simply killing them. These cats have carved out a niche for themselves in a harsh world and have earned the right to life as much as any of us. With few other natural predators, rodents drawn to the city by restaurant garbage and student rubbish bins can become a problem. Feral cats perform a useful task in controlling the rodent population. They perform this task efficiently and without the negative impact on the environment caused by poisons. But left unsterilized, the cat population itself can become a problem and disease can spread among them through mating and fighting, and also to free-ranging domestic cats. Left to breed unchecked, they begin to have a negative impact on wild birds and small wildlife in the CBD, and indeed their own lives become extremely difficult.


A few individuals have been doing this work here on a small scale over the years, but we hope to get all interested parties working more closely together in future to better manage feral cat populations in a humane and sustainable way. Over and above sterilizing the cats - which is funded by donations from the public and independently of any other organisation - the cats are also vaccinated against rabies. This is sponsored by the State Veterinarian, and a small 'V' is cut out of the tip of sterilized cats' ears to identify them.

Some might not think a scrawny bunch of "wild cats" worth the effort, but we beg to differ. Our main aim therefore must be to trap and sterilize them, before returning them to their humble drains, parking lots, etc.

Those of you already involved in this work will appreciate the challenges, such as the matter of housing and homing kittens. Anyone have a large piece of land they can offer us, preferably with a building with many rooms??

We appeal to you to show these cats compassion should you meet one of them on your rounds of our little city. Please bear in mind that we do not generally provide an alternative to the work of the SPCA, whose area of interest in animal welfare in Grahamstown is extremely broad.

 

Acknowledgements and Donations

We acknowledge with thanks the assistance of Dr Gilfillan and staff in this project.

Fundraising and donations have so far covered the costs of the sterilizations that have been done, and we hope to keep this project going for as long as possible because the problem of unmanaged feral colonies appears even more serious than was at first imagined.

If you would like to contribute to this effort, you may deposit any amount into the vet account at the above veterinary practice. Remember, no donation is too small. Either deposit the donation directly into the "W/CAT" account (L.R. Grant) at Dr Gilfillan's surgery, or by EFT into the practice account:

GRAHAMSTOWN VETERINARY CLINIC
(gtnvetclinic@intekom.co.za)
Standard Bank Account: 081 991 215
Branch Code: 05 09 17

(Reference: W/CAT - and your name, please!)

PLEASE remember under reference to put W/CAT (and include your name) so the practice knows these funds are there only for helping animals no-one else has taken responsibility for. We would like you to tell us if you have made a donation, not only so that we can thank you properly, but also so that we can keep track of funds coming in.

Donations of food would also be most welcome as some of the cats are stunted due to a poor diet. With no overhead costs of our own, all funds go directly to the care of the cats. We are aware that the animal welfare "pie" is not a very large one, and we do not wish to divert any funds that currently support the work of the SPCA.

Thanks for reading, and for caring.

Lorna

 

The Grahamstown Feral Cat Project promotes responsible pet ownership.
Please help prevent unwanted kittens by sterilizing your own cat, which will make your pet easier to live with and has the added benefits of keeping them happier and healthier.

Page updated on March 1, 2014
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