There is a fast growing number of stray and feral cats throughout the East Central Scotland area. Colonies, or large groups of cats are popping up all over Edinburgh & Fife and with each passing year it definitely feels as if the numbers are growing and we are falling further and further behind in our efforts to curb this wild population.
Most feral colonies in well populated areas often start out as a result of a few formerly owned cats either being abandoned or lost. They are often not neutered so find a mate quite quickly and before you know it you have 2 or 3 generations of now feral kittens and cats running all over the place who have never been exposed to positive handling by humans. The end result is several large colonies bursting at the seams with numbers and food supplies struggling to meet the demands of 20 or 30 cats where once there were 5-10.
This in turn can cause a massive social disturbance. Not least by the numbers of cats calling and fighting over food supplies but the constant yowling of fighting cats or in season females. Sunny Harbour Cat Rescue receives many calls each week from members of the local communities who are at their wits end on what to do with these cats, which through their wild nature, the vast number of rescues simply don’t have the facilities to take them in and place them.
Sunny Harbour Cat Rescue have always operated a Feral Cat Program and have over the years discreetly trapped, neutered and returned many many cats improving the environment for the people living in the affected area but also greatly improving the health and well being of the cats that live there. Benefits of TNR programs include:
- Nuisance mating behaviours such as fighting tom cats and yowling females is gone.
- Cats are calmer generally and there is less / no fighting over territory.
- Cats are much healthier prolonging their lifespan. They gain weight and have much thicker healthy coats.
- Reduces the cat population in the area by removing the ability to reproduce.
More importantly with all of the above, relationships between local residents and the cats themselves improves creating a more positive, harmonious living environment where cats and local residents can live together. All these cats require is a food source and shelter which they typically source for themselves in or under sheds or local buildings or in some instances people we refer to as feeders or Feral Caretakers, will sometimes put rabbit hutches or pet houses in their gardens for these cats to shelter in.
In the instance of industrial feral cat colonies the same benefits apply but the added benefit particularly relevant to industrial sites is that may of these cats take up the role of working cats by keeping the population of rats and mice at bay thereby protecting local business investments in stock, buildings and equipment.
What does Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) involve?
TNR describes very clearly the steps that we must take to ensure the safe capture, neuter and release of the cats within a feral colony. We use safe humane metal traps that will not harm the cats in any way and require only that a cat trigger a pad in the trap and the door closes behind them. In some instances more manual intervention is needed and so Paul built his own remote control trap out of a door bell! (those who know Paul will appreciate that comment)
Once the cat is caught we cover the the trap with a large blanket to keep the cat warm and to reduce stress while we transport them to our local vets where they perform a neuter (male) or spay (female) operation and remove the tip of their left ear. ‘Tipping’ as it is called is a globally recognised standard on how to identify a neutered feral cat. Without this kind of identification we would have no way of easily knowing which cats were and weren’t neutered.
Once they have recovered from their surgery the cats are then taken back to the area from which they were trapped and released. They will return to live their lives in a much less stressed and violent manner. We try to do all of this with as little human contact with the cats as possible as handling and interacting with these cats is very stressful for them and our objective at all times is low stress for the cats.
We will always ensure that there are people we refer to as Colony Caretakers in the area, typically formerly known as the cats feeders, to watch over and make sure the welfare of the cats is good and report back to us with any concerns.
Current Areas & Feral Cat Programs
We are currently focusing our Feral Cat Program on 2 sites. Firstly in the locality of Sunny Harbour Cat Rescue which takes in primarily Lochgelly, Cowdenbeath, Lochore and Ballingry but also other towns surrounding Lochgelly.
Ballingry in particular has an enormous issue with stray and feral cats and as such are trying to focus our attentions on a particularly bad area of Ballingry where we estimate a colony of approx 50 -60 cats in total over 2 streets whilst also working to TNR others in sporadic areas around these towns.
With the assistance of one of our volunteers Moira and her team based in West Lothian we are currently tackling a massive TNR project throughout the Grangemouth, Falkirk and surrounding areas. Our current focus in this project is around the site of a very large Recycling Plant in an industrial location. The site owners are great in that they are happy for the cats to remain on site as their home and many of the workers already feed the cats on site and are happy to remain their caretakers. The cats here are working cats and they are most definitely doing their job as workers have never so much as seen a rat! Not many recycling plants could probably say that however this one in particular has estimated colony numbers of 40 -60 cats.
It is a vast sprawling location and there are lots of very heavy machinery such as JCB’s, forklifts and balers for the cats to manoeuvre and not all of them are lucky to have long lives but they are content and for many that is all they have ever known. We took over this site around June 2016 neutering roughly 1-2 cats per week but there are still many more to be caught at this location and then efforts will need to continue throughout the industrial area.
How You Can Help
Funding all these activities takes a wealth of volunteers time, patience, fuel (in travelling) but most of all money. Equipment has to be purchased such as traps, restrainers and carry cases for release. Then there is the veterinary fees associated with sedating, neutering, worming and flea treatments which all adds up to several thousands of pounds each colony and community we help.
There are a few ways that you can help us to continue this work which includes:
Donating to our feral projects. You can DONATE by TEXT to 70070 by sending SHCR16 £5 or donate by debit/credit card, Direct Debit or PayPal via our online donations portal from CAF Donate at the link below. Using our online donations portal you can also Gift Aid your donation making it worth 25% more to the charity i.e. £10 donations becomes £12.50 with Gift Aid at no additional cost to you.
Please CLICK here to Donate via the CAFDonate Portal
Alternatively you could also help fund the program by:
- Organising collections of good quality bric a brac, homewares, unwanted gifts, jewellery, good quality clean clothes, CD/DVD’s and games for various consoles that we can use to sell and raise money for the TNR programs.
- Organising Tea Parties, Bake Sales or a raffle / tombola with friends or colleagues at work.
Feral Cat Programs are exceptionally hard work but at the same time very rewarding as you see formerly cowering, scared cats spending their days living in the shadows and fighting turn into settled, playful happy cats who love sun bathing and playing in the grass.
Could you become a Colony Caretaker?
Being a colony caretaker is where you are responsible for monitoring a colony and ensuring their welfare. You would log which cats you have in the colony, make sure they are fed regularly, log any new cats for neutering, identify any needing medical care and make sure they have adequate access to food, water & shelter particularly in the winter months.
Like all aspects of working with cats you get back tenfold what you put in and there is absolutely nothing more rewarding than seeing scared skittish ferals rolling about on their back in a garden & chasing butterflies!
We would like to say a very heart felt thank you to each and every one of our supporters that continues to help us provide such a critical service to the feral cat colonies around Edinburgh & Fife.