Semi Feral Cats

01/29/2010 - 04:55

We have a 'community' of semi feral cats living around us. One of them gave birth to four kittens last year on our doorstep and have pretty much stayed around since. We (and the neighbours) leave out titbits for for the community and since the kittens were weaned we have been putting out food for them. They live outside, and we managed to find a home for one of the kittens (thanks to Rob and Angie!).  We are aware that mating season will be upon us again and our vet has informed us that Le Marche have a community programme and will come and sterilise the cats to prevent the numbers from growing. We have a form to fill in and declare that we are not the 'owners' and wondered if anyone had any experience of the programme? This method of feline contraception would be extremely costly for us to bear but the form is not particularly clear about what constitutes semi-feral, although we have to provide details of the number of cats, kittens and their gender, so they can't be that wild?  Thanks... Jo and Simon



In reply to by simonandjo

  Hi Jo and Simon, Spoke to friend - complicated, but partner (italian) owns house in mountain village...over-run by cats...... Neither she, nor he had heard of the 'community programme' to neuter cats and was of course interested....  Unsure whereabouts you are....maybe not far from me ??? but I do have to call into vets in Sarnano Friday so will ask what 'semi-feral' constitutes then......  Sorry cant be of more help just now but I will spread the word and get back to you with any interesting info asap.

Hi Dylano, thanks for the information. We got the form from Hena the vet in Sarnarno last week, she rang up the regional vet services for us and we have to complete and take the form to our local commune (which is Penna San Giovanni). We have translated the form now (very roughly) and you need to be able to list the number of males and females and any kittens (there are loads around here but a small group of 6 who have adopted us - includes three kittens) so you must be able to get that close to them! Trouble is with the kittens its a bit more difficult to tell. Hena said we have to keep on at the commune to get the form submitted, so maybe we will just have a go and sort it out. We don't want to be overrun  with more kittens, can't bring ourselves to do what a neighbour suggested (involving a shovel!) and its an expensive business to take on personally. I think we'll just register the cats who adopted us as its impossible to tell how many more there are about. I just wanted to see if anyone had actually been through it. Apparently this is a Le Marche thing, not sure about the other regions. Thanks for your interest. Jo

In reply to by simonandjo

 Hi Jo, Hena is our vet too...and I think a very good one. Glad you have managed to translate the form and have made a plan of action.  Good luck with your mission.  I am collecting form from Hena on Friday to give to  friends with similar problem...As I said in last e-mail they were unaware of the scheme and he is Italian !!!! Hopefully word will spread now, many thanks for posting. Angela (Mrs D)

In reply to by Dylano

Hi Dylano. We got a form from the vet and have lodged it with the comune as instructed. Now we have to wait whilst cogs whirr and things go clang and then hopefully something will happen! Our vet did say we might have to give them a prod - the comune that is, not the cats. Will keep you posted on progress.   Thanks 

  Know things do take time here so friend got female cat sorted and paid for (slightly reduced rate as Hena good like that...) but friend will have to deal with Amandola to sort out 6xTom cats that need the 'chop' ouccccchhhhh...says Mr D.....Will wait to hear back from you...hope things do happen sometime soon..... 

Last year I was idling by the back window of the cantina & I spotted just ouside the window a hitherto unseen scrawny, manky looking female cat leading her tiny brood of kittens. God what a pitiful sight. They were all so skinny & tiny. One of the four kittens in particular, the striped ginger one, was so emaciated that every single tiny rib was sticking through it's skin. It wobbled & staggered & shivered &, when I opened the back door to get a closer look, while mum & the others scampered off, this little thing hardly noticed me & kept on it's pitiful faltering journey. I knew that this kitten had just a few more days before it gave up the struggle. We had a couple of tins of catfood left over after the death, at 20 years of age, of our old moggy & although I knew these kittens were too young to be on solids, I put it down for mum. Feed her, I figured, & she can feed the kittens with her milk. Maybe the runt might get a nipple & might stand a chance. I looked a half hour later & the food had all gone. A couple of days later I started to suppliment the meat with milk & the odd bit of raw liver. I never saw mum eating it as she scarpered every time I opened the back door & the kittens remained always out of sight but, she knew she was onto a good thing. After a week or so I spotted them again but one of the kittens had disappeared & the ginger one had lost half it's tail. I assumed one of the local hunters dogs had found them. They got bigger & healthier over the weeks & started to lose their fear of us to some degree. They'd all come running as soon as they heard the door opening. The ginger one always held back &, when eventually hunger drove it out from under cover to get it's share of the food, it would come out snarling & hissing & take over the bowl, growling, hissing & snarling like a thing posessed warning me off & it's brothers. As it grew it got even worse. A real anti-social little bundle of venom. After the death of our old mog we decided we didn't want the responsibility of more pets so we thought we'd feed these till the found their feet & had started to hunt for themselves. Eventually though we started giving them names. Finally it was decided that the two boys were to be called Timmy & Jimmy & although at first Stumpy seemed an appropriate name for the ginger female with the stump for a tail, it's nasty snarling, spitting, hissing behavior had destined it to be called Anastasia. We were a little concerned in November to feed them up for winter as we were off to the UK for a month or more but in the end figured that we had done everything we could & they were now on their own. We arrived back after an extended stay of 2 months & there was no sign of any of them but, the following day, Timmy & Jimmy turned up looking grown & sleek & healthy. Couple of days later mum turned up: she must think by now that she must be called "Sod-Off" as that is all we say to her. She wasn't just looking very sleek & healthy, she was looking suspiciously plump. It's been a couple of weeks now & the Ginger nightmare with the appropriate name has not surfaced. Thank God. If she does turn up though, it wont be the shovel cos I'm not so cruel but it'll be down the vet's for the snip. Sod the expense. The Pilch part of Pilchard

  Awwwww Pilch, Poor moggies....difficult as you say, not to get involved....know I couldn't ignore and would have had to dig out the old can of cat food and be up early next morning to see if any had gone....As for sod the expense, think the more people that use the 'free' neutering scheme the better...'dont use it and you will loose it' thing...will post any update on friend in Amandola comune who also wants to use scheme to have 6 approx male cats sorted......Wonder if other regions run same scheme ????  Good to hear Timmy and Jimmy looking fit, lean and mean...who knows what would of happened to them had they not enjoyed quality milk c / o a can or two or three +++++++++++++++++++ of old cat food...then new........... Mrs Dx

Am I being hardhearted in saying a wild thing is a wild thing? Would we leave out food for the young of polecats, porcupines or cinghiali??  Is it just that cats are more visible, or that we feel responsible for introducing them in the first place.  In which case do we feel the same about grey squirrels in the UK? Most wild animals have short lives.  And the weakest will never survive.   I agree I'd find it very hard to finish off a mangy kitten - even one as unattractive as your ginger alien, pilch - but then my kids still laugh at the story of me, a mouse caught (but not dead) in a mousetrap, and an enormous rock.  The permanent contraception sounds the best answer to salve our consciences, but the mind boggles at quite how these wild, spitting creatures are going to be rounded up and got to the vet! Good luck to all those brave and goodhearted enough to try - and I hope you all have some very thick gauntlets ready......

It's a shame these neutering schemes are just local incentives. Is there no nationwide organization here in Italy that helps with neutering costs? RSPCA, Cats Protection League? The Italian countryside is littered with skinny cats & the roads littered with flattened ones. You rarely see an old cat so the presumption is they seccumb at an early age to starvation, disease & cars. What a waste of the life of a sentient being. I'm not a cat softy & I can't stand going into people's homes that are covered in cat hair, ripped up furniture, their dear moggy or six cavorting all over the bed, kitchen worktops & dining table & a foetid tray full of cat turds & flies next to the fridge in the kitchen. Yet the Italian countryside way of keeping them starving & procreating so that the vermin population don't stand a chance is at the other end of the spectrum. There must be a middle way. Pilch

  We have one of Jo and Simons kittens, the darling Mia, now lap cat, spolit cat and as ever a joy to us she has enriched our lives. It is the definition feral, semi feral that, interests me. Jo and Simons cats always had human contact, and were fed, as was our other adopted Italian cat, and they have both made excellent house pets, and I would not like this thread to discourage people from taking on these rewarding cats. Probably more effort and patience is required a first, and more trips to the vet, but that goes with the responsibility of animal ownership. Neutering is the answer to the problem of increasing numbers of sick and diseased animals, and I hope that the comunes, begin to take this seriously, on a different note the cats are now asleep on the beds, the kitten is out playing, I will just have to harden my heart against the newly arriving chickens as I have visions of them in the kitchen pecking the scraps up from around my feet, will save on the sweeping up!. A   

Agree with you Angie....if anyone is considering taking on a kitten why not a ferral / semi-ferral one.  We have one and he too is out playing having had a good long sleep on the bed.... Dog snoozing on settee ahhhh domestic bliss....wouldn't have it any other way.

 I have to agree with Angie, those "feral" cats quickly become "domestic" cats if they get good care. We have had several of them as our girls used to pick up any scrawny kitten they will find. They were taken to the vet, neutered as soon as possible, well fed and well educated and we never had a problem with those stray cats. A couple of weeks teaching them what they were expected to do and they adopted us.We had large houses with large gardens and they would not even wander beyond the fences. We had a couple of chihuahua dogs who were used to live with cats and they happily shared everything with the newcomers. On the other hand, a couple of cats purchased from breeders (a Persian and a Burmese) had lots of health problems which required constant trips to the vet. I think that it had to do with inbreeding, something that does not happen with the ferals. Same thing with the dogs. The ones with a Pedigree have always had health problems, our latest one, a shih-tzu X terrier is incredibly healthy and she is now a senior dog.