Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Feral Cats

Carrie found a kitten at work, and being Carrie, she brought it home. After a $100 vet visit, the kitten was pronounced healthy enough to be exposed to her other two cats and kitten is now settling in for a long life of luxury and indulgence. Carrie may not be able to afford to eat every day, but it'll be a cold day in hell before Melvin will go without his special organic lactose-free kibble. Lori says that when she dies, she wants to come back as one of our cats. They live better than anyone we know.

Stray cats are a particular dilemma in rural areas. First off, there are millions of them. We see 4 or 5 every night on our way home from work. And obviously we can't take them all in, although sometimes it looks like we're headed there. But I also realize that the majority of them will live, as Hobbes once said about humans... nasty, short, and brutish lives. They get hit by cars, eaten by predators, or die from hunger, disease and infections. If they get picked up by animal control (which they rarely do; they're skilled at being invisible), they will doubtlessly be put down.

So...what do you do? Our neighbor Jody used to put out food for them, which means we have several family groups living under our shed, under Jody's shed, in her outbuildings, and in our trash cans. Now Jody's gone, and Carrie feeds them. That seems pointless to me, except that sitting idle and letting them starve seems even more pointless.

But what can you do?

I dimly remember the classic ecological paradigm from some long ago ecology class about the lynxes and the hares. Lynxes eat hares. When there are a lot of hares, lynxes eat well, reproduce well, and live healthy, prosperous lives. Then, when there are so many healthy lynxes that they consume hares at a faster rate than hares can replace themselves, the lynxes have trouble finding food and don't reproduce well, and then their numbers fall.

When the predator population falls, the hares bounce back. They reproduce like, well...bunnies. Soon there are an abundance of hares, and the lynx population recovers.

And so on.

I don't think there's such a tidy paradigm for feral cats. The car population is not reduced by a dearth of cats to run over, nor will the prevalence of trash cans increase if the cat population is reduced. I suppose there's an equilibrium point for feral cats where the population stabilizes, but I can't imagine what causes it.

I read somewhere that a single unneutered cat will produce 67,000 other cats before it dies, assuming that it's offspring and their offspring also remain unneutered. That's a lot of feral cats. I can't figure out why we're not hip-deep in stray cats at that rate.

So...we picked one up. She's a healthy 5-sh week old siamese mix with one googly eye. Carrie named her Vahalla, which is a mighty name for a tiny kitten. I lobbied hard for the name Jesus, so we could say, "Jesus doesn't like it when you do that...", but I lost the vote.

That just leaves 66,999 for the rest of you. Step up to the plate and adopt your share, why don't you?


super des said...

I've adopted my share of cats. And I've also had those cats fixed so they cannot spread the catness too much more.

It's a damn circle.

Anonymous said...

At our old apartment we came home one night and heard this huge yowl from the dumpster some idiot had put kittens, too small for even hard food, in the dumpster to be hauled away like trash. Mona the yowler and her twin now run our house. Maybe being free to catch mice isnt the worst it can get.

Kwach said...

Cuppy, the 1/2-eyed Wonder Cat, is the only "fancy" cat I ever had who wasn't a stray, a "gift" or a shelter adoptee.

And, wouldn't you know it? She's been the sickliest, costliest, most Special Needs kitty of our combined kitty having careers.

At present, our "best" cat (in terms of intelligence, personality and sheer beauty) is MelonKiwi, the stray Ev found -- filthy, starving and bloated with worms -- under a truck at the Dixie BBQ.

Not only does he have beautiful fluffiness and a pretty pink nose, he has two good eyes and a functioning brain! He's got every other cat in this house beat by a mile ... lol.


marl said...

we would happily adopt a houseful of cats, feral or otherwise. but we have this big, fat, neurotic boy named waldo, who has finally stopped pissing all over the house now that our other cat has passed away. we can't justify bringing another cat into the house so long as waldo's here.

so, our small bit to help out with our furry friends has to wait for a while.

Carrie said...

Valhalla knows Melvin's special kibble is the only kibble worth having.

It's the cranberries. They love the cranberries.