Feral Cats Are Everywhere!
Throughout March we were busy receiving calls from landowners who had ongoing issues with feral cats. My diary was booking up quickly and I soon had three trapping sites to complete one week after the other!
24th April 2019
This site had an estimated 10 feral cats and was based in the Lake District, so although I had to work throughout the night and do early morning vet runs, the scenery definitely made up for it!
After acclimatising the feral cats for over a week, it was now time to begin the trapping. Acclimatising is when we ask the cat carer to feed the cats once a day in what we call a “dummy trap”. This is so that the cats get used to going into a confined space for their food. When the team arranges a trapping of feral cats, we do our best to ensure the cats feeding routine is set up in a quiet location so that the cats are not disturbed. This will then make for a relatively stress free trapping! But this isn't always the case...
My first week in the Lake District appeared as though it would all go to plan. I arrived at the trapping site in good time, set up the traps and spotted a few cats playing in the distance. I took a sip of my morning coffee and waited for the cats to come down for their breakfast. All was going to plan….. Until a noisy digger turned up!! As you can imagine, the cats scarpered and I began to wonder if we had fallen at the first hurdle. After speaking with the gentleman on the digger, it became clear that he would be there throughout the day, for the next couple of days. I had to think quickly! The plan became: leave the traps set up until early afternoon, if we had no signs of the cats, take the traps away and bring the following weeks planned trapping forward, so that we do not let our vets down (who were expecting at least 10 cats the following day for neutering).
Thankfully, come lunch time, the cats had come out of hiding, the digger had moved to another area and the trapping of the cats had begun! I managed to trap some cats during the afternoon but the majority were caught in the middle of the night. 14 cats in total.
Once all cats had been trapped, I chauffeured them to our partner vets who neutered and vaccinated them and administered a left ear tip. They have their ear tipped so that we know who has been neutered in the future - trying to scan a feral cat for a microchip would, in most cases, incredibly difficult and very stressful for the cat. Although I had a rocky start at the beginning of the trapping, all had fallen into place and the last cats were released by mid week. It was time to go back to Oak Tree to give the trapping equipment and the van a thorough clean! As you can imagine, feral cats aren’t the cleanest of cats so the van was “a little”, okay VERY smelly!!
I was located at a farm which had a slightly smaller colony of 12 cats. Some of the cats were relatively social, so we were able to pop them into a crush cage rather than trap them. This case went very smoothly, although we did have one cat with a very matted coat with twigs caught up in it which resulted in them poking into his skin, OUCH!
The poor fella was in need of a haircut (as you can see from the photo) which resulted in him looking a little like a failed show poodle! Thankfully the weather was warm and he spent most of his time playing and jumping into the barns straw beds. A follow-up of this colony showed they were all doing really well and although I was unable to capture a photo, our little show poodle could be seen in the distance playing with his pals.
The final week of trapping in March was the biggest one yet. The colony had a total of 20 cats of which two had already been neutered. I got cracking late afternoon on a Sunday as their feeding routine was at around 5.00pm. Although this was the biggest trapping of the month, it was most definitely the fastest. The cats were in a great feeding routine therefore all were trapped within 12 hours of starting!
The area I was trapping in was also fantastic for spotting wildlife during the evening. I spotted an owl, two birds of prey, a hare, countless rabbits, a badger and a hedgehog during my 10.00pm / 12.00am / 2.00am and 6.00am outings. Not bad for a night of unplanned wildlife spotting!
As you may have guessed from this blog so far, feral cat trappings are far from boring and are by no means predictable, at 2.00am I ventured back out to the farm to check the traps weary eyed. I got out of the van with my torch and began to check the traps. One trap had been triggered, the door was closed and the food had gone, but the trap was empty! It took me a second to notice in the dark that the plastic back door of the trap had been broken through, split in half and was lying around about 10 inches away from the trap! Since we began our trap neuter return program in 2015 I have never experienced this. What did I trap? A badger, a fox? Something entirely different? I guess I will never know. I must admit, it did make me check over my shoulder once or twice as i quickly checked the rest of the traps and scurried back to the van.
So there you have it, in 3 weeks, 44 cats were trapped neutered and returned in our area. They were all released back to their homes and I am sure they will be glad not to be adding to the growing number of unwanted cats in the area!