Feral cats , Kucing kampung
Cats of domestic descent that have known little or no human contact, or former pets that have
become homeless for various reasons, are termed “feral.” Although feral cats live in a wild
state, they have no relationship to the true wildcat species found throughout the world.
Being resourceful animals, cats that have strayed or been abandoned by their owners
often manage to survive on their own once they have reverted to the wild. Most have
highly developed hunting instincts that allow them to subsist on small prey such as
birds and rodents, and many supplement their diets by scavenging or accepting food
handouts from sympathetic cat lovers. Such cats usually learn to become wary
of humans, but because they still have a background of domesticity it is sometimes
possible to rehabilitate them.
Truly feral cats, which are born wild and never handled, are difficult if not
impossible to domesticate as adults. Feral kittens, if rescued at a very early age, can
sometimes be socialized with time and patience; but even at a few weeks old
they have a natural distrust of humans and may already be beyond the stage where this
can be overcome.
The majority of domestic cats lead solitary lives and resent or fear competition for food,
territory, and shelter. However, two or more cats that share a home can become friends,
especially if they are littermates. Others, at best, cease hostilities and settle down
together with indifference. Among feral cats there is a much greater degree of sociability.
Because food supplies can be scarce and unreliable, any feral cats within one area
tend to be drawn to a common food source, such as a garbage dump, a feeding station
organized by cat welfare organizations, or an empty building overrun by rats and
mice. Out of necessity, these cats tolerate each other and will share resources with
Where a few feral cats have found shelter, a colony can build up, which over the years
can amount to dozens of animals of several interrelated generations. Any unneutered
females attract toms—entire males—and frequent matings produce two or more
litters of kittens a year for each female.
Established colonies are very much matriarchal societies, with a core population
of females that often form close bonds.
Female cats have been observed sharing birth dens and cooperatively nursing and raising
litters of kittens, taking turns guarding the family when one of the mothers goes out
hunting. Feral females have even been known to present a combined front
to fight off marauding toms, which are a constant peril with their desire to kill off
kittens and so bring the females back into season for further matings.
As a feral colony expands, the dynamic within it changes, with stronger toms
ousting weaker rivals that then either hang around the periphery of the group or strike
out on their own to find more congenial territory. Occasionally, males born within
a colony do become accepted by the senior members simply because of their familiarity,
but a strange tom attempting to infiltrate the group is usually rejected vigorously.
CONTROL OF COLONIES
Life in a feral cat colony is hard and tends to be short. While well-cared-for pet cats
often live into their teens, a feral cat is lucky to survive beyond about three or four years.
Diseases are common and spread rapidly.
Nutrition is often inadequate, and as the colony grows there is less food for everyone.
Females weakened by continual breeding are particularly vulnerable and may die,
leaving sick and abandoned kittens. Traffic accidents and fighting among rival toms lead
to injuries and infections that never receive treatment.
Most countries now have a policy of managing feral cat colonies, both for
humane reasons and to prevent them from becoming an environmental problem. As
a more acceptable alternative to wholesale eradication, many cat rescue organizations or
animal welfare societies have put a three-part program into practice. This involves
trapping the cats without causing injury, neutering them (and ear-tagging them for
future identification), and returning them to the colony. Unfortunately, this often proves
to be a temporary solution. The numbers of feral cats may fall for a time, but eventually
unneutered cats will join the community and even a single breeding pair can restock
the colony within a year.
In rural areas, feral cats are sometimes welcomed by farmers and other landowners
as low-maintenance providers of rodent control in stables, barns, and feed stores.
Some cat adoption centers have exploited this by offering farmers feral cats that
they have collected and taken into care.
Properly managed, such programs can be a satisfactory solution to the problem of
feral colonies that have become too large or need to be relocated because of health issues. Although the animals concerned are not regarded as pets, the people who “adopt” them must agree to provide minimum shelter, a small daily amount of cat food to augment whatever prey is taken by hunting, and veterinary care if necessary.
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