Love animals? Not everyone does.

“No matter how much cats fight, there always seems to be plenty of kittens.” – Abraham Lincoln

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Animal lovers not only love animals but believe in caring for them.   Then there is the other extreme: people who do not treat animals as living creatures and might think, ‘it’s only a cat or only a dog’.

Living in a touristy, ocean area that provides fun and entertainment for visitors, I have been told by more than one vet, that families come to our area and ‘adopt’ a kitten for a short duration.   There’s always ‘free kittens’ signs that may lure the kids in their families to beg, borrow and steal that it’s ‘only for a short while’.   The parents may say OK, thinkiing themselves, ‘it’s only for a short while’.

After everyone is tanned, relaxed and fun-filled, it’s time to load the suitcases and the car and head home.   Uh, oh, what do we do with the kitten that we have petted, loved, fed and made a family member for 2 weeks?  It was meant only for a short while, and we can’t take it home.   So they, and many like them, go for a drive and drop it off in a ‘nice’ develolpment because ‘people there will probably feed it and take care of it’.

Wrong.   People in most developments have one or two dogs and even one, two or three cats themselves.   So the disoriented kitten, who was pleasantly socialized and fed and cared for now lives in an unknown area where its hunger and survival mode pushes it into the ‘feral cat’ category.

A feral cat is defined as an unowned and untamed cat separated from domestication. Feral cats are born in the wild and may take a long time to socialize or may be abandoned or lost pets that have become wild. They should not be confused with the wildcat which are not descended from domestic cats.

The ‘chosen for dropping-off development’ folks frown on these cat-trusions. Their dogs want to chase them; the cats  are viewed as disease carriers (I am guessing that 2-week owners of kittens do not get their rabies shots) and the once loved animal soon learns that he or she is not welcome here. They get a ragged look and are usually very hungry and thirsty.

I’m thinking that this happens a lot.  We have lots of scavenger cats prowling around the hood.   In fact, in  Point Pleasant, NJ (another tourist area), there are colonies of 300 feral cats in one area. Usually, cats do not carry rabies, BUT in Point Pleasant, there were a number of rabid racoons who did infect some of the cats.  One of the rabid cats attacked a teenager who had to have the series of rabies shots which are not the most pleasant thing to have done.

When we moved to SC, there appeared on our patio, a very small tuxedo kitten (a black cat with white markings that look quite like a tuxedo). We have an indoor cat and the kitten would come up to our screened-in porch and try to befriend our cat.   There’s always a risk of fleas in the southern hemisphere, so we made sure our cat was protected with flea medicine even though we do not let him outside.

Once you feed a cat, he will be yours. And this happened to us.   We fed Feral – which we called her – and watched her grow from a small kitten to an adult cat.

If you choose to feed a feral cat, it will stay in your yard and wait for you to feed it again and again.   Feral remained an outdoor cat.  Although she did allow us to pet her when we fed her, she never got beyond the few strokes stage – she was independent and feisty.   And this next statement is the reason for my article.

By ‘keeping’ a feral cat, even though it lives outside, it is your responsibility to make sure that the animal is protected against rabies and distemper.   They become semi- domesticated and any child in your area who tries to pet it, may get scratched or bitten.  If the feral  becomes rabid, it could infect another animal and then you have the Point Pleasant, NJ scenario.

We ‘trapped’ Feral by placing her food in a cat carrier and closing the door.   She was not happy.  We brought her to a pet clinic and she was spayed and had her shots; they kept her overnight and everything cost $80.00.   We brought Feral back the next day and she behaved as if nothing happened.   We also ‘petted’ her with the flea medicine so she wouldn’t get infected.   She sleeps on the patio and communicates in some way with our cat and they seem to be friends.

Recently, a ‘dropped off’ adult cat was in our yard.   He was ravenous but we did not feed him.   He was trying so hard to get onto the porch when I opened the door that he inadvertently scratched me with the tip of his claw – and broke the skin.   I called the pound and they came by and picked him up and gave me forms to fill out since the skin was broken. He was observed for 10 days and found to be all right.   Since then I have heard conflicting reports from accredited vets that you cannot get rabies from a scratch and yet the DHEC feels if  an infected cat licks its paws, it could transmit rabies through the saliva on its paws.   In any event, I was lucky, because they had the cat that scratched me.   Someone else could get scratched and never find the cat and then have to go through trials they really don’t want to.   Just because someone was irresponsible and ‘dropped off a cat’ they no longer wanted.

Animals should never be dropped off if they are not wanted.   It’s better if they are taken to the shelter  where they may be adopted.   It’s less cruel to the animal who may get diseased, attacked or starve to death.   Dropping off animals is becoming a problem in many states.   If you see anyone who does this, offer to take the animal to a pet shelter, if no one wants to adopt it.   You will be doing the animal and your neighbors a favor.

Marie Coppola revised September 2017