To reduce the overpopulation of cats in Wilson County, Texas, through public education, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), rescue, and empowering the community to care for outside cats.
Wilson County Cats is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to humanely reducing the outside cat population in Wilson County, Texas, through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). Free TNR classes are offered through the San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition to train citizens. After individuals complete training, Wilson County Cats makes available traps for loan and offers support to the public to encourage TNR of cats in our area. Advocacy efforts promote community awareness to protect the lives of outdoor cats.
Our vision is to live in a community where no kittens are born wild on the street, where no cat capable of living in a home is lacking one, and where no outside cats go wanting for food, water, shelter, and appropriate care.
What is a Feral Cat?
A "feral" cat is unsocialized and tends to avoid human contact. Ferals are most often found living outdoors in groups known as colonies. The cats in a colony share a common food source and territory and may include not only ferals, but also strays - former pet cats who were recently lost or abandoned and are still tame. Ferals, as well as strays, are increasingly referred to as "community cats" or "free-roaming cats.”
"Feral" is a behavioral characteristic, not a biological one. As a result, the same cat can be feral and not feral at different points in her life. An outdoor kitten may be born feral, then be taken indoors, socialized and adopted out as a friendly pet. Or an adult cat may be a gregarious pet for years then become lost and, after a few months of living on his own, start to act unsocialized. In addition, feral is not a black or white quality, but different cats will be feral to different degrees.
Why Removing Community Cats Does Not Work
Removing cats from an area only allows another colony to move into its place in order to take advantage of the food source that once supported the first colony. The TNR option allows you to stabilize one area at a time. Once the cat population of a colony is stabilized, the colony will defend its territory and keep other cats from moving in.
To many people, killing feral cats is not acceptable. Many people, especially the elderly living alone, welcome the company of the cats each day. Others rely on the cats for rodent control in places such as on farms, behind restaurants where dumpsters are located, and houses backing to wooded areas. Without a TNR program these people have no alternative but to let the cats continue to breed. They may catch a few kittens from each litter and give them to the animal shelters to be re-homed but ultimately the best way to save cat lives is by spaying and neutering them.
Common Misconceptions about Feral Cats
Some people may wonder why bother interfering in feral cats lives? Can't cats look after themselves? Why do we want disease-ridden cats around our own? There are just so many, how can I make a difference?
FERAL CATS CAN LOOK AFTER THEMSELVES
NOT TRUE. Truly wild feral cats are thought to be largely self-sufficient, however the same cannot be said of the first or second generation feral cats that we most commonly see today. Few of these cats survive by hunting alone. They are typically wholly reliant on scavenging for survival. Either they pick at fast-food rubbish or restaurant waste, or depend on the kindness of someone who feeds them scraps. These cats have to make do with inappropriate food, which can leave them malnourished.
A solitary, un-neutered feral cat has an expected life-span of just two years. Like other cats with outdoor access, they can fall prey to poisoning, trauma (in road accidents) or attacks by other animals, primarily dogs. This is why pet cats that aren’t indoor-only also have a hugely decreased life expectancy. However, the crucial factors that determine a feral cat’s longevity are adequate food supply, shelter and veterinary attention if ill or injured. In a managed colony of feral cats that are neutered, given shelter and are routinely fed appropriate cat food, life expectancy rises to six years or more – a similar baseline health status to pet cats allowed outdoors. Clearly human intervention improves the cats’ welfare enormously. They go from a state of tenuous survival to one of security and good health.
The most tragic and upsetting aspect of working with feral cats is to see how completely vulnerable their kittens are to hunger and disease. The two go hand in hand; if the mother cat is unable to source sufficient food for her weaned kittens, they usually perish from upper respiratory tract infections, complicated by malnourishment and a heavy worm burden. Kittens can in no way be considered capable of looking after themselves therefore feral kittens have an extremely high mortality rate. 75% of kittens born to feral mother cats die or disappear within six months of birth.
FERAL CATS CAN GIVE OUR PETS DISEASES
Feral cats give our pets diseases – NOT TRUE. Most adult feral cats are quite hearty, especially once they have been neutered. These adults have survived when the majority of kittens have not. If you see a cat that is clearly sick it can just as easily be a stray than a feral; stray cats are less adapted to the challenges of outdoor life than ferals. Most outside pets have some degree of intestinal worms however your cat cannot get infected simply through inhabiting the same area. Regular deworming of your cat will protect them against this problem.
The only immediate risk to your pets are lice, ear mites or fleas; this requires direct contract which is unlikely between unfamiliar cats. Lice is rare, fleas can just as easily be picked up from soil than a feral cat running around, and ear mites don’t spread from one cat to another unless they are in direct contact for a reasonable amount of time. Treating your pets with a topical treatment such as Revolution will protect your cats from all three.
FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) is passed from cat to cat through deep bite wounds, usually from males fighting over territory and mating. Once castrated, feral toms are less likely to inflict bite wounds on other cats through fighting, and of course they no longer transmit the virus to females during mating. FELV (feline leukemia virus) is transmitted through the transfer of saliva, grooming, and nasal secretions. Again if your pet is vaccinated this greatly reduces the possibility of your cat transmitting the disease.
FERAL CATS ARE PESTS
Feral cats can be a nuisance to house owners, especially if they are from large colonies. The yeowling, hissing and caterwauling can keep people awake at night. The male cats leave unpleasant smells at the front door, on flower pots, or on clothes left out to dry. They walk along garden walls tormenting dogs. They have unwanted kittens in or under the shed, and everyone in the home is distressed by the state of the kittens. All these complains can be solved with one thing: Neutering.
Neutering stops any further increase in colony numbers and it is better to leave the existing colony intact rather than take steps to remove the cats, which leaves a vacuum that other, un-neutered feral cats will fill. Neutering ends the howling associated with reproductive behavior and the noisy fighting between toms over mating rights. Neutering eliminates the very pungent smell of a tom cats’ pee. Neutered toms are less aggressive and therefore less likely to engage in fights with the other (sometimes owned) cats they encounter. Neutered toms are more sedentary and roam less, thus minimising the properties they traverse. Finally, neutering has a calming effect on all cats, as without all the levels of testosterone in their body they may become friendlier to humans.
TNR GROUPS WILL NEVER SOLVE THE PROBLEM
TNR balances the needs and concerns of the human communities in which many feral cats live. Most people don’t want cats rounded up and killed. They want to see cat populations stabilized and appreciate when the mating behaviors of cats are brought into check through spaying and neutering. With TNR, adult cats—spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped—are returned to the colony to live out their lives in their outdoor home. While the process may seem impossible at times, by offering support and advice to people concerned by the plight of feral cats in their area, word spreads that organisations such as ours want to help and will treat the cats humanely. By watching the process of TNR and talking to us, people are better informed about how to help similar cats in the future and can point other people in our direction. We believe that each cat, tame or feral, has intrinsic value and deserves our help and compassion.