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A.D.O.P.T. volunteer shares neighborhood with feral cats, kittens

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TribLocal Aurora
By Linda Kane, A.D.O.P.T. volunteer
May 26, 2011

A feral mother cat brought Aurora resident and A.D.O.P.T. volunteer Betty Weiler her five kittens. Weiler cared for them for five months (photo courtesy of B. Weiler).

For 30 years Betty Weiler has shared the same Aurora neighborhood with a variety of wildlife: coyotes, raccoons, opossums.

...And, oh yes, feral cats.

“I had a [female] feral cat that had been coming to my house for two years,” Weiler said. “But in two years I had never seen any babies.

“Well, this year I saw them–not only did I see them,” Weiler added. “[The mother cat] brought them all to my back door!”

And waiting in the wings was Daddy, a feral black cat.

“It was cute,” Weiler said. “[Daddy kitty] was standing on the grass, and [Mama] was up on the porch with all the kittens jumping around her.”

Weiler said when she took the kittens one at a time into her bathroom, Daddy got mad and “kind of growled.”

And what did Mama do?

“She turned around and hissed at him,” Weiler said. “It was really funny.”

After securing all five of the six-to-eight-week old babies, Weiler returned to Mama. “She was sitting there, and I said, ‘Okay, do you want to come?’” Weiler said. “I picked her up, which she had never let me do before, and I took her and put her in the bathroom with them.”

Weiler cared for Mama and babies for two-and-a-half weeks prior to taking them to her veterinarian where Weiler received some sad news:

Mama was FIV (the feline equivalent of HIV) positive–and dying.

“I had to put her to sleep,” Weiler said. “It was very sad. She was so beautiful and so soft–just a gorgeous cat.”

Weiler speculates that Mama instinctively knew she couldn’t survive in the wild with them. “Even when she was outside, she would come over and sit on my little bench by the patio and watch [her babies] play,” Weiler said. “She was just too tired to take care of them.”

Luckily for Weiler and the babies, Naperville’s Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment (A.D.O.P.T.) Pet Shelter took them in, spayed/neutered and vaccinated them, then found them their forever homes.

“It was heart-wrenching giving them up,” she said.

Since then, Weiler says she is a proponent of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), a program supported by a number of organizations such as Feral Fixers.

“The best option for a feral cat is to be spayed/neutered and returned to the colony as long as there is a caregiver providing for them,” said Rich Glessner, A.D.O.P.T.’s daily operations manager.

Glessner added that a female feral cat can impact shelters like A.D.O.P.T. “If people take [the kittens] away from the feral mom, we end up bottle-feeding them,” Glessner said.

Weiler, an A.D.O.P.T. volunteer, concurs. “[Pregnant feral cats] impact the shelter’s numbers,” she said. “You now have kittens without a mom, or if the mom is really feral, she’s teaching the kittens to be feral so they won’t be socialized. [Then] you have to separate them.”

In a 2004 report, Maryann Mott of National Geographic News, said some feline experts estimated 70 million feral cats live in the United States.

And what about in DuPage County?

Tammy McAuley, president of DuPage County’s Feral Fixers, said the feral cat population is less serious in the county than previously. “The numbers are down at DuPage County Animal Control (DCAC) across the board,” McAuley said. They euthanized 50 percent fewer ferals last year.”

McAuley says “the lack of low-cost spay/neuter surgery that also includes vaccinations” is one reason for the feral cat problem.

“Access for EVERYONE to low-cost spay/neuter, no matter what their economic situation, would remove a major contribution to the numbers,” she said. “TNR is the only method that actually reduces the number of ferals; Trap/Remove/Kill (TRK) has not made a dent. Returning neutered, vaccinated cats reduces the total numbers through attrition.”

A.D.O.P.T. veterinarian Dr. Linda Kopija agrees with McAuley. “If you neuter them and put them back, there’s more of a static colony,” Kopija said.

And what about the Daddy of Weiler’s kittens?

He remains a neighborhood resident, Weiler said.

“I got home (the other night) just in time to see him,” she said. “He was sitting on the porch waiting for supper. He ran over to the neighbor’s yard until I put the food out; then he came back.

“He’s the kind of cat you’d want to trap and get neutered.”

-For information about A.D.O.P.T.’s low-cost spay/neuter program, go to www.adoptpetshelter.org or call 630-355-2299.

What does THAT mean?

  • Feral cats: have no desire for human contact; untouchable
  • Semi-feral cats: may be touchable, but have no desire to come indoors
  • Strays: have the potential to become friendly because they may have been friendly previously
  • Friendlies: completely adoptable, happy to be indoors, touchable, comfortable cats

Definitions by Tammy McAuley, president, Feral Fixers

For further information, go to http://feralfixers.org/

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