A purr-fectly sound arrangement
A family of Estacada-area feral cats has received a bit of extra care and attention recently.
Poppy and her four kittens, Porcini, Portabella, Pomegranate and Potato (also known as Spud) appeared under David and Jennifer Sinclair's porch on their homestead toward the end of last year. When the Sinclairs took the group of felines to the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon to be spayed and neutered earlier this month, it was discovered that Poppy was the 90,000th cat to be altered by the organization.
The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon strives to reduce the number of homeless cats by providing spay and neuter surgeries. Last year, the Portland-based group altered 6,000 cats, more than 1,400 of which came from Clackamas County.
"For each feral or stray cat in our care we request a donation of just $30, but never turn a caregiver away if they cannot contribute," said FCCO Executive Director Karen Kraus. "Our services are known as Trap-Neuter-Return, where the person feeding the cats traps them, brings the cats to our clinic and returns them to where they are being fed after they recover."
Kraus described the main difference between domesticated and feral cats as that the latter are frightened of people. Often, they can be great mouse catchers and act as a form of pest control.
However, if they are left unaltered, the homeless cat population can significantly increase. Female cats are capable of having as many as three litters of kittens in a year, and they can become pregnant at as young as five months old.
Kittens can be altered when they weigh 2 pounds, which prevents them from adding to the ferel cat population.
The Sinclairs took Poppy and her kittens to be altered in late January. They received humane traps for their four-legged friends from the FCCO, which are essentially cages with a trick plate of food to entice the cat to step inside.
Since being altered, the group of cats have readjusted to life on the Sinclair's homestead, where they are fed, have a heated shelter and help catch rodents.
David Sinclair noted that there hadn't been any significant changes in Poppy's behavior since the surgery.
"She's always been an attentive mother, and while the kittens are older now and don't need as much attention, she still watches over them," he said.
He added that Poppy and her kittens are "free citizens, able to leave any time they wish."
"They are wary of humans, retreating if I get within about six feet of them," he wrote. "We provide multiple meals each day, and a nice heated shelter, and in return they help maintain the rodent population; we have noticed a decrease in mouse incursions since they've joined us. They also provide entertainment as they play in the grass or trees. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement."
In a blog post about the cats, Sinclair wrote that the FCCO's trap-neuter-return service helps ensure that the arrangement with Poppy and her
kittens continues to work
"We are happy to feed and house the five (mother and four kittens) that adopted us, in exchange for their services keeping the rodent population under control," he wrote. "But we wouldn't be able to care for many more, so they would end up suffering if left to breed unchecked."
In addition to ensuring that the homeless cat population does not increase, Kraus said altering felines also reduces instances of cancer and reduces the noises they make when fighting.
Kraus encouraged those working with feral cats to verify that they are indeed homeless.
"Talk to your neighbors and find out what they know," she said. "Maybe someone moved and left the cat behind, or there's a new neighbor with an outdoor cat."
She also encouraged people caring for feral cats to "meet them where they are," noting that different cats will appreciate different levels of human interaction.
"Not all feral cats want to be around humans," she said. "Often, they won't eat in front of you and will avoid eye contact."
In spite of this, she noted that having caretakers works out well for many feral cats.
"These are kitties you might never pet or hold, but they'll rely on you," she said.
To learn more about the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon, visit www.feralcats.com.
To find out more about David and Jennifer Sinclair's Estacada homestead, visit www.yellowcottagehomestead.com.