A high number of cats we rescue are feral, which are homeless cats (homeless either by birth or by abandonment). Feral does not mean that they are a threat to humans, but that they are distrustful and afraid of us. Feral, unspayed females spend their lives pregnant and hungry, while males often die from wounds inflicted in territorial battles over mates and food, and disease is spread – such as feline aids and leukemia.
Where did all these feral cats come from? Studies have shown that the high numbers of ferals have originated from people who are financially unable to neuter/spay their cats, irresponsible pet owners who can afford to, but don’t, transient owners who leave their unspayed/unneutered animals behind to fend for themselves. These cats, when allowed to roam freely, will mate resulting in rampant overpopulation, which is what animal rescue organizations like BCC contend with.
At 5 months of age a kitten can have its first litter and that same kitten can have a second litter by the time it is a year old – a litter being anywhere from 1 kitten to 5, 6, 7… A nursing mom can get pregnant and 60 days later, which is the gestation period, can have another litter. Only about 50% of these kittens will survive. We make every effort to educate the public about the importance of spaying or neutering their pets.
BCC participates in the country-wide effort to reduce the number of feral felines using the method of TNR (trap, neuter, return). This method is endorsed by the American Veterinary Association, Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine, and many animal welfare groups throughout the country.
TNR is a humane method that stabilizes feral cat colonies, preventing new litters through spaying/neutering. BCC has 10 feral colonies that are monitored daily by volunteers. The cats in the colonies are spayed/neutered and provided shelter, food, and water. At one time these colonies had as many as 15-20 cats each. The numbers have now decreased through attrition to as few as 2 to 4 cats per colony.
Despite the impact of BCC, there are hundreds of cats and kittens who remain homeless, sick, starving, and desperate for care and kindness. Ferals still face many challenges as they attempt to survive New England winters, sickness, disease, coyotes and other predators.