I saw him again the other day, the black kitten that is growing into adolescence and toward adulthood. He made it through the 0 degree Pennsylvania weather. I hope that he found some place to shelter and was not, as I feared, huddled against a tree trunk with icy winds whipping around him.
Now that the weather has shifted, I will resume trying to humanely trap him (when I know he will not be sitting for hours in the trap, freezing, before I can get to him) and deliver him to the SPCA. I hope that I can do so before he has sired kittens—all of which will be homeless, feral, and lead shortened lives.
When I saw the kitten the other day, he was sniffing around for food by the water saucer on my patio (since most animals do not eat ice or snow, I bought an outdoor water heater and placed it in a large plant saucer). I stepped outside with the Mason jar of cat food I keep by the front door, walking slowly and speaking softly to him, but he ran off. At the blue spruces at the edge of our property, the kitten turned around and looked at me. I stood still, regarding him and looking into his wide, green-golden eyes, and I swear I saw him soften a little.
I poured the food into a tidy pile, plucked a leaf from the water saucer, looked at him again—his eyes had never left me—and went back inside. He did not come right away, though later he did. I can tell when the food has been eaten by a cat or a raccoon. Raccoons hoover up every molecule of food, while cats eat only until they are full, sometimes leaving a small ring of food from which they’ve eaten away the center.
Once I trap and deliver the kitten to the SPCA, here is what will happen: he will be euthanized. I do not have qualms about this. I think it’s infinitely preferable to the life he’ll lead in the wild—hungry, thirsty, scared, fighting for scarce resources, exposed to the elements, mistreated by some humans, and sooner than later, injured and diseased. A feral cat typically lives only a few years, and they are not easy years.
There are approximately 40,000 million homeless cats in the US alone, though many think that number is a gross underestimate. According to the University of Washington, each breeding pair of feral cats can produce between 100 to 400 kittens in seven years that live to reproductive age and subsequently reproduce, with each of those 100 to 400 mating and producing 100 to 400 kittens that live long enough to reproduce. Given this exponential growth rate, it’s no wonder there’s overpopulation, and with overpopulation, the species as a whole and the individuals in it suffer.
Some humane societies are mandated to do feral capture, spay/neuter, and release. I am vehemently opposed to this. Some dedicated Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) proponents provide food, water, and shelter for the neutered/spayed, ear-notched, and returned cats in their area, but this is rare. More often, the cats are returned to a life of less-than-subsidence living. While TNR can reduce overpopulation, which is good for the species as a whole, it does absolutely nothing for the suffering of the individual.
The black kitten will be given a humane, painless death by caring hands. He will not be adding to overpopulation, and he will not go hungry or suffer. I’m okay with that.
Humane trap: http://amzn.to/1hLd1In
Outdoor water heater: http://amzn.to/1ezfeU4