Tag Archives: wild

Maybe Some Cats Shouldn’t be “Rescued”

If you have ever looked for a cat to adopt on Petfinder or the website of your local shelter, you may have noticed that a fair amount of them have been ear-tipped. If you don’t know what that is, when a stray or feral cat is captured and fixed, the vet will remove the tip of one ear or put a notch in one ear to show that the cat has already been fixed.

Ear “tipping” or “notching” is usually done for the Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) programs but sometimes a well-meaning person will trap a cat that is friendly to humans and not release it but put it up for adoption. I believe that is what happened to Frankie, although we know nothing about his history. We do know he has a notch in his ear indicating he was probably captured as a feral, perhaps at a young age.

We know the history of Puck, who was a bottle-fed kitten. Puck will go outside if given the opportunity but he gets nervous easy and then wants to go back inside.

I found Chris in the shelter when he was around five months old. I know he came from another shelter but I don’t know his history before that. I do know Chris loves going outside but he also stays close to home.

Frankie is not like either one of them. He is constantly crying at the door to go out and, while he is not as good about slipping out the door as Chris is, he will get past me sometimes. When that happens, he immediately starts exploring the neighborhood. If I get close enough to catch him, he runs or he finds a car to hide under.

When I put a harness on Frankie and walk him, he tends to travel in one direction. I know most cats have a territory that is smaller than the area that Frankie takes me through. I usually have to coax him to travel in a direction toward home instead of away. The last few outings I stayed out with him a long time to see if he would eventually make his way back home. He didn’t.

cat Frankie on harness and leash

I can’t help but wonder if he would ever want to come home if he escaped and I lost track of him. He might also travel too far and get lost. Frankie has too much of a wild cat in him and I wonder if he wouldn’t have been happier if he was allowed to stay outside in a TNR colony.

Something happened Tuesday night that showed just how wild Frankie still is. We ordered take-out from a nearby Italian restaurant. When the driver arrived, I shut the slider between the house and Florida room, locking the cats in the house and allowing me to open the door without worrying about Frankie or Chris running out.

Unknown to me, Frankie was in the Florida room with me and ran outside when I opened the door. It was dark outside and I had no shoes on. Our grass is loaded with little stickers called sand spurs. They are painful to step on so I quickly paid the delivery driver and ran inside to get my shoes. When I got out, the driver had followed Frankie behind the house to our left and managed to herd him back toward me. Frankie ran right up to our door and I thought the driver scared him enough to want to go back inside but that was not the case.

He continued around to the other side of our house and ran under Rose’s car. The two of us looked for him under the car but it was too dark so I pulled my little key-chain flashlight out of my pocket and looked under our vehicles. He was not there. That is when the driver noticed him near the front door of the house to our right.

I looked over in that direction and saw him standing there with something hanging from his mouth. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what I was seeing and then said, “Oh my God! He has a rabbit!”

I tried to grab Frankie and get him to release his catch but he eluded me and ended up back under Rose’s car. The two of us worked at him from opposite sides of the car, at which point he let go of the bunny and crawled out from under the car. That was when I grabbed Frankie and picked him up while the driver grabbed the rabbit and checked out his injuries.

He seemed uninjured except for a small gash on the back of his neck but he was having trouble breathing. The driver tried to stroke his neck to stimulate breathing but it was soon too late for the rabbit.

After that incident, on Friday, Rose decided to take Frankie for a walk. I hurt my back Thanksgiving morning and was not up to the task so Rose decided that Frankie needed to get out more. She was out with him for a long time and when she returned she said “Never again!” Frankie managed to force his way out of the harness and led her on a chase around the neighborhood.

Those incidents made me wonder whether Frankie’s cushy lifestyle in our home is really what’s best for him. Don’t worry. I’m not going to release Frankie into the wild. In fact, I am watching him now lying upside-down on a soft blanket on the sofa.

cats Chris and Frankie

He seems to enjoy the good life as much as the wild life but I can’t help wonder how many other cats have been “rescued” that may have been better off left alone. I also wonder how many cats were never adopted because a “wild” cat was adopted in their place. What do you think? Is it wrong to leave a feral outside even if it is friendly towards humans?

The Dominant Cat

We have always joked that Chris has to be the alpha in the house. The truth is, cats are not like dogs, there is no “alpha” cat in the wild, at least not among African Wildcats, the species that evolved into the modern domestic house cat.

African Wildcats are loners, especially the males. Each male has a single territory that does not overlap another male’s territory but may overlap several females’ territories. This may cause competition for mating purposes but there is no group that requires a leader.

About 12,000 years ago in the Middle East, humans started to give up their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and became farmers. This, of course, was a very gradual process but eventually there were communities of people growing wheat and other grains. They stored these grains in large bins that attracted rodents. The increase in rodents, in turn, attracted cats.

The humans not only tolerated the cats, they welcomed them. Cats were an almost perfect solution to the rodent problem but having several cats in the same area was a bit unnatural. I don’t know how they got along back then but over time they evolved to tolerate each other as well as humans.

Our domestic cats today have never developed the hierarchy or cooperation found in a pack of wolves, but they can live together in large groups that are not related without killing each other. Some even develop friendships with each other. I have noticed that male cats seem to get along better than female cats but that is the opposite of what happens between wild cats. I have also noticed that a lot of fighting happens between periods of calm.

Understanding what drives social behavior in cats is a complicated issue that I don’t come close to understanding. Chris’s behavior is a good example. He is always trying to be the dominant, or alpha, cat in the house, but since cats don’t have alphas, I’m not sure what he is thinking. Frankie does not let Chris dominate him, which is sometimes a source of tension. Puck is the submissive one and I sometimes feel bad because Frankie is always chasing him around the house in what may, or may not, be play.

Chris is different. He will show Puck plenty of affection most of the time but occasionally he will grab the back of his neck and hold him down. I try to break it up but Chris won’t let go. I have to pry his mouth open. On several occasions, I have even seen him standing over Puck, with two legs on the left and two on the right, dragging him by the neck across the floor. A short time after that he will lie down next to Puck and wash his ears.

Bad cat Chris grabbing Puck by scruff of neck

I have heard that pinching the scruff of a cat’s neck will produce a calming affect. Perhaps it is necessary as a kitten so the mother can carry her young without them struggling and it just remains through adulthood. I’m not sure why Chris would want to calm Puck down. He is already submissive to Chris. Perhaps it is just a friendly reminder that Chris is the boss.

What do you think? Do your cats do this?