Feral Cats Ireland
Be smart, spay that stray!

The importance of spaying or neutering a stray cat immediately it arrives in your garden, housing estate, farm or workplace cannot be stressed strongly enough.  Otherwise a situation develops which quickly spirals out of control.

Every week, rescues hear the same story over and over again. People phoning seeking assistance for cats will say: "It began with one cat who strayed into us and we started feeding it." And the caller usually ends by saying; "and now we have 10 / 12 / 15 / 20 cats in our garden/housing estate/farm/workplace."

How did that population explosion happen? Uncontrolled breeding due to a lack of spaying/neutering. This is why there is such a huge feral cat over population crisis in Ireland.

If a stray cat is female and unspayed, she will eventually have kittens. That is a guaranteed certainty. Very soon (at five months of age) her kittens start having kittens and very quickly, the number of cats increase and the situation becomes completely unmanageable. At that point the people are having difficulty feeding the cats as it costs so much, which is when a rescue organisation is called in.  For rescues, it is one more call similar to many others they will have received that week and the difficulty will be finding homes for the sheer number of cats and kittens involved or finding the funds to finance the spaying/neutering of all the cats. To spay/neuter 10 cats, you are looking at a cost of €350 to €400.

Some peoples attitude is "take them all away and put them down.”  But most rescues are “No Kill”, they believe in saving lives, not ending them.  As a country, we must move away from the “breed, breed, breed, then kill, kill, kill” mentality. The situation needs to be contained from the beginning by preventing more cats from being born. And that can be easily achieved by spaying the original cat that shows up. 

Some may be reluctant to take on the expense of spaying or neutering a cat that doesn’t belong to them, but lets consider the alternative.  Leave the cat to breed and, literally in a few short months, end up with 15 cats in your garden.  (Cats are prolific breeders having three litters in a year, with an average of 5 kittens per litter.  They also begin breeding young at just five months of age).  Your neighbours may not be happy.  They’ll complain about the noise of ‘your’ yowling, fighting cats keeping them awake at night or using their garden as a toilet or the smell of tomcat on their car, garden furniture or patio doors.  Neighbours can and often do take matters into their own hands if their complaints go unheeded, and poison the cats or have them removed for euthanasia.  In a situation like this, it is the cats who suffer the consequences of our inaction and lack of thought and responsibility. The consequences for the cats can be a life full of suffering or premature death.

If you begin feeding a cat, you are offering it a lifeline, you are taking responsibility for it, you are encouraging it to stay around. A la carte cat care is not an option.  Spaying a stray is a once off cost and money well spent. Contact your local rescue if you can’t afford the cost. They are more likely to help if it’s just one cat rather than fifteen.  Spaying prevents more homeless strays being born, many of whom suffer neglect, starvation and sickness, are injured or killed by traffic, or are put to death as they are surplus to requirements. Spaying that stray saves lives and saves you expense in the long run and makes for a happier neighbourhood!                                                                                                                        

We would always encourage people to feed a stray cat. Most strays have been dumped by their owners, or are lost, or are left behind when people move house or pass away so it is not their fault they find themselves homeless and hungry.  But feeding a cat is not enough. The next logical step is to have it spayed. Don’t assume the cat is already spayed because 99 times out of a hundred, it won’t be. Don’t assume the cat is male, even if the postman/electrician swears it is, only a vet will know for sure.  Don't think the cat is too young to become pregnant, females can come into heat at five months of age. Don’t believe it’s easy to find good homes for kittens, it’s not!  Thousands of them are born in Ireland every year, there are not enough homes for them all. Don’t believe a cat who is weaning kittens can’t become pregnant again, she can - when her kittens are just two weeks old.

Don't assume because it's a male cat, it's ok.  Male cats will go off to find a female to breed with, and very often if she’s a stray, will happily follow your cat home, move in permanently and of course have kittens!  One cat can so easily turn into six.  Don’t wait for that to happen, be smart and spay that stray!