Wild Whiskers of Tauranga, New Zealand do a great job in managing community cats

The photograph that you see on this page caught my eye, which is why I was drawn to writing about this rescue organisation: Wild Whiskers of Tauranga, New Zealand. In New Zealand there is an issue with feral cats. In line with their neighbours, Australia, the country want to kill feral cats and simply get rid of them in the most convenient and expedient way, which leads to cruelty. So it is particularly nice to read about this caring organisation, managed and owned by veterinary nurse Sharna Asplin.

Wild Whiskers of Tauranga, New Zealand do a great job in managing community cats
 Wild Whiskers of Tauranga, New Zealand do a great job in managing community cats. Photo: Wild Whiskers.

Sharna is a smart cookie. She is very sensible and organised. Everything that she has said about community cat in her area is absolutely spot on correct. Every organisation concerned with managing and caring for community cats in the interests of the cats and the residents should see how she works.

She runs a volunteer-run group and they have two focuses. In the summer it is kitten season and over this period she uses her best efforts to take in feral kittens (she describes them as "wild kittens") and to socialise them so that they can become loved domestic cats in their adulthood. The kitten should be within that critical timeframe, the first eight weeks of life approximately, when they can be socialised successfully and relatively easily. It's much harder to socialise adult feral cats.

She has 20 foster carers across Tauranga who take the kittens in. They make sure that the kittens will become excellent companion animals and after that assessment they treat the kittens for fleas and worms and sterilise, vaccinate and microchip them.

They put them up for adoption. The other focus is during the winter months when they employ TNR techniques. They do this with considerable care and the involvement, wisely, of the residents. They make sure that the community cats are not owned by posting on social media. They also scan for microchips and if possible they place a "found cat collar" on the cat. They also contact local veterinary clinics. They then neuter the cats and release them back to where they came from.

She says that they only conduct TNR where there are proper systems in place, namely that there is a volunteer to manage the colony or cat and a regular food source so that the cats does not present a danger to native wildlife.

Sometimes they have to euthanize a feral cat because of injury and/or sickness.

She says that they have rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed over 100 kittens in the past season from October to April and they have trapped, neutered and returned adults.

She makes the excellent point that as these are community cats she needs to ensure that she engages with the community to obtain their cooperation. This, I'm sure, helps to avoid antagonism and it also helps to create a community spirit in dealing with what is a community problem. She says that if a citizen of the area finds a stray cat the best thing that they can do is to take photographs and post a description of the cat online. This helps to get the ball rolling because they can find out whether the cat is feral or owned.

It can be difficult to distinguish between a domestic cat which has become a stray, looking dirty and starving, and a genuine feral cat. People should not assume that because a cat is dirty and thin that it is a feral cat. The same by the way goes for behaviour. Often domestic cats can be fearful of strangers which is a behavioural trait of feral cats. For this reason, I have always argued that people should not be shooting at cats that they believe are feral (if approved by the local authority). It might be shooting someone's pet which has become lost or has been abandoned. Anyway it is essentially very cruel.

In acknowledgement of her good work the local authority has provided her with a $4000 grant which has been a great help to her during the coronavirus pandemic because it precluded her ability to raise funds. Well done to Sharna.

My thanks to Sun Live for the report.

Comments

Popular Posts