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'If you feed it, you own it' - warning over feral cats


Feral cats

Feral cats

Feral cats

AN INCREASE in the feral cat population has been linked to the kindness of people who continue to feed them, resulting in them having more kittens.

A well-fed wild cat can produce up to three litters a year with between six and eight kittens in each litter, massively increasing the population.

The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) is encouraging people who feed them to take responsibility for the cats as well by getting them neutered ahead of the spring mating season.

The population of feral cats is unknown, but the DSPCA estimates it to be in the tens of thousands.

Spokesperson Gillian Bird said the explosion in the population is created by people, but they don't want to solve it.

"Our motto is 'If you feed it, you own it', and even though a person might have been feeding the cat for a few years they often don't take responsibility for its care or treatment," she said.

"But when a cat wanders into the garden looking scrawny and you feed it, very soon you could be feeding her kittens as well. It's a very easy thing for one cat to multiply to five or six."

A feral cat might usually produce one litter of kittens per year during the mating season from spring to autumn, but a healthy, well-fed cat can become pregnant up to three times a year.

Well-fed cats also produce bigger litters, which is adding to the general increase in the population.

But the DSPCA said there is an easy solution in its TNR (Trap, Neuter and Release) scheme, a subsided neutering programme that costs €25.

"Neutering is relatively cheap in comparison to feeding a cat. It costs about €5 per week to feed a cat properly, so in six weeks you've paid for the neutering," Ms Bird said.

She added that there was no reason why neighbours could not pool resources to get the neighbourhood feral neutered.

"Catching and neutering the alpha male is best because he will keep all the other un-neutered males out of the territory," said Ms Bird.

Once a healthy cat mates, there is a 99pc chance that kittens will be produced, as ovulation in felines is induced by the act of mating.

Although controversial, the DSPCA also supports early neutering of kittens at around 12 weeks as a feral kitten is easier to catch than an adult cat. It also saves them from having to destroy or re-home unwanted kittens that are dropped into them.

During its Feline February, the society promotes its neutering programme, but Ms Bird said it would be far better if this had begun well ahead of the spring mating season.

They also lend cat traps to people to catch the ferals and transport them to the vet.

"The cat population is people's fault. There is no fear that cats will become extinct, but it's now people should be trapping and neutering them," said Ms Bird.


A feral cat is no different to a domestic cat except it is less friendly because it is not used to being handled. Unless a kitten is handled before it is 10 days old, even the offspring of the family pet will not be tame.

Responsible cat ownership also involves vaccinating cats against diseases such as feline leukaemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIDS), similar to AIDS in humans.

The DSPCA does not believe the rise in the feline population is causing any problems - it still receives many calls from members of the public who simply do not want the nuisance of a cat in their back garden.