Doing Your Bit For Wildlife In Winter
I work from home which is a great blessing to me. It is great to live a creative life. However, being at home a lot allows me to become aware of my immediate surroundings and particularly the life around our home. Until recently, we had a beautiful big dog . Last year he sadly slipped away. He used to deter the cats from coming into the garden though I would see them from time to time slinking through. He wasn't the fastest or most diligent of guards when it came to keeping cats away. He liked to do a spot of chasing but never caught one and one hiss sent him running back to base. Quite right! However, lately I see more and more of them around and now I am observing the 'season' in action.
Lets face it animals, although resilient, are vulnerable when it comes to getting their basic needs met and more so when they are wild, ferral, stray etc. We notice it more in Winter as they are often the only ones out in the weather. In our gardens and on our doorsteps. The amazing thing is that caring for animals brings us so much joy, peace and a feeling of being connected to nature. Cats and birds are the ones I get concerned about. There are slim pickings for the birds. There are no berries for them and their water supply can be frozen over etc. People tend however, to notice the birds and put out seeds, nuts and fat balls for them. They usually don't cause many problems for us. They are easy to help in the main really. They don't want to come into our homes, want to be stroked or need shelter etc. They don't bring fleas, ticks, cat flu etc.
The poor cats on the other hand are trickier and often have no safe cosy place to tuck themselves into. No cosy fire to snuggle by and no steady supply of food and medical attention. It is especially hard to see cats and kittens with obvious colds and eye infections without feeling something needs to be done. They suffer so stoically and troop along with no hope of ever getting better.
Then nature keeps right on doing what it does best and the females, often just kittens themselves, go into heat and moan and wail to attract the males. It is on one hand part of nature but on the other hand it is out of control. We have domesticated these animals for our own pleasure and we have a duty to make sure they are cared for. If they keep breeding ad infinitum more and more will suffer unduly. People cannot afford to care for an infinite number of stray cats and cats do not know about birth control.
This is a snippet from the ISPCA website. The link follows this snippet.
'There are in excess of 200,000 feral cats across Ireland by some estimates. Feral cat overpopulation causes serious welfare concerns and distruption to local communities and ecosystems. During Feral Cat Awareness Week the ISPCA is encouraging members of the public who are in contact with a feral cat colony to take part in Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR) to help tackle the issues that accompany cat overpopulation.'
We have created a TNR fact sheet for anyone to download and use to teach their communities about TNR.
The ISPCA will also be raising funds to support the purchase of cat traps and to help subsidise the cost of neutering by our affiliated member societies and other TNR organisations.
Who can help with animal issues? There are TNR schemes running around the country, (Trap, Neuter, Release). In Winter the animal services are absolutely overburdened. These schemes help with the financial aspect of the service and can give advice and assistance in the safe trapping of the animals so they are not traumatised unduly during the process. If you cannot go that far there are things you can do. The ISPCA and the different branches around the country offer lots of advice on their websites on what to feed animals, what not to feed them, how to offer shelter without having them in your house as such and how to access help if you want to get them some medical attention.
It's a hard one though. If you start feeding and taking care of the homeless cats you shouldn't stop all of a sudden as they come to rely on you. You should also get the some treatment to prevent the spread of disease among them. Flea and tick treatment, flu treatment, spaying etc. Then it is possible for them to have a better quality of life, especially the females. Figuring out who actually needs help and who is just around for a free meal ticket is tricky sometimes. You can project your worries and concerns onto a creature who no more needs your help than the man in the moon. Many are not homeless at all. Cats are nocturnal creatures so they often like to sleep during the day and head off at night to hunt (or go home). Seeing them leaving your cosy fireside or dry box in the porch filled with straw which is water repellent, (not hay), is hard for us to understand but they are often happier that way. They are adept at finding places to shelter. Especially if they are ferral. However, if you observe long enough you will begin to realise who is more vulnerable and who would benefit most from a bit of your help.