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    • 03 Sep, 2015

    Animal Welfare Officer month: Dealing with London's Feral Cats

    In London there are thousands of feral cat colonies who live in hidden spots. It’s a growing problem as feral, unneutered female cats from five months of age are able to produce 2-3 times a year causing feral cat number to grow out of control.

    Life for a feral cat is hard and they face a life of scavenging for food and shelter. There are many cat colonies in London and it is important that they are neutered to prevent further breeding and health checked to prevent the spread of diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).

    Our Animal Welfare Officers run a Trap, Neuter and Return programme for feral cats in London to help control and contain the cat population. So far this year we have caught and neutered 138 feral cats and kittens. Feral cats are trapped harmlessly at colony locations and brought back to The Mayhew for health checks and neutering. They are then re-released by our officers back to their colony location providing the area is suitable and a safe environment for them. Usually if litters of kittens under 8 weeks old are brought in, then in the majority of cases the litter will remain at The Mayhew to be socialised and we can rehome them.

    How our Trap Neuter and Return Programme works

    The day starts with Paul Grimes, Mayhew Animal Welfare Officer, heading off to Cricklewood in North-West London in response to a call from a resident concerned about the feral cats living in their garden. Paul estimates that there are more than 20 cats living in this particular colony.

    Trapping the cats

    When Paul arrives he spots three feral black cats plus a mother and her six-month old kitten. They look hungrily at the food pouches which Paul opens for them to smell and then he begins to set the first manual trap. The trap is baited with food and Paul waits around the corner out of sight. “Most of the time, the cats are starving and for the first capture, we wait with a manual trap to catch the hungriest cats,” Paul says. Barely five minutes later, the mother and young cat enter the trap so Paul pulls the string and the door shuts. Paul covers the trap with towels to reduce the cats’ distress. Before leaving, Paul puts out an automatic trap for others and tells the house owner to call him as soon as a cat has been caught.

    Feral cats - Trap Neuter Return The Mayhew_1 Feral cats - Trap Neuter Return The Mayhew_2

    Treating and neutering

    The cats are then taken out our veterinary clinic and our vet team work swiftly to ensure the well-being of the cats are not comprised as it’s an unnatural environment for ferals. They both receive a full health check and are tested for FIV. They are also treated for fleas and vaccinated. All of the cats are scanned for a microchip to make sure they are not domestic cats that have gone astray.

    Returning the cats

    Usually the cats recover from their operations the following day and Paul returns them to where they were caught. They are happy to leap out of the carriers and back to their own territories.

    Watch the video of Paul trapping the feral cats out in the London territories in which they live. You can also find out more about our team of Animal Welfare Officers and their work across London. You can also donate to help our Animal Welfare Officers rescue and help more neglected and abandoned animals.

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