A story out of Salem would have a familiar ring for many Astorians as Chemeketa Community College is working with a group to manage a free-roaming colony of cats that live in a wooded area on campus.
The college and Salem Friends of Felines met Tuesday and plan to meet again April 8 and announce their plans. The volunteer group has been feeding, trapping, and neutering and spaying the cats for the past two years. In February, the college found and disposed of cat shelters and feeding stations.
After an outcry from the cat caretakers, the college replaced the shelters and stations for the feral felines. Astoria's riverfront is home to a similar cat colony and, just as in the state capitol, a local group of cat-lovers have been working on a similar strategy. Small cat shelters and feeding areas have sprung
up along the riverwalk where the cats frequent and citizen concern over the ferel cats has caught the attention of the Astoria City Council over the last few months. The cat caretakers here contend that trapping and then neutering and spaying the cats is the best way to control the size of those colonys.
Feral cats have been defined as cats which were once domesticated, but were abandoned, lost, or ran away. Because the environmental variables acting upon the descendants of such cats are essentially identical to those which act upon wild animals, first generation "feral" cats are properly called "stray,"
and only later generations "feral." The distinction between a wild animal and a feral animal lies in the typically urban habitat of feral animals and the fact that members of the species are traditionally domesticated. Aside from tradition, in areas sparsely occupied by people there is little reason to call a wild-born
cat "feral," as opposed to "wild." Adult feral cats are nearly impossible to domesticate, while strays are sometimes re-socialized. Feral kittens, however, can be socialized before they reach about twelve weeks old. Feral cats often form colonies, or clowders, in a particular location around a common food
source, such as a dumpster, open garbage dump, or where people offer handouts. The colony size is necessarily dependent on the size of the food source. Abandoned or lost domestic cats often join feral colonies out of necessity, the only readily available food source having been claimed by the colony.
Feral colonies are a hot topic among cat proponents, bird and other small-species proponents, and some local governments and state agencies. The problems created by feral cats stem largely from their skill as hunters and the fecundity of the species (female cats can have two to three litters per year). A
peculiarity of cats is that they continue to hunt even when well-fed.