Feral cats may be the Gardener's enemy but they are certainly the Smallholder's Friend
Although most gardener's consider the cat as their greatest enemy when growing crops or keeping livestock they are an invaluable ally.
Rats and mice raid food stores and gnaw on root crops not to mention the wooden structure and electrical cables of buildings. They can also spread disease to both stock and humans.
When we first bought our land there were so many holes in the ground that it looked like Gorganzola Cheese! A litter of well chosen cats quickly reduced the rodent population.
A litter of feral cats is the best option as they have not become so domesticated that they have forgotten the reason why they have the compulsion to kill. They consume what they catch, including young rabbits, and often hunt as a pack the way nature intended.
There are several myths surrounding the care of feral cats. Some farmers believe that if the cat is neutered they lose the drive to hunt. In my experience - though I do ensure that my cats are neutered at an early age - this is not the case.
Some people believe that the cats should not be fed therefore making them totally self-sufficient. My mousers have access to dried food and a clean supply of water 24/7 and it has never affected their hunting ability and ensures that they don't wander too far from home. They are also wormed on a regular basis and when necessary given drops on the back of their necks to keep the flea population under control. It's important to remember that healthy cats are fit cats so the healthier they are the more likely they are to want to hunt.
It is also important that they have access to a warm dry building where they feel safe from predators like foxes and dogs.
I'm not sure whether there is any truth in the myth that if a cat's tail curls at the top it makes them a better hunter but the best hunter we ever had - who would even kill stoats and weasels - had a curly tail. Even after she was involved in a car accident which left her with one leg permanently wired with metal 'veins' that run up the full length of her leg and could be felt under her fur she still hunted and killed rabbits and weazels.
So where do you get a feral cat from? Strangely enough you should approach the Cats Protection League. They monitor feral colonies and neuter the cats that they successfully trap however it isn't always possible to catch all of the she cats so some feral kittens are often left looking for new homes.
One word of caution though, although these cats tolerate humans and even bond with their close carers they always seem to keep that element of wildness about them so should be handled with care. For this reason long-haired cats like Fexlix should be avoided unless you are willing to spend time gaining their trust so that you can groom them.
For more information on Feral and domestic cats contact the Cats Protection League.
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015