Ummm… no, they really don’t.
Whenever I’m stumbling with creativity and find myself at a loss of what to write about, I delve deep into the comments sections on some of our more popular Instagram posts and suddenly, BAM- the topic hits me in the face like an ACME anvil falling smack on top of Wile E. Coyote’s head. That’s exactly what happened this week. A very ‘special’ follower made the following comment on one of our posts…
“It’s mind boggling how cats have survived for so many years in nature, on their own, before your baths…”
WOW. Where do I begin with this one? Does everyone reading this know what a feral cat is? If you don’t- a feral cat is the exact same as your adorable little house panther in all ways but one: It does not have a relationship with humans. It was born in the wild and will likely (though not always) remain wild the rest of its life. Have YOU ever had any experience with feral cats? I’d love to know your opinion on this if you have. I, for one, have had a lot of experience with them, and have seen some pretty epic skin and coat conditions that could have easily been prevented if they had been privy to human intervention. Let’s just start with the fact that today’s domestic cat is just that… DOMESTIC. It isn’t equipped to survive in the wild, although sometimes it is forced to. The average lifespan of a feral cat is about 1/3 that of a housecat, so no- it’s not “doing just fine” without human interference.
When Whitney & I worked as a veterinary technicians, we routinely worked on feral cats that had been trapped. Generally we would spay/neuter, ear tip, vaccinate, and de-flea, and deworm them and send them home the same day, in the trap. They were always, and I mean ALWAYS absolutely filthy, covered in fleas, infested with mites (of every kind, lol), and just generally looked worse for the wear. They were often matted or bald or a horrifying combination of the two. Active bleeding or purulent wounds and scratches were the norm, as were botflies and ticks. No one involved would have looked at the majority of these cats and said “Looks like they are doing great without us!.” Occasionally- yes, one would look pretty decent. Decent, I said. Not great.
There were a few instances where some of them had to be sedated for a complete shave down due to the matting. Of course they then had to be returned to their colony- even in the dead of winter. This was not an ideal situation but it was all that could be done. For some reason, the fact that these cats had never been cared for by humans did not magically protect their fur and skin. Why do you think that is? Could it be that the reason is IT IS THE EXACT SAME AS THE CATS LIVING IN YOUR HOUSE? YES. Maybe YOUR cat has a longer, fluffier, more luxurious coat that needs a ton of maintenance (Persian owners- you know who you are), but these feral cats have often have Persian or Maine Coon, or insert any other breed of cat here, in their DNA. How? Because breeders have intact males and females that escape, or you as a pet owner decide to hold off on spaying or neutering your kitty for whatever reason… and just like that- the feral colony at the end of the cul-de-sac gets an injection of fluffy coat into the gene pool.
So that’s my two cents for the week. Domestic cats haven’t been “doing just fine” in the wild for hundreds of years. Ask anyone who manages a feral colony. It takes a TON of work from tireless volunteers to keep those cats healthy, and alive. And I, personally, have never seen a feral cat that wouldn’t have benefited in some way from a professional groom. Have you ever volunteered with a TNR or feral cat program? There are several here in the Charleston area. I’m attaching links if you would like to check them out/make a donation/volunteer.
~Shannon & Whitney
Want to get involved? Managing feral cat colonies is a thankless endeavor but these people do good work! Check out their organizations by clicking on any of the links listed below.