Feb 20, 2020 10:59 AM

Exploring Outdoors Kansas: Feral cats

Posted Feb 20, 2020 10:59 AM
Steve Gilliland 
Steve Gilliland 

Every town has its population of feral cats. Let me be clear right up front, when I say feral cats, I’m referencing cats that live on the streets or in the fields, that are unsocialized and quite possibly have never had an “owner,” not Fluffy that rolls around in a paper sack on the living room floor and cuddles with you at night. 

Over the years many towns and states have adopted programs to trap and neuter feral cats to keep them from reproducing. That’s good, but then most are turned loose once again to live back on the streets and in the fields. Cats are ferocious and efficient hunters, and if they live near grain elevators, feedlots etc. where there are lots of rodents, they can be extremely helpful. The problem is that every town also has its person or persons who feel compelled to feed the feral cats, and then the town ends up with feral cat colonies where they hang out and wait for their next handout. Feeding feral cats does not help the cats in the long run and is actually illegal in many towns.

My biggest problem with feral cats is that because of their tenacity and hunting efficiency, they kill lots of pheasant and quail chicks and songbirds. I’m sure you’ve all watched blue jays and barn swallows dive bomb neighborhood cats that get too close to spring nests. Those parents have good cause to drive away those cats. Red foxes are good natural feral cat control technicians. Talk to any cat owner who lives in a small town where red foxes are known to live and they will quite likely have stories of disappearing cats. Occasionally I mistakenly catch a cat in a coyote trap. If it has a collar and a tag or looks like its some farmers good barn cat, I’ll let it loose. But if it appears to be a wild feral cat, it just becomes a bad day for the cat. Over the years, feral cat populations in the wild have become so out of control in some state that hunting seasons were proposed for them. 

I have some unique ideas for making use of feral cats in the outdoors. I envision an entire stable of them to rent out as living four-legged heating pads, available to us hunters as foot, neck and lap warmers as we sit in deer and duck blinds. I’d call my whiskered employees something like Cozy Kitties or Toasty Tabbies. Cats always want to sleep and just naturally curl up in a ball anyway, so simply lay a pair on your boots or drape a couple across your shoulders and let nature take its course. Ditto for ice fisherman as they sit on over-turned five-gallon buckets on frozen lakes; a longhaired tabby wrapped around their neck like a scarf and one laid across each boot would really help cut the chilly wind. Sure, you might be the laughing stock of the lake for a while…until all your buddies are dancing around like Rumpelstiltskin trying to get warm. Then a few extra Cozy Kitties kept in your truck would be rented out in no time, payin’ you enough to stop at the seafood counter at Dillons on the way home when the fish didn’t bite.  Winter campers would benefit doubly from a couple of Toasty Tabbies tucked into their sleeping bag. When we were kids, we’d ride in grandpa’s truck camper as he sped down the road on fishing trips, and the gentle rocking of the camper would put us to sleep in a heartbeat. Just imagine how fast you’d be asleep with a Cozy Kitty curled up beside you in your sleeping bag and purring like a bear in a honey factory. 

These are just a few novel ides for using feral cats in the outdoors. I see it as a win-win-deal; a few feral cats are taken out of the wild, pet lovers are happy cause’ they weren’t killed and we hunters reap the benefits. Why I’ll bet the poor mislead folks at PETA would even be proud of me……. hmmm, wait, if that’s my reward maybe I need to rethink this whole thing!   Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve Gilliland, Inman, can be contacted by email at [email protected]

Cover image by Mabel Amber, from Pixabay