Thursday, 19 December 2013

Feeding feral cats

Just like the stray dogs, there is a huge population of feral cats in Turkey.  They mostly survive though because they are good scavengers.  They can jump in and out of rubbish bins and in my experience, in all the areas where we have lived, people put their scraps in bags next to the bins to make it a bit easier for them.

I have posted the following on Facebook, on my page and on several rescue group pages, and I'm glad to see it is being shared far and wide.  It's a message that needs to be circulated, and it's self-explanatory:

"Having just read a friend's status about yet another group of cats having been fed all summer by a German family staying here, only to be left to fend for themselves when the family leaves, I am copying my response here because I think it's important.

How many times have I said to people in tourist areas over the years, if you can't commit to feeding a street animal every day of the year,then don't start. Particularly where cats are concerned.

Unlike dogs, feral cats will scavenge for food. They can jump in and out of the bins, whereas dogs can't. Of course this isn't ideal but it's a means of survival for most. But if tourists or those visiting for a limited amount of time, just feed while they are here they take away the cats' natural scavenging instinct and give them a false sense of security.

I have said repeatedly to people doing this...don't feed individual cats..leave bags of food by the bins and allow them to find it. Some of my Turkish neighbours do this,and have done so in all areas where I've lived. This is why people in animal rescue groups all over Turkey have to implement feeding plans every year when the season ends.

Feeding a cat or dog for a limited amount of time while you are on holiday only makes the problem worse for the volunteers living here who are left behind to pick up the pieces"

This isn't just about Turkey.  There are cats roaming the streets in many countries where people go on holiday.  It's very tempting if you are an animal lover to want to feed them.  You do it out of kindness and I'm sure that for a limited time the cats are happy.

But when you leave, you don't see them returning to where you fed them, day after day to find no-one there.  It's heartbreaking.  In the example I mentioned above, volunteers in the area are now trying to sort out the aftermath.  There are many cats there, some pregnant, and also tiny kittens.  It is cold and they are starving.  It creates a huge problem for the rescue groups, whose funds are limited. 

 Many other cats who have become used to human contact, and kittens who need hand-rearing, have been taken in by volunteers and these they try to re-home if possible.  Large numbers of cats are now being neutered by groups and put back on the streets, to keep the population down.  

Please think twice when you are tempted to feed a stray when you are on holiday.  Leave food by the bins so that they can keep their scavenging instinct and survive when you return home.

It's different with dogs.  There are shelters here, although in most cases not ideal, but it is some kind of refuge.  Rescue groups do feed those left on the streets, particularly through the winter, and try to get as many as possible neutered...and some are re-homed.

Like other rescuers in Turkey, Mr A and I continue to feed the dogs on the streets, but not the cats.  People in this village leave scraps by the bins for them, as do we.

There are more stray dogs appearing in the village by the day and we are getting through a lot of food.  I know I keep mentioning it, and please do not feel obliged,  but a donation, no matter how small, will go a long way in enabling us to continue.  Thankyou x


  1. Well done for trying to ease the lot of feral cats as well as feral dogs, Ayak. I'm not sure I agree with everything you've written as my experience after many years as a cat-owner, is that the hunting, scavenging instinct still exists in even the most well-fed and highly domesticated cat. We feed a few semi-feral cats at our French house, but they are never reliant on us and we never try to handle or tame them. Yet they turn up year after year as soon as we arrive in the summer, having obviously survived the rigours of the winter.

    1. I am sure you're right about the scavenging instinct staying with cats, but the problem here is really the vast numbers of them. It's a bit of a fight for food amongst so many, and they tend to become territorial, ie they will stay pretty close to the bins where they are used to finding food. If someone feeds them elsewhere for a period of time, they lose their territory as well as some of their scavenging instinct. You hit a nail firmly on the head here when you said you never handle them or try to tame them. Sadly most tourists who feed them here DO handle them. They undoubtedly end up confused if nothing else xx

    2. Ayak, if I tried to handle them, I'd be well bitten or scratched for my pains. :-) However, DH would never stand for my allowing them to break into bags and leave food scraps scattered round the garden to attract vermin, so feeding them and leaving them alone is the best I can do.

    3. I get it Perpetua. I suppose realistically there just aren't the huge numbers of feral cats in France as there are here in Turkey. The worst scenario here is the huge numbers who have been spoilt by visitors then left to fend for themselves. The volunteers in the tourist areas work tirelessly to trap, neuter and release hundreds of cats on the streets...this is the real solution to the problem. The other thing that really gets to me is the way that restaurants in the tourist areas have pups or kittens in the front of their establishments to attract customers, then once the season is over dump them. This is how Monty and Tommy started out.

      We will probably have to agree to disagree about the can say which is right or wrong, we just have our own opinions and ways of doing things. I do know full well though how hard it is to ignore a hungry animal xxx

  2. I know what you sister in law in Izmir said the same thing. Not to feed them because when you are gone they keep coming. But we were lucky because there is a teacher who lives next door and belongs to some Animal shelter group and always has big bags of dog and cat food. So every morning when she went off to school her Mom would come out and put into these 3 dishes they had some food and they would come running. Actually when I would wake up at the crack of dawn they were already sitting and waiting. Before we left..... we left some money for the Mom to go to Tansas down the street to pick up some food for the animals.....on FB she showed the food she purchased and said mainly for kittys' b/c hardly any dogs were coming around.

    Take care....XX

    1. How lovely of the teacher and her mother to feed them regularly Erica. There are some very kind people about. And very nice of you too to leave money for them for food xxx

  3. You know my feelings of feeding the feral cats around houses! I always put my fish heads in an open container in the municipal bins at night. They are always gone the next morning. The cats are very good at jumping in and out.

    1. Oh yes BtoB I do remember you telling me about the problem! The food in or next to the bins doesn't stay there for long.

  4. I didn't realise that cats lost the scavenging instinct so relatively easily.

    We had at one time 17 cats - feral - in France, being fed in the barn but were 'spared' wondering how to keep their feeding going when we left as the chasse poisoned them - they might attack pheasants' nests you understand.
    Since la chasse had eradicate all wild pheasants and regularly released poor birds who were farmed and thought that someone approaching them was going to give them food so were real sitting ducks the argument did not hold water....
    Just another part of the unlovely underbelly of France.

    1. That was certainly a no-win situation Helen for cats and pheasants.

      I wonder if I should have worded my post a little differently, in that it is more to do with cats becoming reliant on humans feeding them than losing their scavenging instincts so easily. I think they will always dogs do too when they get the chance...but it's mostly due to there being so many here that they become territorial, and lose their territory when fed over a period of time. People could really help if they just took one cat to a vet to be neutered and put back on the streets.


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If you would like to help my rescue dogs and the strays (dogs and cats) of our village and local industrial estate, please email me for details at Thankyou x