Animal welfare groups have asked for help to address the country’s worsening problem of feral cats, of which more than 200,000 are estimated to be in the wild.
Some areas are experiencing large overpopulations of feral cats with serious consequences for the welfare of domestic animals, fragile ecosystems and even local communities.
Cat overpopulations can cause health and welfare problems for the cats themselves and can have serious impacts on vulnerable wildlife, including birds and small mammals.
The Covid-19 pandemic is believed to have contributed to the growing feral cat population as control measures were severely disrupted for two years.
Representatives of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) have called on people to support their Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) program which is being run nationwide with the support of local veterinarians.
The ISPCA said there is a subtle but important difference between stray cats and feral cats.
“While both terms describe the same species, there is a difference,” a spokesman said.
“Stray cats have been socialized with humans at some point in their lives and have been abandoned or lost, causing them to lose touch with humans.
“But wild cats have never had human contact and are generally quite fearful of humans.
“Some feral kittens under eight weeks old can be socialized and even adopted as pets.”
Wild cats can have up to three litters per year, potentially leading to a significant increase in the local population in a short period of time. Under certain conditions, feral cats can have their own litters by the age of six months.
Some areas have seen significant increases in feral cat populations, with Limerick, Tipperary and parts of North Cork reporting increases in recent months.
Arra Vets issued a public appeal for help. “With feral cats, people do a thing called trap, castrate and return. They capture the cat, have it spayed and then put it back in its original environment,” veterinarian Mairead Leahy told TippFM.
“They’re not trying to domesticate them and put them in homes. Sometimes at this age, if the kittens are raised in a feral group, they can generally be domesticated.”
“But if there are feral cats there, you have to get someone on board to help.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/more-than-200000-feral-cats-living-wild-as-ispca-appeals-for-help-to-reduce-numbers-42022318.html “More than 200,000” feral cats are left roaming wild as ISPCA asks for help to reduce numbers