We get a lot of feline visitors for two specific reasons - food and sex. As in the photo below, one reason is the "season". This photo should be titled, "Take A Number." We have quite a few females that feed here, and they attract males, old and new, when they go into season (or as we dog lovers call it "heat.") It can get crazy, with males lined up waiting for the moment they can pounce, or waiting for her to decide when she wants to do the nasty. And somehow the females all seem to go into season at exactly the same time, or within days of each other. There were nights here in February, when VB took Doggie out, and she could hear screeches coming from the next yard, the yard next to that, and so on. It was like an evening of caterwauling and mating.
Some cats, like Johnny Come Lately below, can't wait. They'll jump a girl even when she's trying to put some food in her belly. And as long as the girl keeps her rump to the ground, there ain't gonna be none of that funny business taking place. She'll do it when she's good and ready. Once VB gets the cane out, and bangs it on the floor of the porch, it ain't gonna happen here ever!
Below is "Bad Ass Cat's Brother." He's an old timer. VB remembers seeing him around before Doggie #2 passed away. He's not a regular visitor like some of the other cats. He's here for one reason alone, and he's a very patient fellow, as well.
Mating behaviors, courtship rank and mating success of male feral cat (Felis catus)
"We examined the factors influencing fighting ability, rank during courtship, and mating success of the male cat. Males with heavier body weight mostly won over lighter males in the agonistic encounters during the estrous season. Heavier males occupied the more advantageous positions to copulate with the estrous females and had higher mating success. These results suggest that body weight was one of the important factors affecting the courtship rank and the mating success of the male cat."
And now, of course, we've come full circle. All the females have given birth these past few weeks. They are obviously nursing, and for some, they will be in season again very soon, if not already, as the photo below shows.
He's waiting for the gray and white female, snoozing on the platform above the yard. She's in season, and just gave birth a few weeks ago.
Now for the good news. Two articles below discuss a new drug which prevents pregnancies in female cats. From what VB's gathered on the website, feralstat, it can be given to a colony of cats with little chance of side effects. When VB left Cairo in October 2008, there were eight new kittens feeding here. When she returned, only three were still around.
VB e-mailed the feralstat folks and they called her back (she has a Vonage phone account, with a local Connecticut number, which rings in Cairo - it works through the Internet connection. VB highly recommends it to all expats - it's a huge money saver.) Anyway, VB spoke with the Dr. who came up with this, and he said he is willing to ship overseas. Our problem is that our company only allows paper mailings. VB returns to the States in a little over two weeks for a short visit. She plans on picking up some of this for the feral community here in her neighborhood. According to the Dr., VB needs to add up ALL the cats she feeds. Since the medication is put out once a week in the food, it must be enough to ensure the females get their dose, even though the males will also be eating the food. Considering the costs of neutering (if you ever catch any to begin with) and the rising prices of cat food, the price of $67.00 for four months sounds pretty reasonable.
We get new cats here all the time, whether they be kittens, males in pursuit, or hungry females nursing their babies. So, it seems as if we go through cat food sooner than we used to. As a neighbor's son said, We started with one cat. Then there were three, then six, and now twelve." And during that visit, VB observed some of the same cats that feed at her place, eating at his house. They live two blocks away, so that should give you an idea of the territorial range of some of these Toms. Actually, maybe VB will drop some medication off to him and his family too.
One day, this next week, VB will have to sit in the dining room and watch, and count all the visiting cats. But, then we have a feeding dish on the back porch, by our bedroom, too. Some cats are afraid to come onto the front porch, so we put out a separate plate for them. This is gonna be a bitch!
Oral Contraceptives for Cats
"Connecticut company helping to keep feral cats barren"
"A Westbrook group has developed FeralStat, a drug for female cats that keeps them from getting all hot, bothered and pregnant.
Feral cat caretakers know better than anyone that catching, sterilizing and releasing each one is not possible, but every cat’s gotta eat.
So, to keep cats without kitten, the folks who feed them mix FeralStat with wet cat food once a week and set out the feed bowl for all the cats in the feral colony."
"FeralStat wants to ensure that people are using it for the right reasons and any potential cat contraceptive-giver must take a survey and then speak with a FeralStat vet.
A four-month supply costs $67 and treats as many as 81 cats. Sicuranza said about 200 caretakers are using the product and treating thousands of cats."
Speaking of feedings, the main ingredient to our success as a haunt for cats - the dinner menu. We get way too many visitors all at once, when we grill out. As you can see from the photo below, there are five cats, hanging out, sniffing at the grill, waiting to see what's for dinner, as if they get any of it. They would just fight over it anyway. VB is happy to see that none of them have been dumb enough (so far, knock on wood) to take a dive into the grill pit.
(Below): The apres dinner nap.