Mother Nature has been busy this year at the village, producing kittens. The spaces beneath our buildings make for appealing feline nurseries, and some expectant mothers have taken advantage of that. We may have as many as 20 cats on site right now. Four are existing barncats, all spayed or neutered, who have lived here for years. The others are newcomers, eager to carry on the tradition of mass reproduction.
We have space on our grounds for all 20 cats, and we certainly have jobs for them all. Remember, we have buildings that are often empty of humans, we have barns, and we have animal feed, and that all attracts rodents. Now that we have a family of five vicious hunters living under the church, the rats at the nearby farmstead are quaking in terror. That is, the survivors are, but most of our former population have met their feline match.
To stop problem of endless feline reproduction, we are using a program offered by the Dallas SPCA, for controlling the population of feral cats. Feral cats are outdoor cats who are too set in their wild ways to ever become pets. They are not trusting of humans, but they are not aggressive, either. Ferals live together in colonies, and we probably have three colonies and two “lone rangers” on our grounds. One colony lives at the donkey carriage house, and often nap together on the wagon.
Concerned Dallasites can trap a feral, take it to a participating animal welfare facility for spaying or neutering, and release it back to its territory. The SPCA charges $50 for the operation and rabies shot for a feral. You can recognize a feral who has experienced this process by its ear notching. The tip is snipped off to mark it, and no it is not painful, and does protect them from being picked up by animal control.
I have taken two cats in the past, and four more are being operated on today. One of our “Lone Rangers,” named Whiskers, is there today, along with a six-month old female we didn’t get to in time, so that her name is Mamacat. Her two kittens, Blackie and Mittens, are old enough for surgery and they went with her. Yes, after years of loving cats, domesticated and stray, I am running out of creative names and have been reduced to using physical features. But I had to get up before dawn to get them to the clinic for its 7:30 opening time, so they are lucky not to be named Cat 1 and Cat 2. . .
As you wander among our buildings, you may catch a glimpse of Barney, Clover, Sylvia, Tom, or one of the new cats. They are not interested in making friends, but will often allow you the pleasure of observing their beauty.The historic Texans whose lifestyles we teach about here at the museum rarely named their cats, but anyone with a barn valued a good mouser. As modern Texans, we do our best to responsibly care for all the animals we have, even those who show up unexpectedly.
If you would like to help any of your local feral cats, find about more at the Dallas SPCA website, http://www.spca.org/page.aspx?pid=305. They have three clinics that are open most weekdays, and have always been very nice to me and the kitties I have brought to them. And stay tuned–we’re also in conversation about co-hosting a fun event with the SPCA in a few short months.