A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats

This book could be titled The Encyclopedia of Community Cat Management, because an encyclopedia is what it really is. Only it’s not some dry old tome filled with short entries that somehow always leave you needing more. Instead, it’s an interesting read, whether you read it cover to cover or dip into one of the chapters to study up on a specific topic.

Another word author Louise Holton could have slipped into the title is “compassion.” Because this guide is filled with compassion for all—the community cats (a.k.a. feral cats), their caretakers, and even those who think feral cats should be eradicated (but let’s talk about them later).

The basics

The contents of ACR’s Guide to Managing Community Cats cover everything we could possibly think of that has anything to do with feral cats—and a lot more. Holton first provides a brief history of the domestic cat and an introduction to feral cats and that so-much-better term “community cats.”

The chapter on the evolution of no-kill animal care is fascinating reading. Just thirty years ago, my own She of Little Talent volunteered in a shelter where each week she saw the employees deciding which cats (and dogs, too, but she mostly remembers the cats) had had their chance at adoption, had failed to get adopted, and needed to be euthanized to make room for some other cat who hadn’t had a chance yet. It was sad, but you know what? That’s just the way it was. “No-kill” was a totally foreign concept. It’s amazing how far we’ve come, but there is still quite a ways to go, because, as Holton reminds us, far too many healthy animals are “humanely killed” each year (there’s an oxymoronic term for you), just because they’re “extra.”

For caretakers and veterinarians 

Holton also introduces us to the practice of trap-neuter-return (TNR), in which a colony of feral cats is evaluated; the cats are safely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and (ideally) microchipped before being returned to the colony site; and the caretaker provides daily care, to include providing food and water, shelter, and litter boxes.

Notice this feral cat's left ear.
That tipped ear tells people that she
belongs with a managed colony.
Photo by twinschoice via Adobe Stock.
The cats are also ear-tipped, having a quarter inch cut off the tip of their left ear. We’d heard about this before, but we never realized how important it is: Ear-tipping identifies a cat as one who is sterilized and belongs to a managed colony. That information could save the cat’s life if he ends up with animal control.

This seems a good place to mention that taking good care of a cat colony is a lot more involved than filling up a food bowl once in a while. To that end, the book includes sections on safe trapping, relocating, providing good winter shelter, and, for veterinarians, how to partner effectively with caretakers to maintain cats’ health.

We were especially pleased to learn that cats in well-managed colonies can live long, healthy lives. This is totally unlike what we’ve heard in the past about feral cats living short and rather horrid lives.


That short-and-horrid-lives thing is just one feral-cat myth Holton debunks. You’ve heard of the bazillions of birds and other small creatures killed by feral cats every year? If, like so many of us, you love both cats and birds, you may have been disturbed by these claims, but Holton takes a close look at the studies those numbers come from, and it turns out… Okay, we’re not going to say that the numbers have been cooked, but it does look like those studies are not representative of the larger world.

There is sometimes a certain rabid frothiness to anti-feral-cat and anti-TNR pronouncements, and it’s nice to see Holton’s calm-headed response. May truth and compassion guide our actions always.

And by the way, you want to talk about an invasive species that has a tendency to drive others to extinction? Humans, look in the mirror.

Does this community cat look like he's "extra"?
Like he's living a short, horrid life that is not worth living?
No, we don't think so either.
Photo by twinschoice via Adobe Stock.

 For all cat lovers

Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats is primarily for those involved in or interested in caring for cat colonies, but its information is valuable for all cat lovers. We learned so much from this guide that we couldn’t possibly fit it all into one little review. The chapters that introduce feral cats, the history of no-kill, and the evolution of TNR are worth the price of admission. Plus, you never know when a stray is going to show up on your doorstep and eventually become a member of your household. You never know when the TNR vs. eradication issue is going to come up in your own community. It’s good to have an authoritative resource on your bookshelf to turn to at such times.

Yes, there are some misplaced commas that were a distraction to She of Little Talent’s inner editor, but most normal people will probably not be bothered by them. In the end, it’s Holton’s compassionate voice we will remember and respect.

Very highly recommended!

A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!

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