Jun 7, 2020

Maverick Cats

Encounters with Feral Cats
by Ellen Perry Berkeley

The author and her husband lived in a rural area of Vermont, and soon noticed cats around their property. At one time or another they fed or closely observed six different cats, and here describe the feline characters. Some only came to eat and they left again without much interaction. One brought her kittens, which disappeared within a few days. An obviously ill black cat staggered onto their driveway, laid down and died (while the author watched from inside, considering shooting the cat to end its misery but unable to bring herself to do so). Two male cats- one that hangs around for a while then goes off to make its individual living elsewhere- they often see it at some distance in a field later on- and another which starts to act pushy towards a female cat they really admire- are prominent characters. The cat that gets the most pages is a female tortoiseshell that gradually became very friendly and eventually lived inside their house. In alternate chapters the author discusses facts about feral cats. There's several studies on feral cat populations on individual islands mentioned, how the cats do or do not affect other animal populations. Other studies on feral cat numbers in different areas of the country, how prevalent disease is among them, how old they live, etc etc are also referenced. This book was written before trap-neuter-release was really done, so other methods of control- and questioning the need for it at all- is gone over. Reports on findings inside the stomachs of feral cats are given, indicating that they don't kill many songbirds- the vast majority of their prey is rodents. It's a nice little book, but seems to have so many unknowns stated, especially in those chapters on studies that don't have any consensus- because many of them were not finished, or done extensively enough, or had different results in different areas. The main conclusion I drew was that cats are definitely survivors, they don't really need people, they are very much individuals, and thus is all the more a mystery and pleasure when they share your home. But I would have preferred more detail about the cats the author personally knew, then reading all the people she quoted. Maybe this is one of the first books to consolidate research on feral cats, but if so it's done rather casually is my opinion.

Rating: 2/5           142 pages, 1982

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