We spend a lot of time working with many local animal charities and one of the things we do fairly regularly is help neuter colonies of wild cats. These cats are totally feral and unhandleable! There are many areas of land that have wild uncontrolled populations of cats. These are often farms or disused buildings. Although they do keep down vermin, the cats breed uncontrollably, one queen can be responsible for up to 200 kittens in a year!
The downside of this is the cats carry disease which can be spread to domestic cats that come across them, particularly cat flu, feline leukaemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (a disease similar to AIDs). The other problem is that kittens end up becoming pets if they are found by people when they are young and add to the massive problem we have of too many cats (all the charities and animal homes are full, and have been for months, if not years!). The cats in these colonies are often undernourished and if they have road accidents etc they tend not to get treatment and can suffer horrific injuries.
So charities, usually Cats Protection (CP) as in this case, set humane traps, baited with food. The cats are caught and brought to us where, as long as there are no obvious signs of disease, we anaesthetise and neuter them. In order to stop us anaesthetising the same cats again if they wander back into a trap, we have to mark them in some way. This is done by ‘ear tipping’ which means removing the tip of the left ear. This is then obvious to the trappers who can release them if caught again on site.
Once operated on, the cats are kept in baskets for a night or two (to make sure they have recovered OK) then released back at the place they came from.
This is important work and all the CP workers are volunteers who dedicate a large amount of time to projects such as this.