WHAT ARE CAT COLONIES?
Feral cats would rather not interact with humans at all in their lives. Feral cats will stay away from people. They can live wherever there is food, water, and a place to sleep. To survive, these cats roam freely and have returned to their natural habits. In a world that is frequently hostile and dangerous for them, they take care of themselves, and their life expectancy is low. A feral cat's life expectancy is approximately two years if he reaches adulthood and lives independently. The feral cat may live to be as old as ten years old if he lives in a colony with a regular caregiver.
“Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.”
-James Harriot, Veterinarian
Some feral cats live in cat colonies that look like lion pride in some ways. A group of typically related female cats and their offspring make up a cat colony. The abundance of food and other resources determines the size of the cat colonies. Adult male cats do not live in cat colonies. Still, females and males can be friendly, especially if they are familiar.
Queens, female cats, share many activities in cat colonies, such as raising kittens and protecting the colony from intruders. The queen cats will teach the kittens appropriate behaviors and care for, groom, and protect each other's kittens. The queens of cat colonies frequently band together to ward off other animals, such as stray cats and cats from other colonies that intrude on their territory. After a few interactions, a stray cat might eventually be allowed into the cat colony.
Hunting is the only activity that cats do not engage in. Every cat will hunt independently within its territory. Even though territories overlap, cats do not work together to catch prey.
To reinforce their collective identity through the transmission of scents, members of cat colonies will groom and rub their bodies against one another. Because of the strong bond between the females in a cat colony, there is very little inter-cat aggression. Fighting within a group is possible, but it is more likely to occur when resources are scarce.
What Is A Colony Of Cats?
Free-roaming domestic cats can be divided into two groups: those in which females form small groups called "cat colonies," which look a lot like a pride of lions, and those that live alone and have their territories.
Since cats are a species that mostly hunt alone, they need to have a hunting territory and define it so that they don't get into fights with other cats. The species cannot continue to exist without this. Therefore, anal glands, urine, feces, and facial glands are used by cats to mark their territory. It has a sensitive nose, and with this territory marking, cats are better able to communicate and avoid direct conflicts. In the wild, territories may overlap with neutral zones where cats can greet one another and interact. When a strange cat enters another cat's territory, it will usually react aggressively by staring, hissing, and growling to scare the other cat away. If that fails, there will be a brief, loud, and violent attack.
“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are God.”
-Christopher Hitchens, Author
Feral cats can and will establish small cat colonies around the food they can find. This only happens sometimes, and some will choose to live alone. However, it is not uncommon for kittens and females to form small groups that work together. These groups may have a very loose hierarchy of dominance, but the relationships are complicated. They don't have an interdependent hierarchy like dogs do. Cat colonies have complex relationships; some cats have stronger bonds while others have fewer ones. This may be partly influenced by their relationship, age, and other factors. However, they remain solitary hunters and neither develops a pack mentality nor a social survival strategy. Therefore, although cats are not packed animals, they can adapt to form social groups.
It would appear that only when the members of the colony are familiar and there is no competition for food or other resources do cat colonies function well. With familiar people, cats can form strong social relationships. Multiple lactating queens frequently care for kittens in feral cat colonies. A more prominent female cat colony may be associated with the primary food source in the center. Smaller groups in the peripheral areas around the central colony have less access to the food source, are in worse health, and perform less during reproduction.
Male cats tend to live on the periphery of cat colonies, occupying large territories that may overlap with multiple groups of female cats.
In the female cat colonies, aggression is uncommon. Aggression is reduced to a minimum when females have a strong sense of connection and familiarity. Aggression is most common when male kittens reach sexual maturity and are excluded from the group or when a tom patrols his territory. Toms rarely attack females, but females, unless they are sexually receptive, frequently attack males who get too close. When there are a lot of familiarities, amicable behavior can also occur between males and females.
In What Ways Do Cat Colonies Grow?
“Cats have a scam going – you buy the food, they eat the food, they go away; that’s the deal.”
-Eddie Izzard, Actor
Cats tend to scavenge on their own when food is scarce and form groups around available food sources. The number of cats living in a colony can range from two to fifteen.
Feral cats are very social in the cat colonies, forming close friendships with other cats and raising their young together.
The core of a feral cat colony is made up of related females and their offspring. The group typically includes at least one older male, though they may mate with females from other cat colonies. While some tomcats restrict their territory to a single colony, others roam widely.
The availability of places for the cats to eat, rest and hide determines their overall size. Cat colonies are more significant in some places than in others. Groups of cats tend to be smaller when they are forced to hunt for food alone. More significant cat colonies are found in areas with opportunities for scavenging.
Female cats in a colony frequently band together to ward off other animals, such as stray cats and cats from other colonies that intrude on their territory. After several interactions, they may eventually allow a stranger to join. Still, unknown cats cannot simply enter a territory and expect to be accepted.
How to Help Feral Cats?
“When my cats aren’t happy, I’m not happy. Not because I care about their mood but because I know they’re just sitting there thinking up ways to get even.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley, Poet
Cat colonies are fortunate to have a human caretaker who brings food and water daily. Most of the time, these caregivers are concerned about cat owners who want to help feral cats survive. They feed the cat colony and frequently monitor the health of its members.
Utilizing the Trap Neuter Return (TNR) method with the cat colony is the most humane method for controlling the feral cat population. TNR entails trapping community cats, transporting them to the veterinarian for rabies vaccination and spaying or neutering, and safely returning them to the cat colonies.
Due to their lack of human socialization, feral cats in cat colonies typically cannot be adopted.