An Opinion Piece based on our local collective empirical evidence.
There’s a feral cat that is a house cat but pretends she’s the queen of felines on our street. She’s a big yellow tabby. Every morning I watch her sit, centered in her driveway, waiting. Waiting for her disappointing humans to come out and let her in the house. She sits staring at our house. At me. Pretty sure she’s staring at me now because our new windows are big panes of glass and the window to my left faces her driveway perfectly. She’s disgusted with me. I can tell.
There’s a feral cat that is a house cat but pretends he’s king of felines on our street. One house down from the queen of felines. He is mottled in white and greys. He sits on top of his house after scrambling the broken-down fence, after jumping from the garbage can, after leaping from the gray sedan with two flat tires. He works his way to the gutter filled with leaves and stares down into a world that is a complete disappointment to him.
There is a feral cat that is a house cat but believes she’s the queen of felines next door. Which is a problem for the queen of felines in the driveway. The second queen, striped grays and tans, sits on her porch, ignoring the first queen. The king of felines watches the queens in the early morning. All waiting for their disappointing humans to open their front doors.
There are other feral cats that think they are house cats, but believe they are royal throughout the neighborhood. We have replaced the word feral with community. Community cats. It’s a bit more territorial, and a bit dirtier than that. Our backyard is a litter box to one queen from the condos. She’s bright white. Our dog, a Catahoula hound, has treed her once. And begs permission to continue his hunt. If we let go of his leash during walks, he could and would climb that tree. He’s Catahoula. Yon queen has no clue how close she comes to beheading.
The Kingdom of Feral isn’t limited to cats. Dogs, humans, ducks, rabbits, rats, parrots, snakes, lizards, chickens, roosters, hogs, horses, goats, and cattle all have set up kingdoms. Macaws have grown in such numbers in south Florida that poaching bird or egg for retail, food, and feathers is normal. Considered invasive, there are no laws to protect them. Hogs and snake numbers are so large now there are hunting seasons, and there is just kill on sight seasons that never end. Dogs caught, then euthanized. Homeless humans are now labeled invasive, then herded, moved, tented, bused, and herded again.
Nine boat-tailed grackle stay nearby our address in St. Petersburg. They eat early in the morning, late in the afternoon. Their females join them once a day. One bird, Noir, has become a good friend. I know the boats are here because their wing and voice calls are jungle drums. Noir seeks my face in the window to my left. He’s brought the flock.
Jack, a blackbird friend of mine for six years now, brings his micro-murder year-round. They let the macro-murder know I’m a haven to charge up for the work of family building ahead this spring. We’ll have a hundred crow visiting, and a half dozen raven for a handful of weeks. Then it’s Jack and his murder the rest of the year. Jack and I have commiserated in the morning so often it’s become an expectation for both of us. I’ll find him on the fence waiting. The starlings scramble in flight to eat. They are so loud; it feels like rain.
Nature finds balance within its myriad of spinning orbits. Centrifugal forces create the patterns. It’s quite beautiful, quite ruthless. Humans create labels, unenforced laws, enforced laws, ideas, promises, broken promises, alliances, enemies, and white lies. There is no center to create forces to balance anything. We are a heaving, sighing, screaming, crashing, roiling, selfish cannibal organism.
Pinellas County ordinance states, “No dog or cat shall run at large within the county, as defined under this article. Any person who possesses, harbors, keeps, or has control or custody of any dog or cat which is running at large shall be in violation of this article, regardless of the knowledge, intent or culpability of the owner.”
They also explain there aren’t enough animal control officers, so try to work it out with your neighbor. Or trap your neighbor’s cat and bring it into animal control so they can process the cat. And you can rent a trap from a few places. They’re kind enough to link to these organizations.
Florida Wildlife Conservation goes onto explain more about feral cats here.
There’s been a real battle over feral cats for a decade. Community cats are here and doing their level best to hunt ever last song bird, reptile, shorebird, and young thing for sport. And yet, we must love and respect them for their nature. Their value. Their right to survive. Not so much domestic feral rats, or alligators, or snakes. Hogs, coyote, Muscovy or parrots. Or the homeless. But those are a different feral and those are not cute to the majority. We prefer attractive personalities for passion projects and posters. We prefer the familiar to latch on as a cause and care. We prefer feeling good. We prefer it not in our backyard.
The FWC states “The FWC’s policy on feral cats is to protect native wildlife from predation, disease and other impacts presented by feral and free-ranging cats.
This policy does not call for the FWC to kill cats, nor does it outlaw the practice of Trap-Neuter-Release. It is the foundation for FWC staff to interact with affected parties and develop science-based, humane solutions when cats impact wildlife — particularly on lands the Commission owns or manages.”
So, again, not in their backyards.
Friends of Strays states “Pinellas Cats Alive! is a Friends of Strays return-to-field (RTF) program that provides a lifesaving option for community cats that would have otherwise been euthanized, while continuing to work toward the goal of reducing the overall community cat population. Under the program, community cats that are surrendered to Friends of Strays are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, given basic medical care including flea and tick prevention, and then returned to their communities.”
You can trap and bring in 2 cats a day if you like. Neighbor’s, stranger’s, rogue. No appointments are necessary. They’ll process the cats. They have traps to rent for $75. And helpful hints to trap a cat, and not wildlife. Traps are available during business hours 7 days a week.
Exerting effort, money, emotion, time, focus, debate, beliefs, struggle, angst, and resources to control problems rather than balance, or better yet not create a problem by using good proactive choices, is human nature. We throw things at problems alongside words that make us feel good and get just enough done that we feel good talking about it yearly at meetings while presenting YOY data. We are so busy doing to feel good we aren’t balancing anything. Balance doesn’t come from focusing on feeling good.
The word balance does not appear anywhere in the history of homo sapien, homo erectus, and Neanderthals. We don’t seek balance. We seek control. We seek admiration. We seek to feel good. We seek what we want when we want it. And we will grind, or allow a surrogate to grind, another human or being into dust to get it. Collectively, we are the least balanced and the most dangerous organism on the planet.
And so, the queens and kings of the felines perch and post to look down on their disappointing humans.