Where did your cat come from?
This is not a trick question.
OK, this is not a trick question in the same way that Anchorman is not a masterpiece and Cinnabons are not lethal. Which is to say, of course, that it totally is.
But humor me, the way you would a small child or a simpleton: where did your cat come from?
Was it a shelter? A sanctuary? Were you so blessed and blissful as to adopt from Tabby’s Place?
But where did your cat really come from?
Unless the earth opened up and spewed forth your cat in a glowing orb of light, your feline family member came from…ferals.
Stay with me here, homies. Let’s spot-check this outrageous statement on some Tabby’s Place stars.
First, an easy one: Mimi, the girl with the most cake. Meems may not be feral in the sense of “screaming feral,” but she clearly, undeniably came directly from the great wide open. Scooped up from the outdoors, unspayed and bereft of any official identification, Mimi was clearly born outside, raised outside, and spawned of feral stock.
But what about a cat like, say, Buddy? Buddy has spent nearly his entire life either at Tabby’s Place or on the Tabby’s Place waiting list. Prior to landing in Ringoes, NJ, the gentlest boy in Suite FIV was in the loving care of a foster mama, who plucked him from a shelter. After all that, he’s still only two years old. But Buddy’s origins are firmly feral. Although the details are known only to Buddy and sister Juju, our delicate dude was born outdoors and somehow swiftly infected with FIV. Since then, he’s had a slow awakening to the coolness of humans. He’s not feral now, but his birth certainly was.
Okay, say ye. So some now non-feral cats were born to feral moms. Fine. But what about cats whose moms and dads and great aunties were all tame and known and owned?
Ah. So we’re going to play that game.
Then let’s take, for lack of a larger lovelier example, Jackie. As best we know, Jackie’s entire existence has been spent in the care of humanity, more than half of it at Tabby’s Place. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Jackie was born at the shelter from which she came to Tabby’s Place. Let’s go crazy and say that Jackie’s mom was born there, too — and her mom, and her mom, and her mom, going back to six generations of Jackie. It was a veritable Jackie Factory of Fun (not entirely unlike the Play-Doh Fun Factory, and nobody wants feral Play-Doh).
How, then, does Jackie come from ferals?
Let’s imagine that we could follow all the generations. Even if Jackie’s ancestors go back to the Mayflower — known and owned and non-feral* — somewhere the chain breaks. At some point, a great-great-great-great-grandJackie came in from the cold and spawned her smidgens.
Ultimately, it all goes back to the wild. And if you’ve ever wondered why your own tame tiger won’t let you forget this, now you know.
So what does this mean for us now? We spay, we neuter, we adopt cats as fast as we can find fabulous families. But that, alone, is just bailing out the bathtub as it overflows.
We’ve got to go back to the wild too.
This is where Tabby’s Place’s new adventure comes in. Targeted Trap-Neuter-Return, by ferreting out the ferals, turns off the tap. We trap ’em. We sterilize ’em. We settle ’em in colonies where they’ll live like kings and queens.
And the fat, happy ferals stop foisting kittens on a world with too many desperate situations.
If your brain works the way that mine does, you have my condolences you’ve already gone to the end of this rainbow: Fine, say ye. Fabulous. Totally tubular. But what happens when we spay and neuter ALL the ferals and they ALL stop having kittens and someone wants to adopt a cat and there are no more homeless cats available and all the shelters are empty?
What indeed? Well: I am hereby on record as saying that I will personally lead the dance of joy across that bridge when we reach it.
*In which case, shame on those Pilgrims and the 400 years of folks who never spayed their Jackies. Not that I can blame them for wanting such a fabulous specimen to reproduce, but still.
PS: Special thanks to our formidably fabulous vet tech, Denise, for pointing out the paradigm behind this post: all cats go back to feraldom.