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spay that stray

Blind kitten called Lorcan shows the need for spaying feral cats

Last week was Feral Cat Awareness Week – here’s why people are being encouraged to ‘spay that stray’.

A BLIND KITTEN called Lorcan shows the need for neutering Ireland’s wild cats – and his owner has set up a national week to raise awareness of this very topic.

Lorcan is a companion animal of Maureen O’Malley-Gibbons, who runs Mayo Cat Rescue. With 47 cats in her care – many of whom were dumped or were feral – she knows exactly why there is a need to trap, neuter and release (TNR) wild cats.

She found Lorcan while he was part of a colony of 14 wild cats, and he had horrific eye injuries. This is common amongst such kittens, as they don’t have vaccinations.

(This video may be a little distressing at the very beginning, as it shows his eye infection)


2013 marks the fourth year of National Feral Cat Awareness Week, which began on 10 August and runs until today.

O’Malley-Gibbons runs a Facebook page called Feral Cats Ireland, to try and get “some awareness out there about feral and stray cats” as “in many respects they are at the bottom of the list”.

“Basically the awareness week is to raise awareness for the plight of feral and stray cats in our communities,” said O’Malley-Gibbons.

She pointed out that most towns, villages and cities in Ireland would have stray and feral cats, and that the aim is to inform people that humanely trapping, neutering and then returning the cats or kittens helps to control breeding. This works to ensure that more cats don’t find themselves stray.

Spay that stray

Lorcan playing with his buddy Leo. Pic: Maureen O’Malley-Gibbons

The other message is to “spay that stray” – if you find a stray near your property, and begin to feed them, O’Malley-Gibbons encourages you to spay them. While it is fantastic the cat is being fed, “you need to take the next step of spaying to stop cat breeding”, she said.

When some people find that the one kitten they fed has turned into 21 cats and kittens, this can sadly lead to people wanting to “get rid” of the animals. But to O’Malley-Gibbons and TNR supporters, “there is another more humane solution”.

She pointed out that spaying can also curb “undesirable” behaviour, particularly with aggressive male cats. The traps used to catch the cats are humane, she added.

“In Ireland there’s no such thing as an actual wild cat,” explained O’Malley-Gibbons. “What Irish people would call ‘wild’ is really a former domestic pet cat that has been abandoned or left behind when owners move away or pass away. They kind of revert to a wild state in order to survive.”

They can be found in housing estates, industrial estates, factories or even hotels. Without spaying, they can breed and the animals can develop health issues, like Lorcan.

Lorcan. Pic: Maureen O’Malley-Gibbons

“So many of the kittens have eye infections,” said O’Malley-Gibbons. She took in Lorcan two years ago, and has seen him go from a kitten with severely infected eyes to a cat that is happy to climb trees and jump around with his feline companions.

“There’s some lovely stories out there. Even with feral cats, a lot of people come to really love them. The cats will often tame down over a period of time. There are many happy endings.”

“A lot of kittens like Lorcan would be out there that we just never hear about. They just die there alone. That is part of what we are trying to stop as well – we’re trying to get a handle on stopping the breeding and stopping the dying,” said O’Malley-Gibbons.

It’s just so people know there is a solution to the uncontrolled breeding. There is a humane solution, there is an effective solution.

People who would like to find out more can visit the Feral Cat Facebook, website, or contact their local animal welfare society or veterinarian.

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