Monday, 19 October 2015

It's been 4 years since I've updated this blog and a lot has happened. I'm still on my way to obtaining a bachelors degree with the Open University and only have my current course and one more and then I will be finished.

I left my husband of 10 years to live on my own as our marraige just wasn't working. I did everything and he drove me to work. When I left I took two of my four cats, which was heart breaking. I left my two boy cats with him, Gizmo and Ziggy. They are very bonded to each other and easy to care for so I thought it best to leave them with him. I took the girls Lirael & Smoke, who enjoy being on their own and require a lot of attention.

In the last 12 months I've moved out with Lirael & Smoke into a rented mid terrace house, continued on my course work, continued to do the best I can at my job and take care of my grandparents. My grandfather passed away in February, my father the previous year. So I have had a lot to deal with.

Also, I started dating an amazing guy, who is there for me in every way. He worries about me and actively looks after me even when I argue that I'm fine. We play Diablo 3 together and he is teaching Magic the Gathering. It's the best relationship I've ever had.

The cats love him. Even Lirael, who usually likes to be grumpy with everyone.

I'm not 100% sure I'll continue on and do a course for animal behaviour. I would love to do it, it's not cheap a masters degree is about £8,000, or the diploma course through the COAPE is £5,000 for the first part. So it will really come down to money.

So that's my life in a nutshell at the moment.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Course Books have arrived!

I do love getting interesting post.

I got 6 books from the Open Univeristy for my first 60 credit course with them. Journeys Through a Changing World.

The course starts 1st October and I can't wait!

Roll on Bachelors degree.


Thursday, 7 April 2011

Plan R

As Bishop Burton cannot guarantee the Foundation Degree course I'm interested in will run at any point I have decided to go another route.

The Open University.

I start a bachelors degree in Environmental Studies next month. It will probably take me about 5 years to complete it but they have a lovely pay as you go system.

Once that's completed I will probably take another cat course or two before applying at Bishop Burton for their Masters Degree.

It may seem a around about way and what does Environmental anything have to do with animals? Well a big part Animal conservation is knowing the environment, and animal behaviour.

I plan to combine the two for a PHD.

Looking foward to starting, I know it will be a lot of hard work but I do enjoy learning new things.


Thursday, 5 August 2010

There is a plan B

After a few emails and phone calls with Bishop Burton trying to find out the details of when my course starts in September, enrolment date and when the tuition is due. I’ve found out that they may not have enough applicants to actually run the course!

I’m guessing the cut back in student loans and the fact this is a part time course (no funding available at all now) has effected how many people want to enrol.

So I’m looking at plan B.

Take my other two financial administration exams (free) and my bookkeeping exams (£50) for 2010. Low cost, low fuss and I’ll manage certificates in both which will look very good on a CV.

Then in 2011 reapply for the Bishop Burton course or go forward with a diploma in Animal Behaviour.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Feral Cats in England

Below is the last essay I did for COAPE, I received a very good grade on it and I’m very proud of the way it turned out. The rescues involved in helping where amazing to take the time out to do the survey.

Feral Cats in the United Kingdom and the Rescues Who Work Towards Controlling the Feral Cat Population

Wherever humans have travelled or inhabited they have left behind something, often cats, which has led to cats inhabiting the four corners of the world. For better or worse these animals have been let loose in every country, in some cases causing a feral cat problem. Australia is a good example of this where feral cats are accused of obliterating certain native species. The United States of America also has a very large feral problem and deals with it in various ways. Here in the United Kingdom, however, feral cats have more than a few helping hands. Cat welfare groups and rescues all over England and Scotland work tirelessly to help the feral cat population. Not only do they practice trap neuter and release programs and feed these cats but they also attempt to tame as many as they can. On occasion they also move feral colonies to safer locations when necessary. All these rescues are non profit, and very few receive any funds other than donations from the public.

Feral cats are cats who were once domestic cats or the descendants of domestic cats who are now living in the wild. These cats may have once been loved pets that were discarded or (possibly un-neutered) cats who wondered off away from home. Feral cats will form colonies wherever there is food and water supply and shelter available; these places can be farms, industrial estates, hospitals, markets, or landfills. Where there is one feral cat there are sure to be others as most of these animals are un-neutered and will breed until either they are captured or die. The life span of a feral cat is measured in a mere few years whereas a domestic cat’s life span is roughly 15 years, though with today’s veterinarian medicine this can be extended. In contrast, it is estimated that 80% of feral kittens die from accident or disease in their first year. These cats are seen as pests by some and poor creatures that need our help by others. Those who do wish to help have various ways to do so.

There is a common misconception that cats can look after themselves without human intervention. This is dead wrong; all cats need certain things to survive. All cats need a food supply, water supply, and shelter at the very least. Domestic cats receive more than this: toys, beds, gourmet food, and if they are very lucky a loving caring owner. Feral cats on the other hand are not so lucky and must scavenge for themselves. Rescues are not the only ones who help feral cats; animal lovers everywhere will notice animals wondering and some will even feed these animals. The internet is a good place to start for anyone who thinks they have a feral cat or colony in their area. Cat Action Trust ( is a great place to get information on feeding feral cats and taming feral kittens.

England is said to be a nation of animal lovers; however, like any other country where there is love for animals there is also cruelty to animals. Some people believe these feral cats to be pests who open rubbish bags, attack beloved pets, mess in gardens and generally causing havoc. There are others, however, who are sometimes known as crazy cat ladies (and occasionally crazy cat men) who will go out of their way to look after feral cats providing them with shelter, food and water to keep the animals as looked after as they are able. However as with domestic cats there comes a time when the animals get sick or have kittens; this is when these helpers call on cat rescues. They contact rescues to get advice on how to deal with the various problems that come along with feral cats. If they are lucky the rescue will provide a trap to catch the feral cat and help to ensure that the animal gets the care needed. Not all rescues however are so helpful when it comes to feral cats. Unfortunately even with all the good intentions by rescues and feeders there are still people in the United Kingdom who instead of contacting a rescue will put down poison or drown feral cats. Research has shown that killing these animals does not work in the long run, but this fact does not seem to stop certain people.

The Ceclia Hammond website says that there are over 2 million feral cats in the United Kingdom and that this number could be higher. A study was done by J.L. Dards in Portsmouth back in 1975 regarding the feral cat colony located in the dockyard area. Around 300 feral cats lived in an area where they were at a ratio of 2 cats per hectare. The study took into account habitat, territory, social behaviour, population dynamics, activity patters and genetics. Feral colonies in the United Kingdom however are not limited to the Portsmouth area; many others exist. Some are under the watchful eye of a rescue whereas others have yet to be discovered.

Every rescue deals with cats differently. Some will not take FIV positive cats and will either find them a different rescue to go into or put them to sleep. Feral cats are no different; some rescues will not deal with them at all. RSPCA is notorious for telling people who report a feral to leave it alone and not to feed it as the cat will move on (this also applies to stray cats now). Whereas rescues like Cecilia Hammond, Cat Action Trust 1977, Paws Inn, and various others will attempt to find a place for the feral cats or on occasion attempt to tame them, all these rescues will neuter the cat when they are involved. Although the current economic climate is difficult and rescues are closing their doors a few have opened. In Leeds, West Yorkshire the Feral Cat Welfare Group has just started to take up where the Adel Cats Protection left off. Having just opened in March 2010, their goal is to help as many feral cats in the area, and when they come across feral kittens to tame them and find homes. They are currently recruiting volunteers for fostering, photographing, and various other roles as volunteers are crucial to any rescue.

Leeds, West Yorkshire has lost three rescues in the past year. Cats Protection Adel was one of these rescues who closed their doors in January 2010; they were one of the few in the area who dealt with feral cats as well as the more homeable cats. This is happening all over at the moment, rescues that are not getting the help they deserve are closing down and the cats are left to fend for themselves. On the other hand, Cats Protection are proposing to open a new rescue centre in which cats will have one month in there to be shown off with the goal being adoption. This might seem harsher than the fostering option; very few rescues have an actual centre and use volunteers to keep the animals in their own homes until a new home is found. However it is their hope that putting the more homeable cats into the centre will produce a quicker turn around time and leave the fosterer’s time to work with the more skittish cats. Whether this process will succeed is up for debate.

Wharfe Valley Cats Protection (North Yorkshire) has been running for 25 years this year and covers mainly the North West of Leeds including Rawdon, Yeadon and Burley in Wharfedale. The rescue works heavily with feral cats and colonies in the Yorkshire area. They have links with Leeds City Council and attend meetings with them to give a rescue’s perspective on what the rescue has to deal with and how they can work with the council. They also work closely with the housing associations and council tenants to try and stop the problem of out of control breeding that usually leads to feral colonies. With the demise of the Adel Cats Protection, Wharfe Valley has started working with another independent rescue in Bradford to offer neutering vouchers in the area as there is no Cats Protection or RSPCA in the Bradford area.

Sunny Harbour Rescue in Scotland has been open for about a year and has only recently delved into the world of feral cats. They discovered a feral cat colony in an industrial area they cover and instead of ignoring it they contacted all the local rescues to find out if this was a managed feral colony. This was not a managed colony and Sunny Harbour started a trap neuter and release program. For two months they struggled to not only scope out the area to discover how many cats they were dealing with but also to set a feeding regime so that when it was time to start trapping, the cats would have a routine. They ran into one problem where an elderly couple were dumping bags of cat food when the weather was tolerable which meant the cats were not sticking to the routine the rescue had set. Eventually after speaking to various people in the area they discovered who the elderly couple were and discussed the problem with them. Once that stopped they were able to start trapping the cats. They originally thought that there were around ten cats with a few kittens; in the end they discovered that there were over twenty adult cats and a plethora of kittens. Mom and kittens were trapped first, which posed various problems for the trappers. Kittens do not always all go into the trap or the mother cat will leave the kittens in the trap. However, in the end they were able to catch both kittens and mothers. Mothers were neutered once the kittens were weaned and returned to the colony. Kittens where all tamed and homed. The rest of the adult cats were slowly trapped neutered and released. Sunny Harbour will continue to look after this feral colony in the years to come.

Even with the best intentions fostering feral kittens is never an easy task. Teresa at Paws Inn rescue in Cheshire says that it is a special thing when a feral cat allows you to own them and she is not wrong. I myself have fostered feral kittens. Sadly they were caught later than optimal for taming. They were twelve weeks old, a fluffy female black and white and a short haired female who was all black. They were born in someone’s garden in the Leeds area, three kittens. One was kept by the home owners and the other two given to the Cat Action Trust 1977 Leeds branch as they were not people friendly. Any kitten over six or seven weeks of age you have a 50/50 chance of taming. Oddly it worked out exactly 50/50 with Harley and Quinn. With Harley I was able to tame her completely. It took weeks and months and every step forward was hard won. Quinn however never took to being handled; however she would come and sniff your fingers and play with fishing rod like toys. When re-homed two years ago, Quinn disappeared after five days the new owners thought she had escaped outside. However a throughout search of the inside of the house and the surrounding area (including laying traps) was unsuccessful. It wasn’t until seven weeks later she was found under the kitchen cabinets yowling. Sadly she was too far gone and had to be put to sleep, I was there to hold her as the vets put her to sleep. It’s one of the hardest things for a fosterer, to lose one of their charges. Even though the owners were devastated they still had Harley who has continually come on leaps and bounds from the wide-eyed feral kitten to a bossy, loving adult cat. To this day when they take Harley to the veterinarians for her yearly jabs the staff cannot believe that this lovely cat started life as a feral cat.

Sadly not every rescue works with feral cats. It all depends on the rescue itself and in some cases the branch in question. Cats Protection and the RSPCA are prime examples of each branch working differently. Some will help feral cats whereas others will have nothing to do with them at all. There are various reasons for this; a main reason is finances available. Each rescue only has so much money to work with and if all that money goes into working with feral cats then there is nothing left to help unwanted domestic or stray cats in the area. It works both ways; some rescues are better at balancing and can deal with all three types of cats, and other rescues choose what type they will work with. And then there are some rescues who deal only with pedigree cats. The RSPCA have recently announced that they will no longer be taking in stray or unwanted pet cats putting a further strain on smaller rescues around the United Kingdom. This could affect as many as 75,000 unwanted cats across England and Wales.

Although there are many rescues who do work directly with feral cats there is always room for improvement. Unfortunately the two things that would vastly increase a rescue’s work are not always available. Good volunteers are hard to come by in many rescues. People who will willingly go out into any kind of weather conditions to feed and look after feral cats are extremely hard to come by. Money is the other hard to come by resource. Rescues are not government-supported in the United Kingdom and therefore they work off donations alone. Feral cats need not only to be neutered but also health checked, which can cost into the hundreds of pounds depending on how rough the cat has been living.

Sadly even in the year 2010 a lot of misinformation about cats. Many people still believe that a female cat has to have at least one litter, or that a male cat does not have to be neutered. And though the internet has many accessible websites to explain proper care and health of cats not everyone cares or has internet access. Various rescues run local and nationwide campaigns for adopting cats and neutering but these still do not reach everyone. Even people with full knowledge still let un-neutered cats outside to breed. Education is one way forward to help those who do not know or understand how to take care of their cat. Female cats who are allowed to have litter upon litter have a higher risk of certain cancers. Male cats who are un-neutered have a higher risk of cystitis, which in a male cat can be life threatening. Even the most caring owner may not have full knowledge on cat care; my own in-laws recently let their cat lick a chocolate wrapper. They were mortified when I informed them how deadly this could be for cats.

Another way to help stem the tide of the feral cat population, though controversial in the United Kingdom is to lower the neutering age. In the United States of America cats can be neutered as soon as eight weeks of age; here in the United Kingdom the age is six months. Not every owner will remember, care, or be able to take their cat to the veterinarians for this, even when most adopted cats come with instructions that the owner will neuter their cat and occasionally even a voucher is given. There are some risks with a younger neutering age, however there are always risks in every surgical procedure. Lowering the neutering age would help cut down on unwanted or unplanned litters and help to control the feral cat population. It’s not a perfect solution nor will it stop feral colonies from starting up but it could decrease the numbers.

The above are my own opinions which though valid aren’t necessarily what rescues believe. To find out exactly what some of the rescues who work with cats thought, I put together a survey (full survey can be seen in Appendix B) using an online survey website called Survey Monkey ( to find out more. I posted on a forum where various cat rescues work together to help cats, Purrs In Our Hearts Forum. This site not only has rescue workers posting about cats for adoption and information on cats but also raises money to help rescues by selling calendars, holding online auctions and raffles. I received 10 responses to my survey from the following rescues (showing their locations):-

Feral Cat Welfare – Leeds, West Yorkshire
Sunny Harbour Cat and Kitten Rescue – Fife, Scotland
Wharfe Valley Cats Protection - Yorkshire
Adel Cats Protection – Leeds, West Yorkshire
Canterbury Cats Protection – Canterbury, Kent
Eight Lives Left Kitten and Cat Rescue – Gosport, Hampshire
Canterbury and District Cat Rescue – Kent area
Coventry Cat Group - Coventry
Clan Cats – Aberdeenshire
Paws Inn – Cheshire

The first few questions in my survey were basic, to find out the names and locations of each rescue which can be seen above. Surprisingly the rescues are based all over England and Scotland. I also asked how long each rescue had been running. Four are newer and have only been around for between one and five years, three had been running for between five and ten years and a whopping three have been around for fifteen years plus. This shows that though there are some young and brand new (Feral Cat Welfare – Leeds) rescues starting out there are still ones who have been working for years and though the recession has hit everyone hard these rescues are going strong.

I wanted to find out how many volunteers each rescue had because volunteers are the ones who keep rescues running. These are the people who are on the front lines, whether answering phones, fostering cats in their own homes or trapping cats. Six of the rescues answered that they only had between one and five volunteers, two of the rescues showed having between five and ten, one rescue shows between ten and fifteen, and the final rescue answered having fifteen plus volunteers. Based on these results, most rescues only have a handful of volunteers to handle the amount of work that the rescues have.

Having asked whether or not the rescues receive any funding other than donations, only three of the rescues do receive other funding. The other seven receive no other funding at all and live completely off donations received.

When asking how many feral cats the rescue helps per year the answers were very surprising indeed.

Feral Cat Welfare – 12 (however the rescue only started earlier this year)
Sunny Harbour Cat and Kitten Rescue – maintains a colony of around 30
Wharfe Valley Cats Protection – 100+
Adel Cats Protection – around 100 in previous years; rescue now closed
Canterbury Cats Protection – 30 to 50
Eight Lives Left Kitten and Cat Rescue – 20
Canterbury and District Cat Rescue – 10 so far in 2010; more in previous years
Coventry Cat Group - 5
Clan Cats – 30+
Paws Inn – 50+

If we take into account that some of these rescues have been around for fifteen years and rescue fifty cats a year that equates to helping seven hundred and fifty feral cats. Even some of the younger rescues have helped many feral cats and will continue their work. This is only a very small fraction of the rescues in the United Kingdom; there are hundreds of rescues ( for listing by area). Not all of these rescues help feral cats but many do in one way or another.

Eight out of the ten rescues surveyed run a trap neuter and return program. This means the volunteers go out and trap feral cats take them into the veterinarian to be neutered and checked over. Once that is done and the cats are given the all clear they are returned to the site they were trapped from after a day or so recovery from their neutering operations. This in theory is to reduce the population of feral cats. If you take into account how many litters of kitten’s one female cat can produce per year (roughly three) and the female kittens of those litters will go onto produce even more it is a cycle that if not caught early can quickly turn into feral colonies. When running a trap, neuter and return program, one thing that rescues run into are feral kittens. All ten rescues tame and re-home these kittens. However, due to the short span of time that kittens can be tamed not all rescues attempt to tame feral kittens after seven to twelve weeks. However, four of the rescues say that they will tame and re-home feral cats at one year old and older. The process to tame older feral cats can take months to years, whereas with kittens it is much easier. To tame either takes time and resources that not all rescues have available. Paws Inn is one of the rescues who will attempt to tame a feral cat at any age. Their most recent tamed feral is named Ginga Ninja and was caught at two years old. The picture below shows just how tamed he is.

The most important question I asked was what the rescues thought would help slow down the increase of feral cats. I gave the options of:-

Lower neutering age
More funding for rescues
More rescues working with feral cats
All of the above
None of the above
Other (the survey allowed them to add their own comments here)

Not one of them chose the none of the above option. Seven however agreed that all of the above would be helpful to slow down the increase of feral cats. Two specifically agreed that lowering the neutering age was the way forward. One rescue believes that both education and stronger penalties for cat abandonment (currently a fine or up to six months imprisonment on conviction according to the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960) would help slow the increase of feral cats. Two other rescues both mentioned more rescues working with feral cats or more rescue spaces would help. This shows that the rescues agree with what I have said earlier and that lowering the neutering age, education, funding and more rescues are the way to slow down the growth of feral cats. This is with the understanding that there will always be feral cats, just as there will always be stray and unwanted cats.

Nearly all of the rescues surveyed have advertising in veterinarians, online, and other cat related publications/forums. Most however do not run any advertising outside cat related areas such as veterinarians and cat related forums/websites. More than half of the rescues however run education programs to further educate the public in regards to feral cats.

Though I only asked fourteen questions in my survey I felt that given the limited amount of time rescues have available these were the best questions to ask. The survey showed that these ten rescues are doing nearly everything they can to help feral cats, particularly through trap, neuter and return programs, taming feral cats and education. Each rescue has helped so many feral cats without anything more than donations received from the public. The hard work involved alone is taxing not only on the financial aspect but also on the volunteers physically and mentally. Teresa, who runs Paws Inn out of her home in Cheshire, is on oxygen and still manages to help cats (feral, stray and unwanted) even with being in the hospital for months due to pneumonia.

On a small side note, my original idea was to go out and observe the work rescues do first hand by speaking with Wharfe Valley CP in Yorkshire. However, due to my own bout of pneumonia I was unable to do so. I thanked each rescue profusely for completing the survey as it was my plan b.

Beyond information on the Portsmouth Dockyard feral colony finding further information on feral colonies proved to be a bit more tricky than what I assumed. There are many reference books and websites for the United States of America and as I previously discovered for Australia. This did not prove to be the same for the United Kingdom. However I discovered a fascinating book called The Fate of Controlled Feral Cat Colonies by Warner C. Passanisi and David W. Macdonald. Not only does this book contain information on how feral colonies form but also case histories of feral cat colonies and the Neutering & Returning control schemes in London, Hertfordshire, and Buckinghamshire. The conclusions that these studies came to are much the same as what has been mentioned above: running trap, neuter and release programs, education and funding. However there are a few differences in this study an idea for a national centre for the control of feral cats (again funding is the one thing holding this endeavour back) as well as a national licensing program that would involve tattooing a cat’s ear. However, I assume this was the idea before microchip implants became the popular way of identifying animals and their owners. This book was written in 1990 and it would be great to find out exactly how the feral colonies are fairing today to see if the trap, neuter and release scheme has continued to work.

Feral cats will always be a problem in every country where cats are located (which is nearly everywhere on the planet). However, the United Kingdom and various other countries on different scales are working toward slowing the increase of feral cats. Rescues in the United Kingdom work tirelessly to ensure these cats are looked after whether it is a full colony or a lone feral cat. Today’s economic climate has not improved the work rescues are doing, but one can hope it does not hinder too many of these in the battle to care for these animals. As I’ve said above, not every rescue in the United Kingdom helps feral cats, but those who do have a duty to care for these cats as much as possible and from all that I have read these rescues will continue to do so for as long as they can. Cats Protection are one of the few rescues located all over the United Kingdom and are very well known. Sadly, not all of their branches work with feral cats but they do run a national neutering campaign which does pertain to feral cats as well as domestic cats. Hopefully in the future more rescues will help with feral cats and maybe one day the feral cat population will slow down and be easier to handle and maintain. Trap neuter and return programs, education, funding and most importantly rescues willing to help are the way forward to tackle the problem of feral cats. Feral cats will always be around and it is the duty of everyone to look after these animals, as it is our fault they are here.

Appendix A


Copyright 1993, revised 2002 Sarah Hartwell – Celia Hammond rescue Olympic site feral project - Basic information on feral cats - Information on taming feral kittens and TNR programs - Information on feral cats including reproduction - Information on relocating feral cats - RSPCA article regarding no longer taking in strays; - Rescue forum that helps cats in the UK - Rescue newly involved with a feral colony – I was given permission to use all information and pictures on website by the owner - Very informative information on feral cats and all aspects of TNR programs - Cats Protection’s main website


The Fate of Controlled Feral Cat Colonies by Warner C. Passanisi and David W. Macdonald

This artical is copyrighted by Sabrina Peyton and

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

May Stuff

I received my certificate from COAPE in regards to completing their Think Cat course, that and the email confirmation are off to Bishop Burton College which will guarantee my space for September.

I’m very much looking forward to it thought it is very daunting. Still, it will be amazing to have a degree when this is all said and done and be able to move onwards to a Bachelors degree.

Even my aunt is now asking me about cats. Not that they own cats her and my uncle are both allergic however the neighbourhood cats like to visit.

Looking to go to the Hope Pastures open day on 23rd May where the Feral Cat Welfare group of Leeds will have a stall. They’ll be selling home made jam which I look forward to buying.

Pictures will follow!


Thursday, 29 April 2010

The end for now

I've completed my Think Cat course through COAPE. My last essay was on feral cats in the UK. I received a 93% grade on it, which is the highest grade I've gotten. My overall grade was 89.83% so I've passed with distinction.

Next I forward on the docuementation to Bishop Burton College to show I've completed this course which means I will be attending in the fall.

So far my education is moving forward. Until September I'll be taking a break from animal studies and do a bit of financial administration studying.

I very much enjoyed doing the feline behaviour course and hope to do more in that vein later on. I will say however, I knew a lot of the information going in as I've read up on cats so it wasn't a complete challenge. I did however gain a bit of confidence in my writing skills and proved that I can write 5,000 words on a topic.

I also proved that a 9 month course can be done in 4 months.