As Spring bursts forth in flower and beast alike, Haywood County residents who feed eartipped cats can celebrate our longer days without worrying about unplanned litters. Take a sunny one to survey your yard for makeshift litter boxes created atop the frozen winter ground. Use gloves and a mask to clean up the mess and sprinkle garden lime to neutralize and break down what’s left in the soil.

How would you describe your outdoor cats?  You’re likely to point out a cat’s willingness to interact with you, right?  How many of these common terms have you heard?

Feral – has a wild nature that increases with each generation, avoids humans, lives outdoors

Skittish – keeps its distance, runs when you make a move, lives outdoors

Barn – any cat that prefers hunting prey around outdoor structures

Pet – claimed by an owner, often tame, lives indoors or indoor/outdoor

Stray – tame, is lost or was abandoned, wants to come inside and not live outdoors

Adoptable – kittens age 4 to 6 weeks that quickly tame down once human handling begins

Not My Cat – comes regularly to eat; may belong to a neighbor but you’re not sure, you finally named it but still call it Not My Cat when someone asks

Community Cats – the mixture of feral, skittish, stray, pet and Not My cats that hunt prey, stop at food bowls in their territory, and freely roam

Eartipped – clipped left ear proves the cat is sterilized and vaccinated against rabies

Females who had their heats or estrus in January began delivering their litters in March – it’s 63 days gestation for an average litter of 4 kittens.  Mama cats will move their litter several times in the weeks ahead to avoid drawing predators to a smelly nest.

Mark your calendars because mama cats are safe to spay when their litter is 4 to 6 weeks old and kittens have begun eating on their own.  You’ll often see the kittens for the first time at this age when she brings them to your food bowls.  They will be adorable and also need to be wormed.

As litters are weaned, unneutered tomcats will begin to come around because mama is ready to mate again.  If you don’t see the toms, you might hear night fights or smell testosterone-tinged urine where they’ve marked – a kind of calling card and valentine combined.  MEOW!

Unspayed females in heat can escape the house and disappear for a few days to mate. Unfixed cats will mate with their unfixed relatives, so keep boys away from girls until their spay/neuter appointment!

This article by Head Cat Susan Kumpf first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Positively Haywood by Vicinitus.