Going about our daily activities in Science Faculty, some of us may have taken time to ogle, point and pet the occasional stray cat (Felis catus) we meet. Do not be deceived by their contented looks, for life as a stray cat here is not as laid back and purr-fect as it seems. While the urban environment appears to be safe and stable for us, it is difficult to imagine that these cats face a host of challenges for survival, not unlike their feral/wild relatives.
Food: These cats rely on us humans as their chief source of food, either by intentional feeding or scraps. (Dards, 1980) However, their human sources are very much ‘seasonal’, mimicking a famine during school holidays. Fortunately, anyone with a pet cat can vouch how intact their innate predatory instincts still are. The observed prowling behaviours occasionally result in piles of feathers found in the vicinity, possible remnants of the Javan Minah (Acridotheres javanicus).
Environment: Construction sites nearby present both physical and biological hazards. Kittens are most vulnerable to unhygienic conditions, with an average of 50% mortality. The population density of stray cats in Science is the highest in NUS, thus the easy spread of diseases such as FIV(Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and parasites like flea mites.
Inter/Intra-Specific Interactions: These cats display social dynamics amongst themselves. Not many males are found in the same area due to their territorial nature (Natoli, Sept, 1985). A particular black adult is the distinct alpha male, suspected to be responsible for most of the kittens born. There have also been instances of stray dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) preying on the weaker cats in the area.
Selection: NUS Cat Cafe is currently attempting to systematically sterilise the cats. It is inevitable that only the relatively tamed ones are sterilised. It is ironic that this selection process results in the illusive and flighty cats to continue to propagate, an outcome ‘unfavourable’ to efforts aimed at controlling the cat population, assuming such behaviours are heritable.
-Dards, J. (1980). Habitat Utilisation by Feral Cats in Portsmouth Dockyard. The Ecology and Control of Feral Cats (p. 6). Hertfordshire: The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
-Natoli, E. (Sept, 1985). Behavioural Responses of Urban Feral Cats to Different Types of Urine Marks. Behaviour , Vol. 94, pg 234-243.
*Information also from work done by NUS Cat Cafe. Please contact directly if interested in adopting kittens.