Feeding large colonies
I just received an SMS from a feeder who said that he is having problems coping. He said that he had too many cats in his flat and that he had another 100 community cats that he looked after every day. He asked if we could find someone who might help him out financially. He said that there are people he's heard of who will help out when they know you're looking after community cats.
I texted back to say that I'm afraid we can't. Firstly, most of the people we know are caregivers themselves and have their own colonies. Secondly, why this person and not another?
I advised him to think about cutting down on the number of cats he feeds. He said that he would try and find someone himself. I told him that sometimes peoples' financial commitments may change and they may not be able to help as well. At the end of the day, you cannot count on someone else because no matter how good their intentions, things change. He said that it is very difficult to cut down because the cats are waiting for you every night - he's done this for many years and has never managed to cut down. I do understand that he is in a dilemma. I did ask him though why the number was so high - if he wasn't sterilising, then he really has to. If he's however expanding the area he feeds in, then it really has to stop.
Here's what I've noticed though - feeding is tiring, it's a daily affair and takes up many hours, but the surprising thing as well is that there are rarely a lack of feeders. If feeders in that area move out or are no longer there, I've noticed that someone will usually take over. Whether that person is responsible or not is a whole different matter, but it doesn't seem that difficult to find feeders - people sterilising and managing are again a whole different kettle of fish.
In some areas we've found that there are several feeders - all of them mistakenly thinking they were the only one feeding. In one case I mentioned, someone kept feeding even though she knew others were feeding, and despite the fact she said it was costing her a lot of money.
So here's the thing - feeding is necessary of course to TNRM but there is and can be a better way to do it. For example, split up the feeding with other caregivers in the area. Notice if the cats never seem very hungry - it could well be that there is someone else feeding. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Managing 100 cats well is of course ten times harder than managing 10 cats. And most importantly, sterilise and manage the colonies.