Geoscience Reference
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Feral cats in the city
Huw Griffiths, Ingrid Poulter and David Sibley
In a recent advertisement for the Cat Action Trust, cute 'little Darcy' is shown
stepping from an existence in the wild towards a 'normal' domestic life as a pet
kitten. The text of this advertisement signals a particularly negative view of feral
animals in urban environments. It maintains that:
This little kitten was born in the wild and was facing a life of hunger, disease
and terror…. Within a few months, little Darcy would have been on his own.
Feral cats are the inhabitants of dereliction . They gather wherever they can find
food and shelter. The colonies MUST be controlled or the neighbours
complain and the cats are killed by the authorities. Please help us to save cats
and kittens by sending a donation to help our work. We have Groups,
nationwide, saving and caring for feral cats who need love and so much
attention if they ever hope to have a happy life.
(our emphasis)
The clear message of the Cat Action Trust is that these cats need to be saved from
their feral misery.
This representation of feral cats conveys nothing of the ambiguity of people's
attitudes towards cats, and yet, whether domestic or feral, they evoke various
responses which demonstrate a mixing of affection, fear and distaste. In the case of
feral colonies, we suggest that their material environment also influences views of
cats, whether benign or malign. Our study of feral cats in Hull suggests a number of
possible relationships between people, animals and place, and a complexity which is
at variance with the singular, negative view projected by the Cat Action Trust. More
generally, representations of feral cats in their relationship with the built
environment and urban 'wilderness' provide a commentary on attitudes to nature
and civilisation.
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