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cats about the histories of the colonies. It was not possible in every case to contact
people who might have had a view on the presence of a feral colony, and in some
places identified by the environmental health officers the cats were elusive. However,
our observations did allow us to order the sites, this necessarily rough ordering being
based on the perceptions of the three of us about what constitutes wildness in urban
landscapes. Generally, in an urban context, wildness is suggested by dereliction, a
lack of maintenance, with weeds and brambles asserting themselves, or more densely
vegetated vacant land. Cats which are perceived as wild may then 'fit' into such
patches of urban wilderness, although, as we suggested above, derelict landcapes and
feral cats occupying such areas may both be sources of aversion. In other locales,
particularly in residential areas, the problem is more complex and more likely to be
conflictual than in 'wild' areas. Feral cats may belong according to those who do not
discriminate between pets and ferals, but they may be viewed as transgressive and
polluting by those whose distinctions between the domestic and the wild consign
ferals to the latter category (as in the Palo Alto, California, case, cited above).
The following notes on a selection of sites give some sense of the range of habitats
1 A completely overgrown garden, next to a Catholic church in a formerly
residential street in the inner city, now used primarily for warehousing. This
site was the closest approximation to wilderness. The cats stayed hidden in the
bushes when people were present (see Figure 3.1 ). They were fed by the church
caretaker, who had once appealed to the bishop to let the cats remain after
objections from one hostile priest. The present priest is quite tolerant.
2 An industrial estate where a colony lives on a disused site. The cats are fed by
workers from an adjacent factory (see Figures 3.2 and 3.3 ). Apparently, no-one
has objected to the presence of the cats.
3 An allotment, where feeding bowls and shelter are provided for a large feral
colony of between twenty and thirty animals. This colony has survived since
the 1950s with the support of most of the allotment holders, who are very
protective and suspicious of representatives of outside agencies, particularly the
City Council. (However, on an allotment elsewhere in the city, feeders were in
conflict with other allotment holders who had threatened to kill the cats.)
4 A cemetery, a well-ordered and manicured site where cats stay among the
bushes and trees around the edge (see Figure 3.4 ). A grave digger at the site
when we visited seemed unconcerned about the presence of the cats, although a
local resident claimed that the cemetery was overrun with about twenty cats.
Someone, she said disapprovingly, was obviously feeding them.
5Outside a shoe repairer's in a small suburban shopping precinct (see
Figure 3.5 ). The shop owner feeds the cats and has provided shelter and
bedding. No-one complains, and they have become an attraction for shoppers
and children.
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