Did You Know?

That two cats and their offspring can produce a total of 57,672 kittens over 10 years, 22,795 of which will be female.

That the gestation period of cats is 63 days, or every 2.1 months.  A kitten can become pregnant as soon as she reaches 4 lbs, which could be by 12 weeks of age.  A cat can become pregnant while nursing an existing litter.  An unspayed mother cat produces an average of 12 kittens per year.

The mortality rate for feral kittens is 50%.  The average life expectancy for an unmanaged feral cat is 2 years, due to parasites, starvation, stress, disease, poisoning, injuries, and exposure to the elements.

If a sterilized feral cat lives in a colony monitored by a caretaker, it can stay healthy and live up to 10 years.

A sterilized indoor cat can stay healthy and live up to 17 years, and often to 20 years.

Not all stray cats in Boquete are feral.  Many are pets that were dumped by owners who no longer want them.

What you DON’T see is as important as what you DO see.  You DON’T see sick, starving cats on the streets of Boquete.  Ask yourself why.  What people and organizations have worked to minimize this problem?  What did it cost, and who paid for it?  Or did the problem just magically disappear?  How do you benefit personally from management of this problem?  Read on…

Feral Cats, Public Health, and Biodiversity

Unmanaged feral cats are a serious public health issue, and can significantly impact local biodiversity.  Feral cats are devastating predators for birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.  In some countries, feral cats are considered an invasive species.  Given that Boquete prides itself on its diverse bird population, it is important to humanely control the number of free roaming cats. Diseases can spread from sick feral cats to other cats and humans.  Healthy cats do not spread disease, but stressed, malnourished, and sick cats can infect humans (zoonotic diseases) and each other.  Although there is no threat of plague or rabies in Panama, sick, stressed feral cats can spread the following zoonotic diseases:

Zoonotic Diseases Transmissible by Sick Feral Cats

This table is a partial listing of zoonotic diseases, or those transmissible from cats to humans, that may appear in this part of the world. The table excludes Rabies and the Plague, which do not occur here. It also omits same-species diseases that are only transmissible to other cats. TO VIEW TABLE ON A CELL PHONE, TURN YOUR PHONE TO THE HORIZONTAL POSITION.
Cat Scratch Fever or Bartonellosis Ringworm Cryptosporidiosis Scabies or Mange
Campylobacteriosis Sporotrichosis Giardia Tapeworm
MRSA Toxoplasmosis Flea-borne Typhus
Salmonellosis Roundworm
Pasteurellosis Hookworm
Q fever

Feral Cat Management in Boquete District

We use a Trap/Neuter/Release/Feed model, and foster/adopt all babies and friendly adults. Research shows that this model is the most effective at managing feral cats.  All adult feral cats are maintained by observant volunteers who monitor their health and feed high quality food to keep the cats healthy and disease free.

Number of feral cat feeding stations in Boquete District: 10

Need for more feeding stations: Los Naranjos, which is not operating due to lack of funds.  There may be other areas of Boquete District that need a caretaker for a feeding station.  We need volunteers to cover every part of the District!

Number of feeding stations managed by Panamanians: 9

Approximate number of sterilized cats fed: 155

Number of bags of Kirkland cat food distributed to 10 feeding stations per month: 17

Cost of supplying Kirkland food to 10 feeding stations per month: $391.00

Number of dollars donated to Saldea specifically for feral cat feeding program: $0

Private donations to program manager: occasional and unpredictable.  The program manager privately funds most of the Kirkland food.

Amount of government support: $0

Sterilization protocols for feral cat stations: the volunteers who operate the stations notify the program manager if there are new cats that need to be sterilized.  If a new cat shows up, it is trapped and sterilized at the Amigos de Animales clinic, then returned to the station.  Volunteers pay what they can toward sterilization, and Amigos de Animales pays the balance of the sterilization fee.

Managed feral cats have a clipped right ear, which is a signal that the cat is sterilized and doesn’t need to be trapped again.

Foster/Adoption of Feral Kittens in Boquete District

When a feral mama is trapped, she is maintained in foster care with Saldea until her babies are socialized, weaned, and ready to be neutered and adopted.  La Casa de los Animales supports this effort as well.  Then the mama is sterilized and returned to her home colony.  Socializing, sterilizing, and adopting feral babies saves their lives and prevents the feral colony from growing.

Too Many Kittens, Not Enough Homes

Google this phrase and read the results: “Too many kittens, not enough homes.”  This problem exists everywhere.  Like other rescue groups, Saldea cannot keep up with the demand to foster, feed, sterilize, and adopt every kitten in Chiriqui, in addition to rescued feral babies from Boquete.  Saldea’s ratio of requests for rescuing cats:dogs is about 10:1.

The local, provincial, and national governments in Panama look to the Boquete District as a major national and international tourist destination that brings substantial economic benefit to the country.  Having sick, homeless, and starving strays on the streets would undermine the appeal of Boquete as a tourist destination and negatively impact its economic success.  Yet we and other groups receive no recognition or financial support from any level of government.  Local organizations such as Saldea are largely self-funded, understaffed, starving for donations, and overwhelmed with impossible demands.  This pattern is repeated all across Panama: private citizens working hard and often spending their own money to promote education, societal progress, and animal welfare, which benefits all of Panamanian society, while being overlooked by the government.

Although we wish we could do more, our efforts still benefit every single person in the Boquete District.  By keeping down the number of stray, homeless cats, we help make the community safe, healthy, and attractive to visitors, protect important wildlife, and support further economic development.

How can YOU help?  Donate cash or cat food, foster, adopt, volunteer, or start a feral cat feeding station!

It is often assumed that” somebody else” will solve the problem of homeless animals.  There is nobody here named Somebody Else.  There is only you.