Saturday, March 5, 2016

Cosette is Missing--Why Do Community or Feral Cats Disappear?

feral cats community cats Miami cats
Cosette licking her lips after dinner

Another one of our beloved Riverfront Cats is missing. The second one in two months. Cosette.

Presumed dead, we are heartbroken at the disappearance of another cat.  Two weeks later, Sinbad also went missing.  "What is suddenly happening?!" our team asked.

First, it is natural to become attached to cats in a colony that you regularly feed and manage.  These are live creatures, much like our own pets, that we care for on a daily basis. Even though we can not pet some or pick them up, they know and trust us as feeders.We love and nurture them. The bond is real.

community feral cats Miami homeless pets
Cosette eating her dinner


The disappearance of feral or community cats may occur when:
1. They are sick and naturally leave the nest. (Another blog post on this subject coming soon)
2. They are injured and unable to return home.
3. They are killed by speeding automobile, or stray dog or other predator, or by ingesting some food or material that is poisonous/harmful.
4. They are taken by friendly regular or trapped by someone.

Living in the heart of downtown Miami, any number of scenarios could have occurred.
My mind listing a 100 reasons  in 100 seconds.

- snatched by homeless person
- runover by speeding car
- eat chicken bones
- ingest poison
- swallow small pieces of glass from shattered car windows that get embedded in their paws
- fight with raccoons
- slip and fall into drainage
- trapped somewhere
- did a reported stray dog attack her

Riverfront Cats homeless cats missing disappearing cats Miam
Cosette cleaning her paws after dinner

Mama cat was first cat to disappear. She showed no signs of illness, or lethargy or any odd behavior. Mama was friendly and she trusted regular feeders and allowed them to pet her. Perhaps a homeless person fed her in the middle of night (they camped out underneath the S. Miami Avenue bridge near where she resided), and took her? It is possible.  She also rested in the water drainage.  Perhaps with the unseasonably heavy rains this winter, she slipped in trying to jump from her shelf  in the drainage and fell to the bottom of drainage where it is too high for her to jump back up. Mama was also a little hefty.


Did she possibly have internal injuries from chicken bones? A local resident was leaving them chicken bones. Nooo!  One day I happen to be squatting in the corner of Station Two, cleaning the cat water bowls when this resident appeared to leave them more bones. Timing was perfect to educate this kind-hearted person that leaving chicken bones can kill cats. Raw chicken bones are safe for cats and dogs. But cooked chicken bones are dangerous for cats. They are brittle and splinter and can cause choking or internal organ damage.

Kitten eating chicken bones
(Not a Riverfront Cat; published with permission)

Cosette was feral. Only recently was I able to touch her without her hissing. The first time in almost seven years! I started to cry tears of joy as I always do when I gain the trust of a feral cat after passing years. So it is not possible that she was taken by a homeless person.  One volunteer did say that Cosette did not eat much the night before she disappeared.  This tells us she could have been ill.

There was another intact male cat, Muki, that we could never trap. He showed signs of injuries, dried blood, deep scratches, and weight loss. He was clearly sick and dying.  Did Muki pass his illness in fighting with the other cats?
Muki waiting to be served dinner

Employees who park in the empty gravel lot of Station One, leave Styrofoam cartons of discarded people food. Did the cats eat some food that could have been harmful?

Raccoons have appeared in the neighborhood. Did the raccoons get into a fight with Cosette or Sinbad who were more feisty?  Not likely but possible. Or worse, both Cosette and Sinbad crossed SW 3rd Street in the past. Although lately they stayed on the lot of feeding station, safely hidden in the bushes, did they seek refuge elsewhere with heavy rains? Or did they resume crossing 3rd street with increasing traffic, perhaps fascinated by the growing number of chickens in the area? Yes, community chickens were multiplying! In downtown Miami. A subject for another blog post.

Raccoons are breeding and have learned where to find cat food on a nightly basis

I scoured their area, crawling on my hands and knees in bushes to see if they were possibly injured and unable to move. Nothing. I walked around the neighborhood calling them, knowing they would not appear due to fear but I had hope they heard my voice and would muster the strength to return later in the evening.


This is exactly what happened with Leroy. A friendly black cat.  He was missing for four days. Then one night, while feeding the other cats, we walked around the feeding area, and sure enough the volunteer found Leroy nestled in the grass, with two swollen and bloody paws. He was unable to move. He fought his way back to home base for food.  We scooped him up and rushed him to the vet next day. Fortunately one leg was saved, but the other leg was amputated.  The friendly cat that he is, Leroy adjusted to indoor life and was adopted by Sabrina, a long-time volunteer. He lives the good life with his siblings and sleeps with Sabrina every night. A silver-lining to a painful incident.

Leroy, a three-legged kitty, now loves his indoor home--no gravel, no fleas, no rain, no extreme weather

The list of possible reasons for the cats disappearing is endless.  These cats are also approaching seven  years of age, the average age limit for community colony cats exposed to various dangers and elements.

We still pray for a miracle that the cats will reappear. While rare, it is known to happen even after several months have passed. We love these cats and want to ensure they are not quietly suffering, dying somewhere.

Speaking of miracles, Sinbad did reappear after three weeks.  He looks well, maybe a little thinner. But sadly he's now missing for three days again.  If only we could put tracking devices on them. Now that would certainly provide the world of cat science with great insight as to their habits and patterns and behavior.

Sinbad licking his lips after dinner
(Oct 2015)

We welcome your stories and experiences with disappearing colony cats.

1 comment:

  1. That's a shame when these things happen,you just have to hope for the best,xx Rachel