As you may or may not know, I hate the phrase “just semantics.”
Think about it. Would you ever say, to a stranger, “Oh, stop that– you’re just being picky about what I said, instead of what I meant!” Heck, even my family doesn’t get away with that– we’ll sometimes fumble around an idea for a bit and then say “you know what I mean, not what I’m saying, right?” Much different from stating something and then being called on the meaning of the words.
Perhaps the reason the phrase annoys so is because of something I grew up being reminded: “What you hear may not be what they’re saying.” Even if both sides mean well, are intelligent and well informed, misunderstandings can explode from this “little” thing. (Sometimes it’s Inigo Montoya— “You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it means.”– and sometimes it’s jargon; sometimes it’s shades of meaning, sometimes regional or cultural differences and sometimes it’s a mixture of a bunch of things.)
This came to mind because someone on the radio was waxing hugely indignant about how only an idiot could believe that a feral cat couldn’t be tamed– or maybe she was against the notion, it really wasn’t too clear.
I know several answers to the notion that “you can not tame a feral cat.” Problem being, the answer changes depending on what you mean.
Feral: born without human contact, has been living on its own without human contact, an outside cat or a cat that visits several homes but isn’t claimed by any of them?
Cat: a fully adult cat, a yearling/teenage cat or an actual still-a-baby kitten?
Tame: get them comfortable with a human, integrate them to a household, get them to be friendly to a family or get them to be friendly to people in general?
For starters, some cats are just never going to be people-cats. I seem to remember some breeds even have this mentioned in their descriptions– they may bond with one person, or they may be aloof in general. On the flip side, every house cat I’ve ever lived with was born to a feral queen, entered human contact no later than six weeks of age and turned out to be very comfortable with people.
*Picks kitten up off of keyboard and puts him on the floor. Again.*
Sometimes too comfortable….
Born-wild adult cats, it’s harder for me to know– my dad has a major way with animals, and he’s the one that feeds the barn cats, but there are still some who will vanish the instant he opens the door. Gone-wild cats can be tamed back down in at least some cases. The cynic in me says that the harder a time the gone-feral cat had in the wild, the easier they are to tame back down, but I do think some just like being around people.
(Why I know about this topic: my folks’ place has a huge red barn, right near the road; you would not believe how many people dump off their cats at it. When we moved in, there was a small and starving population of house pets and a freaking biblical curse of rodents all over the place– you’d turn on the oven in the house, and mice would scatter. It costs about a bag of feed a month and takes a few placings of the sweeter abandoned pets, but we now have a very healthy colony of feral cats…and even our neighbors have noticed how much the rodent situation has improved. No, they haven’t wiped out the local birds, either– although they do clean up the pest-birds that die of sudden onset lead poisoning. They even avoid the guineas, although a couple of the better hunters have brought in marmots from the fields. This does NOT mean it’s a good thing to do to your house pet when you don’t want him– a lot of these animals die to coyotes and other predators. You made that animal a promise when you took ownership, live up to it, or you’re the one that’s degraded.)
When I say “feral cat,” I mean one that shows no signs of having been associated with humans– they show fear or bravado when cornered by a human, generally act like a wild animal. I don’t generally include actual kittens in this category, since most that I’ve ever seen act the same– spitting and hissing at anything. I’ve never tried, but I don’t believe these adults can be tamed down enough to fully integrate into a household. All the instances of truly feral cats, where they hated and feared humans at the outset but became housecats at the end, were half-grown cats– what my mom calls “teenagers,” and the animal shelter calls “kittens.” They’re usually still pretty skittish. (The one my uncle had, I only ever saw the tail of– someone she didn’t know showed up, she was gone.)
I don’t consider cats that have several homes but aren’t really claimed by any to be feral; they’re neighborhood cats, for crying out loud. Doesn’t matter if they’re mooching food, cooing and scratches at three restaurants, a barber shop and a nice little old lady’s, then sleeping in the back room of the book store– they’re tame, they’re just not claimed. Feral means a domestic animal that’s reverted to the wild, not a domestic animal doesn’t live in one house….