There are so many questions people have about feral cats (community cats), I created this “frequently asked questions” post as a way to give quick answers to anyone who want to know more. Be sure to check the website for more detailed articles about a variety of topics.
What is a feral cat?
A cat that was born outside and has little or no human contact.
Is a feral cat the same as a stray cat?
Like a feral cat, a stray lives outside but wasn’t necessarily born there. He could have had a home at one point and been abandoned, or was lost.
How do feral cats survive in the winter?
Ferals, particularly those who have been on the streets for some time, are used to living outdoors and are quite good at finding shelter. Having said that, even the most experienced can freeze to death in the cold. Many caretakers (those who care for feral cats) build shelters to keep them warm.
Where do feral cats live?
They typically form what is known as a colony, a group that lives in a specific area where they have found the shelter and food source they need. It could be in an abandoned building, underneath someone’s porch, in or under an abandoned car…
Where do they sleep?
Anywhere they feel is safe – where they live as mentioned above, a park bench, someone’s garage if the door was left open, under bushes…
What do feral cats eat?
Anything they find. You can most often see them near garbage bags and bins. If they are fed by a caretaker they will get cat food, if tourists pass by they will either buy cat food or feed them whatever they have on them.
What do feral cats look like?
A feral cat looks like any other cat. Plenty look in very good condition, but you will also find those that look dirty, skinny with a dull looking coat. Kittens often have eye problems, many severe. If you see a street cat with a slit across the left ear (sometimes it’s the right) it means he or she was spayed/neutered.
Are feral cats happy living outside?
It can be upsetting seeing so many cats living on the streets, wishing they all had a warm bed in a loving home. I feel the same way, but their lack of socialisation and fear of humans means that isn’t possible, so they live outdoors. Of course there are dangers – the possibly of getting hit by cars, illness, disease and even suffering at the hands of cruel humans. With TNR projects and people caring for them they can do well outside.
What do feral cats do at night?
Although you will often see feral cats during the day, it is at night when fewer people are around when they can be found roaming and searching for food.
What can I do about stray cats in my neighbourhood?
You can help them by trapping, fixing and feeding them so no more kittens are born. Find out if others in your neighbourhood are willing to help and form a group, as having the support makes it easier. Alternatively, search for feral cat rescue groups in your area. They may help you trap and advise on how best to help. If the group has foster homes and there are small kittens, they may be able to take them off the streets.
Trapping and bringing the cats to a shelter will almost surely result in their deaths.
Do feral cats have rabies?
It depends on which “experts” you believe. Many say they do and are a public health risk, others say there is a low incidence and animals such as raccoons and bats are bigger carriers. Depending on the part of the world, many cats that are trapped and fixed get a rabies vaccination.
How often should they be fed?
If no one is caring for them they eat as they find food. Humans who take on the responsibility of feeding these cats typically like to see them fed twice a day. The more volunteers helping, the less often one person has to do it. How often a sole caretaker feeds will depend on things like work hours, other responsibilities, distance to the cats, budget…
What is “kitten season”?
Kitten season refers to the time of year when the weather starts getting warmer and cats are giving birth. In the U.S. it’s around April-October, but some countries with particularly warm climates can experience kitten season pretty much year round.
Do feral cats attack humans?
Feral cats have had very little human contact, so due to that lack of socialisation they don’t seek people out. You shouldn’t have to worry a cat will jump out at you and attack as you’re walking down the street. If you are feeding them, especially if it’s a “one off” because you’re visiting or passing by, you may be surprised at how many start appearing. In that case they could seem to get aggressive, but that’s only because they’re so hungry and want to eat. Don’t try and pet them, leave the food and water and go.
Can feral cats become pets?
If kittens are trapped when they’re young enough, there are a series of steps you can take to tame them to the point they are able to be adopted. The older they are the harder they can be to socialise, and most rescuers will just trap and release them for that reason.
Having said that, a cat that was previously a house pet but found himself on the street because he was lost or abandoned, could still live in a home depending on how long he’s been on his own.
What is being done to reduce the number of feral cats?
More and more people are involved in TNR – trapping cats, having them fixed, returning them to where they were taken, then feeding and caring for them. Some communities/countries kill them. An online search will let you know what’s being done in your area.
Wouldn’t killing them solve the problem?
There is a widely held belief among many that the best way to solve the cat overpopulation problem, no matter where in the world it is, is to kill them. Makes sense right? You kill someone and they’re gone.
First of all, it is abhorrent to murder a sentient being, and that it is considered a solution is truly sickening.
If you kill a group of cats from a certain area that will get rid of them, but all that happens is it creates a vacuum, a space for other cats to move in. Should they be killed too? What about the next group?
Australia is on a mission to kill 2 million by the end of the year. Is that really the answer?
Are feral cats a threat to wildlife?
The last, and probably the most frequently asked question is whether or not cats are a threat to wildlife. Depending on who you ask the answer is a very straightforward yes or no.
I’ve read quite a few articles, and when both sides present such compelling arguments for why they’re right, it’s hard to know who to believe. I’m going to link to a few posts so you can decide.
I hope you have found this post helpful, and you’ve at least gotten some of your questions answered. Be sure to check back often, as more content is published regularly.
If you have a question that hasn’t been answered, feel free to leave it in the comment section below.
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