Feral cats are undomesticated, untamed cats that are either born in the wild to stray cat parents, or cats that were abandoned by their owners or got lost. Most homeless cats live in colonies and usually live in alleys and abandoned buildings.
A feral feline must not be confused with a stray cat.
Stray cats are domesticated cats that for some reason have ended up on the streets (either they got lost or were abandoned).
However, these alley cats still retain most of its domestic characteristics and can behave pretty much like a pet. Feral felines, by contrast, are wary of human contact and usually hide from people.
Many people think that since cats are very independent, they can easily survive living in the wild. Many believe that cats just "revert" to their wild instincts. But this is not the case.
Feral-cats lead a pretty tough life and many don’t live too long. They eat whatever food they can find and take shelter on porches, precarious structures, and empty buildings, among others. According to the Humane Society of the United States, most of the time they go without food and shelter.
How to help - Feral cat rescue
In many places, feral population is high. Indeed, for many communities it is a growing problem. One thing responsible pet owners can do to help is to spay and/or neuter their cats. Another way is to keep cats indoors. And if you can no longer take care of your cat, please place him or her in a new home. Never abandon your cat.
Trapping feral cats
Since there are already millions of homeless cats in the United States, other strategies are also needed to reduce the feral population. One such strategy is the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). This strategy helps reduce the feral population while improving their quality of life.
How does TNR work? Trained caretakers trap the cats, spay or neuter them, vaccinate them, and ear-tip them (for tracking purposes). The cats are also screened for diseases and are provided food and shelter. In addition, if a feral-cat is tamed, it’s separated from the general population and he/she is prepared for adoption.
Taming feral cats, is it possible?
It is easier to tame feral kittens than to tame adult cats. However, the taming process requires time and patience. According to studies, the socialization phase in kittens occurs when they are between 3 to 9 weeks old. That is the perfect time to attempt to tame a feral kitten. It gets more difficult as they grow older.
Here's an article about the taming process.
If you are not trained to handle feral-cats, please do not attempt to trap or tame a feral-cat yourself.
If you encounter a feral cat or if there is a feral colony in your area and want to help, visit the Humane Society of the United States, here . This organization offers a great deal of resources on feral-cats and suggestions on what to do to help.
Feral cat resources and books
Do you want to learn more about the feral cat, the strategies to help them, and the organizations that help feral and stray cats? Here are some useful resources:
The Human Society of the United States
Alley Cat Allies
Not only feral cats need your help...
Chewy.com's Shelter and Rescue Network not only supports shelters financially, but also raises awareness for their cause by promoting their organization and mission to almost a quarter million followers. Go ahead and give them a visit, and learn how you can help.
And here are some interesting books about feral and stray cats…
--Stray Cat Handbook by Tamara Kreuz
--An Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle by Nina Malkin
--Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle
--Urban Tails: Inside the Hidden World of Alley Cats by Sarah Neely
--The Cat Who Wouldn't Come Inside: Based on a True Story by Cynthia von Buhler
--Cats of Sanctuary House by Mary Winifred
--Prince's Cat Tale by Mary Elizabeth McManaway
--Living in Shadows: How to Help the Stray Cat in Your Life (without Adding to the Problem) by Ann K. Fisher
--Cat Culture: The Social World of a Cat Shelter by Janet M. Alger and Steven F. Alger
--The Welfare of Cats by Irene Rochlitz (Editor)
--Feral Phantasms by Polar Goldie Cats
--Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff by Lila Miller (Editor) and Stephen Zawistowski (Editor)
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