Ownerless cats may look the same, but there is a difference between a stray and a feral cat. A feral cat is one that is born and raised in the wild with little or no human contact. A stray cat is one …
Ownerless cats may look the same, but there is a difference between a stray and a feral cat. A feral cat is one that is born and raised in the wild with little or no human contact. A stray cat is one that has been abandoned or left from home and became lost; it is homeless but has already been habituated to humans. Stray cats learn to live on their own and adopt feral behaviors as their exposure to humans decreases.
Feral cats live on all continents except for Antarctica. Worldwide, there are approximately 100 million feral cats with 60 million of them residing in the United States. Despite their ability to survive in the wild, feral cats have a shorter lifespan than pet cats.
Feral cats often live in colonies and seek the shelter of alleyways, eaves of buildings, trees, caves, or man-made structures. They may roam looking for food and water but often sleep in the same location. Feral cats are skilled hunters who will eat small rodents and birds. They scavenge carcasses of animals or garbage bins. Cats are generally more active at night and therefore can be quite vocal during evening hours. They will hunt, socialize, breed and fight at night. The howls from the cats can be quite irritating to nearby humans trying to sleep.
Feral cats suffer a number of health issues including parasites (fleas, ticks, and internal parasites), contagious diseases such as Feline Leukemia Virus, Feline Distemper Virus, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Rabies Virus. Given the lack of veterinary care, a wound or other injury could become fatal.
There are a number of programs that help to address feral cat populations. Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) programs are a hallmark way of controlling feral cat populations by humanely trapping feral cats and partnering with a veterinary service to have them spayed/neutered and vaccinated. Before waking up from anesthesia, the cat’s ear will be “tipped” to allow for easy identification from a distance regarding their vaccination/reproduction status. Supporting these programs is vital to controlling the feral cat population. As we head into spring, it is strongly encouraged not to feed feral cat colonies. If you do, please be sure to participate in the TNR programs so that these colony numbers can remain low. As cats prefer to breed during longer days and warmer conditions, the coming of spring means the coming of kitten season.
What can you do to help manage feral cats?: