Q: How can I learn more
about feral cats and T/N/R programs?
A: An excellent web
site to view is:
Feline Folks Frequently Asked Questions
Note: This site is for information only and is provided a public service. The information on the remainder of this page has be adopted from Alley Cat Allies web site, http://www.alleycat.org
Learn more about feral cats and Trap-Neuter-Return
What is a feral cat?
A feral cat is a cat who has either never had any contact with people or her contact with people has diminished over time. She is not socialized to people and survives on her own outdoors. Most feral cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors.
Outdoor cats have existed alongside humans for 10,000 years. They are not a new phenomenon. Feral cats are members of the same species as pet cats—and are therefore protected under state animal anti-cruelty laws. The difference between feral cats and your pet cat is that they have had little or no contact with people, and so they are wary of us, and cannot be adopted. They have a home—outdoors. They live and thrive in every landscape, from the inner city to rural farmland. Since feral cats are not adoptable, they should not be brought to animal pounds and shelters, because there they will likely be killed.
What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?
Stray cats are socialized to people and can be adopted into homes, but feral cats are not socialized to people and are happy living outdoors.
A stray cat:
- Is a cat who has been socialized to people at some point in her life, but has left or lost her indoor home, as well as most human contact and dependence.
- Can become feral as her contact with humans dwindles.
- Can under the right circumstances become a pet cat once again. Stray cats that are re-introduced to a home after living outdoors may require a period of time to re-acclimate; they may be frightened and wary after spending time outside away from people.
A feral cat:
- Is a cat who has either never had any contact with humans or her contact with humans has diminished over time. She is not socialized to people and survives on her own outdoors. Most feral cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors.
- Can have kittens who can be socialized at an early age and adopted into homes.
Where do feral cats come from?
Feral cats are not a new phenomenon. Outdoor cats are part of our rich history in this country and worldwide.
Cats have been living among us here in the U.S. for hundreds of years. Feral cats are domestic cats. Feral cats thrive in every type of environment, urban, suburban and rural. Some feral cats are offspring of house cats. Yet, not until the last two decades has there been accessible and affordable spay and neuter services for cats. And, until recent years, early-age (kitten) spay / neuter was not practiced (kittens go into heat between 4 and 6 months and traditional conventional-wisdom was to spay a cat at 6 month of age.)
Domestic cats came into existence about 10,000 years ago, when humans began farming. According to scientists, cats are one of the only animals who domesticated themselves—choosing to live near humans to feed on the rodents attracted by stored grain. Evolutionary research shows that the natural habitat of cats is outdoors in close proximity to humans—and that is how they have lived ever since. In fact, it wasn't until the 1940s—and the invention of cat litter—that "indoors only" for cats was even a concept.
What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?
Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane, effective approach for feral cats. Feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol of a neutered and vaccinated cat), and then returned to their outdoor home. Socialized cats and kittens are adopted into homes. The colony's population stabilizes—no more kittens! Trap-Neuter-Return improves their lives and their relations with the community: the behaviors and stresses associated with mating stop.
What is an 'eartip'?
We use the word "eartip" to describe when a small portion of the tip of a feral cat's left ear is surgically removed during neuter surgery, to denote that the cat has been neutered and vaccinated. Eartipping is done while the cat is anesthetized and is not painful for the cat. Eartipping is the most effective way to identify neutered feral cats from a distance, to make sure they are not trapped or undergo surgery a second time.
Isn't it unsafe for feral cats to live outside?
The outdoors is the natural habitat for feral cats, and empirical evidence indicates they can live long and healthy lives: a 2006 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that of 103,643 stray and feral cats examined in spay/neuter clinics in six states from 1993 to 2004, less than 1% of those cats needed to be euthanized due to debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious diseases.
In addition, the lifespan of feral cats compares favorably with the lifespan of pet cats. A long-term study (published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2003) of a Trap-Neuter-Return program noted that 83% of the cats present at the end of the observation period had been there for more than six years—meaning that the cats' lifespans were comparable to the mean lifespan of 7.1 years for pet cats.
Feral cat caregivers can take steps to make feral cats more comfortable, like neutering them, feeding them, and providing shelter. These steps promote the cats' well-being, improve their relationships with neighbors, and assist the people who live nearby to understand and co-exist with the cats. But most feral cats don't require intervention beyond Trap-Neuter-Return.
Why can't feral cats be socialized and then adopted into homes?
A feral cat is a cat who has either never had any contact with people or her contact with people has diminished over time. They are not socialized to people and cannot be touched, except sometimes by a regular caregiver.
The ideal window for socializing feral kittens is 12 weeks of age or younger—beyond 12 weeks, feral cats may never socialize completely or at all. As a result, we do not recommend attempting to socialize feral cats older than 12 weeks—it is dangerous and stressful for both you and the cat. Feral cats live healthy lives in their outdoors homes and the best thing you can do to help them is Trap-Neuter-Return. Outdoor cats that are friendly and socialized to people are called stray cats, and they can be re-homed
What happens to feral cats when they are brought to most shelters?
Because feral cats are not socialized to people, they are unadoptable as pets. In most shelters and pounds in the US, unadoptable animals are killed. In fact, 70% of all cats who enter shelters are killed there, according to the most reliable data available. That number jumps to close to 100% for feral cats.
Many shelters now realize that allowing feral cats to enter their doors is a death sentence and that Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane approach for their care. In recognition of this, some pounds and shelters have a "no feral cats accepted" policy, as well as a policy of returning eartipped cats to the place where they were initially trapped. Unfortunately, there are more pounds and shelters that still kill feral cats—some as soon as the cat enters the facility. Feral cats live full, healthy lives outdoors, but are killed in shelters.
Why doesn't removing feral cats from an area work?
Animal control's traditional approach for feral cats—catching and killing—is endless and cruel, and it does not keep an area free of cats. Cats choose to reside in a location for two reasons: there is a food source (intended or not) and shelter. Because of a phenomenon called the vacuum effect, when cats are removed from a location, survivors of the catch and kill effort and new cats who have moved in breed to capacity. Cats have been living outside alongside people for 10,000 years—a fact that cannot be changed.
What can I do to help feral cats?
Contact Feline Folks at firstname.lastname@example.org
I found a friendly outdoor cat, how do I find her a home?
First, do you know the difference between stray cats and feral cats? Stray cats are socialized to people and can be adopted into homes, but feral cats are not socialized to people and are happy living outdoors. To do what's best for the cat, you need to know the difference!
- If the cat you have found is a stray or if you find socialized cats or kittens during Trap-Neuter-Return, you can place them in adoptive homes.
- If the cat appears frightened or anxious, but not feral, contact the Humane Society of Tampa Bay at 813-625-0910
- When deciding what to do with the cats you have found, it's important to know that if you take a cat to an animal shelter, most shelters will likely kill the cat. Seventy percent of cats entering shelters are killed, and that number jumps to nearly 100% of feral cats and kittens. If you are still considering a shelter, always ask for the adoption procedures, typical duration of stay, and euthanasia policies before deciding if you should take a cat there. Even then, it is still at the shelter's discretion to euthanize for any reason.
Good luck finding your friendly cat a home!
I have found feral kittens. What do I do?
When you come across kittens living outdoors, you may wonder whether it's better to take them into your home or leave them outside with mom. Whatever you decide, it should be in the kittens' best interest. Here are some things to think about:
- Learn the factors you'll need to consider when you find kittens—their age, your ability to care and socialize them, and their safety.
- Understand the care required if the kittens are neonatal. You will have to provide round-the-clock care.
- If you are interested in socializing feral kittens, contact the Humane Society at 813-625-0910
- If you are looking for adoptive homes for kittens, contact the Humane Society at 813-625-0910
I want to get some stray and feral cats neutered, how do I conduct Trap-Neuter-Return?
Trap-Neuter-Return is a great way to help the cats in your community; it improves the cats' health and stabilizes the colony while allowing them to live out their lives outdoors.
To successfully trap, neuter, vaccinate, eartip, and return feral cats to their outdoor home, you need a plan. Contact Feline Folks to borrow traps and learn about getting the Trap-Neuter-Return process started. Call 813-545-7611
I need to relocate a cat/colony. Should I do this? How do I do this?
Relocating feral cats is not the "happy ending" many people may think it is. The truth is, it's a complicated, risky, and time-consuming plan that rips frightened cats from their home—with no guarantee they will stay in the new location.
In high-tension situations, calls to "just move the cats" are extremely common. It can be tempting to offer the opposition an option they will easily accept, like relocation. But remember that you are always working towards a solution that is in the best interest of the cats—and relocation is not. Because of the negative impacts on the cats, relocation should be your last option, something to be considered only after you have exhausted all other possibilities and you truly believe that the cats' lives are in imminent danger if they remain where they are.
A far better course of action is to resolve the problems that are causing the cats to be forced out of their home. Contact the Humane Society at 813-625-0910.
I'm looking for low-cost neutering or financial help for the feral cats I care for. Can you steer me in the right direction?
Neutering is an important part of any Trap-Neuter-Return program, and the best thing you can do for stray and feral cats!
Use these suggestions to find neuter programs for cats.
- Contact the following low-cost neuter referral services:
Can you give me advice for how to care for a sick or injured cat?
If you come across a sick or injured outdoor cat, there are steps you can take to get the cat the medical attention she needs. But since this cat is likely feral (and therefore fearful of people), you need a plan that will keep her safe and calm.
Your first course of action:
- Find a veterinary facility with experience treating and handling feral cats and with an understanding of feral cat behavior and Trap-Neuter-Return..
- Once you've found a veterinarian, follow the veterinarian's steps for safely and humanely trapping cats, including those who are sick or injured.
- You will also have to consider what you will do in the event that the cat needs long-term care. Make sure you have an idea of where she can be held while she's recovering or receiving medical treatment. And, have a plan for providing these things financially.
- Ask about veterinarians' euthanasia policy. Unfortunately, veterinarians who have not been trained to work with feral cats often suggest euthanizing feral cats rather than treating them. Please be aware of your veterinarian's feral cat policies before taking cats there. Feline Folks' philosophy is that an animal should only be euthanized in the event of terminal illness or untreatable injury.
I think someone poisoned/injured my cat(s). What can I do?
Physical threats—or worse, actual violence or cruelty—toward any member of your feral cat colony present a serious and frightening situation for you and for the cats. However, it is important to stay focused and calm—that will help you better protect the cats.
Intentionally hurting a cat is animal cruelty, and it is illegal in every state and the District of Columbia. Direct threats to cats should be taken seriously.
If someone has physically harmed your cats:
When a cat you care for is harmed or killed, it can be very difficult to know what to do. There are steps you can take to protect the cats remaining in the colony and bring justice for the cat who is injured or who you have lost.
- First, if the cat is injured, trap her and take her to the veterinarian immediately. Find a feral-friendly veterinarian - A local veterinarian can help with an injured cat and may be able to help you determine cause of death.
- Next, call the police and begin gathering as much evidence as possible. Make sure you take pictures and document as much evidence as you can find—write all of your observations in a journal and include dates and times. We know how difficult this will be if the cat was killed, but you must document how you found her with photographs. If at all possible, get a necropsy (an autopsy for animals) performed on the cat in order to find out the cause of death. Most states have a state laboratory that performs post-mortem tests on animals. Costs vary, but may be worthwhile if evidence aids in prosecution of the case.
At this point you may want to involve a lawyer. In order to protect the remaining cats you may consider installing a video camera on your property in order to have documentation of activity at all times of the day. This would not only aid with evidence in future cases, but could also serve as a deterrent for anyone coming onto the property with ill intentions. If the situation has escalated to the point where you want to involve a lawyer, arm yourself with knowledge about local government structures as well as how to learn about your local ordinances.
How do I build/where can I find feeding stations for my outdoor cats?
Feeding stations are relatively easy to construct and create a place where the cats regularly come for food, which helps with trapping and controlling their location. Check out examples on the web for ideas and instructions for shelters you can build yourself. You'll also learn where to place your feeding stations to keep the cats safe and deter insects.
Note: This site is for information only and is provided a public service. The information on this page has be adopted from Alley Cat Allies web site, http://www.alleycat.org