Ferals & Their Colonies
What is a feral cat and how we can help
A feral cat is a cat that lives outdoors and has had little or no human contact.
They do not allow themselves to be handled or touched by humans, and will run away if they are able. They typically remain hidden from humans, although some feral cats become more comfortable with people who regularly feed them. Even with long term attempts at socialization, feral cats usually remain fearful and avoidant of humans.
Feral cats often live outdoors in colonies in locations where they can access food and shelter. These colonies are called managed colonies when they are provided with regular food and care by humans. Some animal rescue groups provide care for feral cats by implementing trap-neuter-return programs, feeding the cats, socializing and adopting out young kittens, and providing healthcare.
Attempts to control feral cat populations are widespread, although the techniques differ significantly. Some advocate for trap-neuter-return programs to prevent the cats from continuing to breed; others suggest euthanasia.
A Closer Look at Community Cats
Common Misconceptions and Ways to Help
What is a Community Cat?
Community cats include the following:
- Cats born and raised in the wild.
- Cats who have been abandoned or lost and turned to wild ways in order to survive.
Common Misconceptions and Ways to Help
Community Cats Face Many Challenges:
- They must endure weather extremes such as cold and snow, heat and rain.
- Community cats face starvation, infection and attacks by other animals.
- Unfortunately, almost half of the kittens born outdoors die from disease, exposure or parasites before their first year.
- Community cats face eradication by humans. Poison, trapping, gassing and steel leg-hold traps are all ways that humans—including some animal control and government agencies—try to kill off community cat populations.
Noting the Differences between Stray Cats and Community Cats
Utilizing Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) to Manage Community Cat Colonies
New Law Opens Up Funding for Managing Feral Cat Colonies
Counties in Illinois will be able to tap into their animal population control funds to support programs aimed at reducing feral cat populations, thanks to legislation signed late last month by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Through the four-step program known as trap, neuter, vaccinate and return, or TNVR, feral and stray cats are humanely trapped and treated before being returned to their original outdoor locations, according to the animal advocacy group Best Friends Animal Society.
Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney for the group, said in a statement they were “ecstatic that Governor Rauner signed this cost-saving humane measure into law.”
Under the new law, counties can opt…Read More
Living in the Shadows
A “feral” cat is unsocialized and tends to be fearful of people and keep a distance. Ferals are most often found living outdoors in groups known as colonies. The cats in a colony share a common food source and territory and may include not only ferals, but also strays – former pet cats who were recently lost or abandoned and are still tame. Most feral colonies originate from unneutered stray cats. Ferals, as well as strays, are increasingly referred to as “community cats” or “free-roaming cats.”
While they live outside human homes and exhibit wild behavior, feral cats are not wildlife. The vast majority rely on some form of human-based food source for their sustenance, whether it’s a caretaker who feeds daily, a dumpster behind a supermarket or scraps left on fishing docks. Very few subsist on hunting alone.
Statewide TNR Project Example
Government agency and humane groups join forces for Delaware’s community cats
Given the often inflated concerns batted about in the media about public health threats from community cats, the fact that there is a managed community cat colony on the New Castle campus of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services may be surprising. Not only is the agency supportive of trap-neuter-return (TNR) as a tool to reduce the state’s free-roaming cat population and limit disease transmission, it is also home to the state’s Office of Animal Welfare.
OAW was established in 2013 to consolidate and coordinate companion animal programs statewide. The agency is responsible for the state’s low-cost spay/neuter program, animal shelter standards, dog licenses and emergency response for animals as well as centralizing animal control and cruelty enforcement. And according to its executive director, Hetti Brown, “The animal welfare issue in our community that requires the most attention is the community cat issue.”
THE BENEFITS OF
CAT TNR PROGRAMS VS.
Feral and stray cats are the greatest source of cat overpopulation in the United States. A large percentage of feral cats are euthanized each year and governments are trying to implement “catch and kill” programs to decrease the cat population. Feral cats deserve to be treated humanely and be given a chance at a healthy outdoor life. Wikipedia defines a feral cat as a free-roaming cat that is born and raised in the wild. A stray cat is a pet cat that has been abandoned or lost and has reverted back to its “wild” instinctual self in order to survive. These cats have also been referred to as alley cats, street cats, or outside cats.
In the U.S. alone, only 3% of free-roaming cats are neutered or spayed, leaving all the unneutered cats to continue reproducing and growing the feral cat population. One female cat has the ability to produce roughly 100 kittens in seven years1. This high rate of reproduction among feral cats is why feral cats account for 80% of the cats that barrage animal shelters. In California alone, animal control agencies and shelters for cat-related expenses spend more than $50 million per year.
Sadly, out of the 80% of feral cats that are turned in to animal shelters, 72% of these cats are subjected to euthanasia. Once a cat is turned in at a pound or shelter, there are only 3 possible outcomes for that cat: being adopted; reunited with their owner; or, being euthanized.