What Is a Feral Cat?

Although you might have seen the word “feral” being used in conjunction with “stray” as well as “outdoor” felines, this is not true comparability. What is a”feral cat” precisely? The term “feral cat” is defined by distinct traits; they are regarded as wild animals and, in most cases, they are not contained in a house. Because of this, they typically live in the outdoors all their life, leading to debate.

What Is a Feral Cat?

Feral cats are those who are the offspring of domestic cat species. Most often, pet cats end up living on the streets, and give birth to kittens that do not have contact with humans. When they have enough time away from socialization and contact with humans, these cats have less of a home and are more afraid of humans.

A feral cat is a particular type of stray because of these causes and usually exhibit warning signs of anxiety when they’re near humans. To perform any sort of interaction with them, they have to be safely trapped by humans and controlled, as they can’t be handled safely in other ways. They are often violent, and frightened and are a major risk of escape when handled. They should be handled with great care by skilled handlers.

Some cats are as strays if they’re found in the streets or do not have an appropriate home, but should they have been previously in a shelter or were introduced to humans as kittens they tend to be more responsive to human interaction and remain in a house regardless of the fact that it may take some time to adjust and gain confidence. A cat that comes up to you in the street is able to be pet or coos and purrs to attract attention is not considered feral.

Feral Cat vs. Stray Cat: What’s the Difference?

How to Support Feral Cats

Because feral cats are thought of as wild animals, they cannot change to living in a home quickly. In reality, any kind of interaction with humans could be very stressful for wild cats. This can cause physical and psychological issues when cats that are feral are kept in the confines of a captive. Feral cats are at their best when they are part of a community of feral cats. They are able to avoid contact with humans. The majority of colonies are located near garbage dumps and livestock barns, where they will be assured of a steady supply of food and shelter to shelter and escape the rain, cold or extreme heat. There are some actions humans can take to assist the local cat colony such as trapping, neutering release programs, and providing water, food as well as shelter.

Trap, Neuter, Release Programs

Animal shelters and rescue organizations can be extremely beneficial and frequently offer programs that provide basic health care and sterilization to cats that roam by means of programs known as trap neuter, trap (TNR). These programs are designed for humans to trap cats in a humane way to ensure that they are sterilized and spayed and later released into their community. This will help control the population of feral cats and allows them to return to their homes and live the rest of their days. 

Cats trapped by TNR programs can also get essential vaccinations and/or deworming when they’re sedated. This prevents infections that can spread within the community. They also have ear-tipped ears, meaning that when they’re sedated, the tip of their ears is surgically clipped, so that they are easily identifiable as felines who have been neutered or spayed. This stops them from getting unnecessarily sedated and trapped in the future.

Create Outdoor Shelter

Another method of supporting the feral cat colony by offering shelters in the kind or outdoors cat litter boxes. There are many available on the market to buy, and some are heated. You will also find innovative ways how to construct a shelter for your cat. The most important thing to consider is that they’re waterproof and offer some shelter away from the elements and they are large enough openings to allow cats to crawl easily in or out.

Provide Food and Water

There are people who provide food and water to the feral cat colonies. It can be a little controversial since neighbors may be unhappy about having the colony within their neighborhood and be concerned about the smells and mess caused by cat waste and food. If you are involved with feeding a colony make sure to place your food in a quiet location away from neighbors’ backyards or homes and speak with local organizations for feral cats regarding the best way to assist the particular colony.

Controversies Surrounding Feral Cats

There are many opinions on feral cats and the best way to handle them. There isn’t always an easy answer, as there are numerous perspectives to think about.

Risk to Wildlife

A major concern is that wild cats, along with any outdoor or stray cats, can pose a threat to wildlife as well as other species. Cats are superb hunters and, when given the chance, they’ll hunt down and kill small rodents as well as birds, such as domestic chickens. The members of the community who enjoy bird watching, or have chickens and other animals that live in their yard are less likely to want cats to be around. It is also a factor when it comes to protecting endangered species. Cats aren’t discerning when hunting and a large colony of feral cats could inflict a huge burden on wildlife that lives nearby. It is believed that domestic cats that roam free take the lives of millions of animals and birds throughout the United States. 

Because of this, many people aren’t averse to cats living in colonies that are feral and there are instances of people taking things by themselves to eliminate feral cats to eliminate them from the zone. 

Disease Carriers

Another issue with feral cats concerns that they may be reservoirs of certain diseases that can spread to other animals or domestic pets. For instance, since feral cats tend to live in large numbers and engage involved in physical fights with one another, they could transmit feline diseases like feline leukemia (FelV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) within the colony. If your pet cat wanders out in the open and is in contact with a wild cat with one of the viruses, it could be at risk of contracting the virus as well. This is also the case for other viruses, such as rabies which could infect different species, too. 

Final Thoughts

There isn’t always a straightforward solution to the issues mentioned above and also to consider the wellbeing of wild cat populations. In many cases, a multi-pronged strategy is employed to address these issues, including TNR programs that incorporate vaccinations, creating appropriate areas for colonies of feral cats, and the removal of wild cats from areas where wildlife is in danger.

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