Feral Cat vs. Stray Cat
A stray cat is a pet that is lost or abandoned and often tries to make a home near humans (e.g. in a garage, porch or backyard). Stray cats may be reunited with their families or adopted into new homes.
Feral cats are the offspring of lost, abandoned or feral cats that are not spayed or neutered. Unlike stray cats that are generally tame, feral cats are not accustomed to people, making them fearful and too wild to be handled. Feral cats do not easily adapt or may never adapt to living as a pet. They live in groups called colonies, and take refuge wherever they can find food, such as rodents, other small animals and garbage.
“Ear tipping” is one way to identify feral cats. If you see the tip of the left ear of a cat has been surgically removed, that means that cat has been spayed or neutered.
Female cats can reproduce as young as five months old and have kittens two to three times a year. Feral cats must endure extreme weather and struggle with starvation, infections and attacks from other animals.
Feral cats also face death by humans, through poisoning, trapping, gassing, hunting and steel leg-hold traps. These methods are used by both private citizens and some government animal control agencies.
Helping Feral Cats
There are many things you can do to help improve the health and quality of life of feral cats:
1.Try to locate the owners of stray cats or find a suitable, permanent home for them.
2. Many who oppose feeding feral cats assume that if there is no food available, the cats will go away. This is not true–feral cats are territorial, can survive for weeks without food, and will not easily or quickly leave their territory to search for new food sources.
3. Simply feeding a feral cat is not the most humane solution. To help these animals, try a Trap-Neuter-Return strategy. TNR is the most humane, efficient, and least expensive way of controlling feral cat colonies. It entails trapping cats, having them spayed or neutered, vaccinating them for rabies, then returning them to their colony. After the cat is returned, a caretaker should provide food and adequate shelter while monitoring the cat’s health.
Community Benefits From TNR
According to the website of the American Society for the Protection of Animals, “TNR helps the community by stabilizing the population of the feral colony and, over time, reducing it. At the same time, nuisance behaviors such as spraying, loud noise and fighting are largely eliminated and no more kittens are born.”
TNR also helps your community by reducing the number of unadoptable cats in shelters and makes space for adoptable cats and kittens. In addition, feral cats that have been spayed or neutered provide a natural rodent control.
For more information about feral cats in your community, visit these websites:
Alley Cat Allies: What You Can Do to Help Feral Cats
ASPCA: What You Can Do to Help Feral Cats
Humane Society: What You Can Do to Help Feral Cats
By Sarah Zumhofe