Feral cats live in colonies around the world, but when groups of homeless cats are perceived as infiltrating quiet neighborhoods they can pick up unfortunate reputations.
However, instead of seeing feral cats as unwanted interlopers, members of communities around the globe can save lives in some pretty simple, yet effective, ways.
Not a Nuisance
Alleyways, country roads, city parks, and slow suburban streets are home to millions of feral cats. Whether they are perceived as low-level public nuisances or absolute menaces, the truth is they are at risk of infections, infestations, mistreatment, injury and more. Their populations grow quickly and without care these cats have shorter lifespans.
The approach to helping community cats is two-fold: reduce population and keep existing individuals as healthy as possible.
As opposed to traditional catch and kill programs, Trap, Neuter, and Return programs are highly successful. Not only is the process humane, but through sterilization, cat populations cannot continue to flourish. Ending the breeding cycle, vaccinating, and returning cats to their hard-won territories is they key to neighborhood maintenance.
Feral cats are feared by many people because they never received the benefits of socialization. They fear strangers and may react aggressively. Stray cats or pet cats that ended up on the streets may have some experience with people and won’t always shy away from being called or handled. Cats that haven’t been spayed or neutered will reproduce, adding to the feral cat population.
Feral Cats and Adoption
When feral cats are trapped and placed in a rescue environment, permanent adoption is unlikely. Without meaningful human contact from an early age, a feral cat is fearful and unable to adjust to indoor life in a cage. Some communities continue to capture and euthanize these animals, but many view the practice as ineffectual and cruel.
Helping Feral Cats
Animal lovers naturally want to do their parts to help out feral cats they see regularly. Typically, local programs enlist volunteers to help colonies survive with food, shelter, water, illness monitoring, and kitten removal.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about the following ideas to help feral cats:
- If you are convinced the cat is friendly, look for their identification. If a collar and tags are missing, take a picture of the cat and post an ad to social media seeking the owner.
- Remember, feral cats, if they’ve been previously trapped, neutered or spayed, and returned, may have a notch missing from the point of the ear.
- Please do not corner feral cats, and teach kids to give them a big space bubble. While the risk of zoonotic and other contagious diseases is possible, feral cats are typically scared of human interaction.
- Try to watch where the cat goes. They could already be part of a colony already supported by a feral cat caretaker.
- Perhaps after several days of feeding and coaxing, the feral cat in your yard remains completely unapproachable. In this case, reach out to San Antonio Feral Cat Coalition, Animal Welfare Society or Animal Rescue Connections for assistance.
Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital is always happy to help with further questions regarding feral cats in our community.