Feral Cats: Fact & Fiction
What are feral cats? Feral cats are the “wild” offspring of domestic cats. They live outdoors, separate from humans. In fact, feral cats are usually frightened of humans.
Why do cats become feral? Feral cats are descended from domestic cats whose owners abandoned, or failed to spay and neuter them. Feral cats’ domestic kin may also have got lost or run away from abusive owners. Like domestic cats, feral cats multiply very quickly. In five years, an unspayed feral female can have 20,000 descendants.
Are feral cats solitary? No! Feral cats tend to live in colonies, or groups. Often, as many as three or four generations of a family will live together. Females help in raising each other’s young.
What is a feral cat colony? A colony is a population of feral cats. The term is used primarily when a
noticeable population of feral cats live together in a specific location and use a common food source.
Where do feral cats live? Feral cats are common in urban areas, and can frequently be found behind shopping areas or businesses, in alleys and parks. They also shelter under porches or in abandoned buildings.
Can feral cats ever be domesticated? Feral kittens can make excellent pets if they become accustomed to humans before they are about six to eight weeks old. Older feral cats sometimes adjust to living with humans. Most feral cats, though, resist domestication. If you are thinking about taking a feral cat into your home, consult a veterinarian beforehand.
Why bother about feral cats? Like any living creature, feral cats deserve respect. Feral cats also help to control mouse and rat populations.
How can we help feral cats? Feral cats can be humanely trapped, spayed/neutered, and vaccinated against rabies and other feline diseases. The cats can then be released back into their colonies. Spaying and neutering feral cats controls their numbers, enabling people to care more effectively for those feral cats that remain. Feral kittens are placed in foster homes and eventually, adopted out as pets.
Does the Annex Cat Rescue have a program for feral cats? Yes! Annex Cat Rescue routinely traps, spays/neuters, and vaccinates feral cats. Daily, volunteers leave water and dry food at designated feeding stations. Small feral kittens are temporarily housed with foster caregivers and eventually adopted out as pets.
Many people believe that cats will survive if abandoned. Most cats don’t! Animal shelters euthanize thousands of stray cats a year, and many more die slow, miserable deaths from starvation, disease, accidents, abuse or attacks from predators. The ones we take in are lucky.
Read more about feral cats and how to care for them from the Toronto Feral Cat Project.