Feral cats, stray cats, wild cats – there are many names for the mysterious felines we see peeking out from under parked cars, porches, or darting into abandoned buildings. Many of these cats often share a single destiny: short and difficult lives.
According to the Humane Society, a feral cat is any cat who is too poorly socialized to be handled, therefore it is unlikely to be placed into a typical pet home. Feral or stray community cats live outdoors and are not owned, but may be fed by one or more caring individuals. Community cat populations generally consist of a mixture of feral cats and cats who have been lost or abandoned. These cats tend to gather in colonies. No one can guess how many community cats live in the United States, but estimates are in the tens of millions.
Some people advocate relocating or “putting down” feral cats. Relocation may sound like a humane thing to do, but in the long run, it is ineffective. Feral cats gather where there are resources such as food, water, and shelter. When an existing colony is relocated (or eradicated), a new colony of feral cats will discover the same resources and move in to fill the void. Unless a colony’s life is in danger, most experts agree that relocation is a bad solution. How can we combat the kitty explosion?
There are ways to help stray and feral cats. Here are a few things that we can do.
• Rescue the younger and less wild kittens. They are easier to socialize for homes.
• Don’t contribute to the problem. Spay and neuter family pets. Try to keep the kitty indoors only for her safety, but also from becoming lost and ending up in a feral colony.
• Don’t feed and forget feral cats. Feeding feral cats is generous, but they need care, too.
• Show caring with cash. Spay/neuter, donate money to animal welfare, support locate shelters, and veterinarians.
• Become a colony caretaker.
Feral cats can become a problem for people and other cats. Rather than contribute to the problem, there are ways to help manage it. Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) programs seem to be effective with helping to reduce cat populations.