Feral cats are the wild offspring of domestic cats and are primarily the result of pet owners abandonment or failure to spay and neuter their animals, allowing them to breed uncontrolled.
A feral cat can also be a stray cat that was lost or abandoned and has lived away from the human bond long enough to revert to a wild state. They are born outdoors and usually are hidden by their mothers; they have little or no human contact in the formative months. Not socialized to humans, they view people as a danger. As they are often nocturnal, you may not be aware of their presence or total colony size.
When feral cats live together, the group is called a colony. Feral cat colonies can be found behind shopping areas or businesses, in alleys, parks, abandoned buildings, and rural areas.
Feral kittens can often be adopted into homes, but they must be socialized at an early age. There is a critical window, and if they are not handled in time, they will remain feral and, therefore, unadoptable. When kittens have not been socialized at an early name a rescue will TNR those kittens along with the adult cats.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the process of humanely trapping, spaying/neutering, and vaccinating feral cats and returning the cats to the same location they were trapped. The population will stabilize over time as no more kittens are born. Neutered males are also less likely to spray and fight. Colony caretakers continue to trap and spay/neuter any new cats while providing food and possibly shelter.
TNR is the only effective, humane, and long-term solution in controlling feral cat populations as removal attempts may temporarily reduce the number of feral cats in a given area; however, two things happen: first, the unsterilized survivors continue to breed and, second, other cats move into the now available territory (known as the vacuum effect ).
In communities not practicing TNR, several decades of “catch and kill” has done nothing to reduce the feral cat population -there are more cats than ever. Stopping feeding will not make the cats go away, only suffer as they search for new sources of food. Cats bond to their territory and can survive on garbage, if necessary.
Studies have shown that TNR is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least possible cost to local government and residents, while providing the best life for the feral cats. In addition,
TNR also helps reduce the number of cats euthanized at shelters. When fewer kittens are born to feral and stray cats, few cats and kittens enter shelters -which means fewer are killed because of lack of homes.
What You Can Do To Help Feral Cats in Your Area:
- Please don’t turn a blind eye to the situation
- Be responsible and spay/neuter your own pets
- Work with neighbors / local businesses to regularly put food out for feral cats. It is best to put it out at a consistent time each day, preferably in daylight hours so as to not attract local wildlife (raccoons, possums, etc.).
- Local Rescue’s in the Raleigh area (like Alley Cats and Angels) can teach you how to manage a feral colony
- Assist in trapping feral cats for sterilization and/or transporting to a vet or spay/neuter clinic.
- Local rescues have traps available for loan and volunteers can demonstrate how the traps work.
- Local rescues can assist trapping those hard to catch cats.
- Donate to Funds which subsidize spay/neuter surgeries and vaccinations for feral cats and cats owned by people on fixed/low incomes. Alter an Alley Cat is an example of one of those programs available in our area.
- Click here for more information on TNR and Feral Cats