Understanding what Feral Cats are
10 April 2018
What are Feral Cats? Feral cats are once domestic cats, or the descendants of once domestic cats, and their offspring, who are now living in the wild. Originally they may have been pets, or the descendants of once domestic cats abandoned by uncaring owners, or who have simply wandered away from home and got lost, often due to not having been neutered. These wild-living cats then often form colonies wherever there is shelter and a food supply e.g. industrial estates, abandoned areas of land, rubbish tips, or where animal lovers provide food. Where there is one feral puss there are sure to be others.
Why Humane Control is needed. Feral colonies can act as reservoirs of viruses such as FeLV/FIV which can be transmitted to domestic pet cats when interacting with ferals. In an un-managed colony, feral cat numbers can increase to such a degree that they may become unhealthy through continued breeding, interbreeding, poor nutrition and fighting (especially among unneutered tom cats).
Left un-checked, it is a continual breeding cycle, where female cats may have one litter partially weaned and already be pregnant with another litter. Becoming continually pregnant also takes a high toll on the female cat, and often leads to potentially fatal diseases. Kittens are often abandoned to fend for themselves or eventually die if food becomes scarce.
Young feral kittens can be tamed. It has been estimated that up to 80% of feral kittens die in their first year through accident or disease, but since kittens attract more attention and sympathy from people than do adult cats this is often when we are contacted and, as a result, find ourselves in possession of spitty, hissy kittens which need to be tamed and eventually homed.If the kittens are not rescued, they will continue to expand the colony by breeding from as young as four months old, making the problem worse. Taming feral kittens for a domestic home is usually possible if they are caught at a young enough age (ideally 6 - 8 weeks) and socialised by a patient fosterer, however there will be some which will never tame however much love, effort and attention is given to them, and in those cases outdoor homes must be found.
We have a large feral cat over-population problem in Britain - largely a man-made problem. If kittens are caught young enough they can be tamed and homes found for them. Sadly, it is often impractical to treat sick or injured ferals in the same way as a domestic cat. Feral cats are unused to human contact and get highly stressed when handled. Long term veterinary care for a feral cat who has to be regularly caught, sedated and treated is just not viable so, sadly in some cases a rescue is faced with the difficult decision to have the cat put to sleep. Again, the sooner a colony is reported, and managed, the better for the health of the cats.
Getting Help before it's out of control! If you find yourself dealing with a feral or semi-feral population of cats, then your first course of action is to contact us. We do not have the necessary resources or the money to deal with ferals but we will be able to provide guidance and assistance on how to manage those ferals and will help trap, neuter/spay and return the cats back to their territory. The most important thing is not to ignore the ‘growing’ problem, as each month that passes may well see an increase in the numbers of ferals and associated kittens to deal with feral cats pose a big problem for us, because they take a large amount of time and resources (both human and financial) to deal with. However – the sooner you report an un-managed feral colony, the smaller the problem! If you come across feral cats on your land then there is one of two actions you should take.
Remember these cats are classed as wild animals and should be treated as such If you choose to start feeding a feral cat then effectively you are agreeing to take responsibility for him as he will continue to stay around your area and quickly realise he has food and shelter. These cats can be very beneficial to vermin control and need minimum interaction from humans. They only need daily feeding and a warm shelter from the cold and wet and the possibility of occasional veterinary treatment. If you do not want the responsibility of a feral cat then please leave him alone. Do not feed him, he will happily move on and live as nature intended.