A Feral Cat Primer for National Feral Cat Day

Thu, Oct 15, 2009

Animal Welfare

National Ferla Cat Day

Guest post by Peter J. Wolf

October 16 is National Feral Cat Day (NFCD) in the United States. No doubt caregivers of feral cats will be up extra-early this morning, celebrating with their colonies (brightly colored party hats for humans and felines alike). And for the rest of us, well, it seemed the perfect occasion for a Feral Cat Primer here on Moderncat.

What is a feral cat?
Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, perhaps this country’s leading researcher on the subject, defines a feral cat as “any un-socialized, un-owned cat; a cat whose temperament makes him afraid of people. Feral cats don’t fit into the pet paradigm–they’re a hybrid falling somewhere between a domestic cat and wildlife.”

How many feral cats are there in the U.S.?
This is a tricky one, as it’s impossible to know for sure. Some experts, however, estimate the population of feral cats to be about the same as owned cats–which would put the number at more than 88 million.

Where do feral cats come from?
Some are the offspring of other feral cats, of course. But unaltered stray and abandoned cats also contribute to the population of feral cats. And the population can grow very quickly! According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Cats can become pregnant as early as 4-5 months of age, and the number of cats rapidly increases without intervention by caring people.”

What risks do feral cats face?
Although feral cats face numerous environmental hazards, their greatest threat can be from humans. Because they often lack the social skills that would make them adoptable in animal shelters, feral cats are routinely killed as soon as they are brought in. Indeed, “there is no other animal entering a shelter,” writes Nathan Winograd, author of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, “whose prospects are so grim and outcome so certain.”

How can I help feral cats?
Many people are dedicated to helping the feral cats in their neighborhoods (which could be one reason the term community cats is gaining in popularity). Providing food and water, conducting TNR programs (see below), and adopting out kittens are just some of the ways individuals and groups can improve the lives of feral cats.

What is TNR?
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a humane (if somewhat controversial) program for managing colonies of feral cats. The cats are humanely trapped, neutered (and in some cases, tested for FIV/FeLV and vaccinated), and then returned to the location from which they were trapped (although in some instances, they may be relocated to an area deemed safer for the cats). Visit the Alley Cat Allies website for an extensive list of TNR resources.

How can I celebrate NFCD?
Alley Cat Allies has a list of events taking place across the U.S. Something else you can do: take a moment to thank the generous people who take care of these “unwanted” cats day-in and day-out, in all kinds of weather, despite any number of additional pressing commitments. Countless feral cats benefit each day from their heroic efforts.

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11 Responses to “A Feral Cat Primer for National Feral Cat Day”

  1. 1
    brieanne

    it’s important to get this out! ben and stu came from a feral mommy–they would have been feral (or dead) had they not been rescued (especially since they were abandoned).

  2. 2
    BK

    KushKush is still fairly unsocialized, and his “temperment makes him afraid of people”. I wish I’d been able to nab some of his littermates when I grabbed him off the street. Sigh. Thanks for posting this.

  3. 3
    Marta

    In Spain, some groups of voluntary people are taking care of cat colonies bringing them food and water, and also sterilize them, so they take control that colonies don’t grow in excess.

  4. 4
    Loora

    This is one interesting article ! Thank you so much for documenting it so well (read all the links…) !!

    Still, even if I totally agree on why you should tend to get ferals socialized and adopted, I can’t say I’m all for the “no-feral no-stray” goal. I’m always wondering if we have the right to transform cats into an indoor specie. It broke my heart to see my cat meowing at trees from behind a closed window. We moved and now, she’s free to roam in our garden (and our neighbour’s), even if she spends most of the day inside. I love having her living with us, but I try to respect that smidgen of wild cat that’ll never make her totally ours. I can’t say I wish there were no strays and no feral… (but sprayed and neutered)

  5. 5
    Marcela

    Hace más de diez años que estoy ayudando a los gatos de la calle, que son fruto del poco civismo de la gente, que deja salir a los suyos a la calle, sin estar esterilizados, luego les crian y no se hacen responsables de las crias.

    Siempre que encuentro gatitos, los llevo a visitar al veterinario, una vez están bien, les busco un hogar, a través de anuncios.

    Hasta el día de hoy, voy encontrando famílias, que los adoptan, siempre les pido que los cuiden muchísimo, que un animal no és ningún juguete, y que nunca los abandonen, y tanbiém les digo que de no quererlo, me lo devuelvan a mí, para yo intentar buscarles otra família.

    A veces, también he podido coger a la madre junto con sus gatitos, las llevo al veterinario a esterilizar, de estos gastos, tengo que hacerme cargo yo, pues el ayuntamiento de mi ciudad, no ayuda en nada.

    Estoy agradecida que Modern Cat que me haya enviado este comunicado, y que entre todos podamos ayudar a todos los animales, que la gente sin escrúpulos abandona.

  6. 6
    Corinne

    Thanks for a great, informative post Peter. I guess there will always be controversy about “feral” cats, TNR programs and giving domestic cats the freedom to roam.

    I think the more exposure people get and the more hands on involvement they experience the more they will understand and hopefully come together for in the best interests of the cats.

    I believe that the world of cat rescue and cat care continues to evolve as more people understand cats and their behavior.

  7. 7
    Amber

    Thank you for posting this! The world needs to know! Ellie Mae, our formal feral, is going to get extra catnip and treats today, and I’m going find something special to do for the feral colony near my workplace. And more importantly, I’m going to spread the word!

  8. 8
    jmuhj

    Big props to our international cat-loving friends for letting us know about how things are in their respective parts of the world for community cats!

    As longtime contributor/supporters to Alley Cat Allies, the national (and to a great degree, beyond-national) cat advocacy organization/database and the originators, as far as I know, of NFCD, I consider it very important to mark not only that day, but every day, for community cats; to educate others, to spay/neuter and adopt adoptables, while caring for adults; and to advocate on their behalf via letter, petition, and education. EVERYONE who cares for cats can help!

  9. 9
    elle

    i have five cats and they all come from some type of homeless life. They are all very wonderful loving cats. I beleive in the SNR program. The feral colonies need to end. There is too much disease, sickness and suffering these animal endure. I celebrate everyday, not just on national feral cat day, that I have saved 5 wonderful lives from the streets.

  10. 10
    http://www.pet-medication.bz

    I was happy to tell Simo she had her own day, I think it is very sweet.


Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Wait – what? That’s not what NFCD is? Oh, well, the pet lovers at Modern Cat will probably explain it better. Here at Culture Blues, we love our feral cats, especially the two that are always fighting outside [...]

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