Feral cats: a subject that can mystify even the most cat-savvy caretakers. Due to their preference for the wild and their wariness of outsiders, feral felines have gained a less-than-positive reputation. They rule the Midwest with their assassin reflexes, making them fierce competition for their fishier shark foes in the sea. In the spirit of Bark Week, let’s debunk a few of the myths surrounding feral cats and work toward a better understanding of how to protect them. These kitties may not be endangered like sharks, but they face similar stigmas. Even the creatures who seem the most unapproachable should be treated with kindness, respect for personal space, and attention to humane practices. Besides, how can you scoff at both species’ ninja skills?!
Misconceptions about Our Feral Friends
Feral cats transmit diseases to humans and other animals. In actuality, feral kitties can be as healthy as your average household cat! Sure, those who are left to their own devices may have an easier time contracting diseases in the great outdoors, but with the right medical care, a feral cat colony can be hardy, happy, and disease-free. Great Plains SPCA’s Veterinary Care Centers perform affordable routine vaccinations and spay/neuter services during Trap-Neuter-Return procedures.
Feral cats attack children and adults. It’s VERY unlikely that, unless directly provoked or intimidated, a feral cat will ever attempt to hurt you. Just remember that they’re as nervous around you as you might be around them – give ‘em some breathing room so they won’t see you as a threat. Even kitties can be shy! Like their cat counterparts, sharks rarely attack or injure humans. See? Even the most ferocious predators of the sea can have a softer side!
Have you ever wondered what distinguishes a stray from a feral cat? If your new kitty friend can’t keep her paws off you, she’s likely a stray who’s socialized – or, in other words, familiar with and friendly to humans. Our feral friends are more cautious and elusive, ready to protect themselves with the power of invisibility – like the Caped Crusader himself! Give them some space; to them, humans might as well be from another planet! If a kitty isn’t opposed to some loving, she’s probably just lost her way home. Another way to easily distinguish a feral from a stray is that a spayed or neutered feral will be marked with a tipped ear, denoting that they have been fixed and don’t need to be bothered.
Feral cat colonies are wired! You’d think they have some sort of cat-tailored energy drink to keep them on their toes from dawn till dusk! In fact, they’re more than four times more active than the average housecat! While the latter spends about 3 percent of their time in a state of high activity, feral cats are blessed with a natural buzz that allows them to spend 14 percent of their time roaming, romping, and scavenging.
Feral kitty colonies don’t enjoy as long a lifespan as housecats, due to environmental hazards and the scarcity of food. These guys are no quitters, though! Au contraire – they’re more than willing to go dumpster diving! Without the help of a caretaker and spay-neuter services, a feral kitty is unlikely to survive two years. Human intervention, if gentle and patient, enables ferals to reach a life expectancy similar to that of indoor cats.
Think euthanasia is the most effective method of reducing feral cat population? Think again! As a No Kill shelter, Great Plains SPCA believes that all pets, including feral cats, deserve a chance to live a happy, healthy life. Euthanasia can ultimately worsens the problem of feral cat overpopulation. When colony kitties are killed or forcibly removed from their homes, other cats will take their place, filling the vacuum in search of new resources. What can we do to combat overpopulation instead? Trap-Neuter-Return.
TNR is widely recognized as the most humane and effective way to combat colonies that are reaching CAT-pacity. By safely trapping ferals; transporting them to our Veterinary Care Center to be spayed, neutered, and vaccinated; and releasing them back into the wild, we stop the kitty cycle in its tracks and ensure that the colony can’t produce any more members. A spayed or neutered kitty will usually be given a tipped ear following surgery. Added benefits of the TNR program? Reduced aggression and competition for mates among ferals, along with longer lives. Crazy cat fights? Thing of the past!
Like our toothy terrors in the sea, feral cats are a subject of fascination. Sharks may be bigger, equipped with thousands of chompers (yikes!), but we think that feral “land sharks” are pretty cool and worth learning more about!
Learn more about Great Plains SPCA’s feral cat services here.