Feral Cats: Myths and Facts

FERAL-CAT-facebookFeral 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!

Feral Facts

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.

Humane Help

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.

Feral Cat Traps

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.

13 thoughts on “Feral Cats: Myths and Facts”

  1. As much as I am a cat lover and animals in general I don’t think trap/ spay release program is s good idea. First educate society Spay or neuter your cat!! Second releasing feral cats back into the outdoors only creates problems for wildlife. They are very destructive to all wildlife. With this program more people will just turn their cat over to the outside thinking if it’s spayed then no reproducing Right? Yes true but again havoc to our wildlife this is not a good solution we also need to protect our wildlife and endangered species.

  2. Hi Laura! Feral cats have actually been shown to help control overpopulation of small rodents like rats and even some types of birds. We completely understand your concern but TNR has been proven time and time again to be the best option for cats that are too wild to be family pets.

  3. But what can we do if there is a feral colony in our neighborhood, and we can’t afford the $30 per cat plus $70 trap deposit for cats we already feed but do not actually belong to us? They start reproducing as soon as they are old enough; most of the kittens die early, and more die before they reach a year old, leaving one or two to continue the cycle. We are now seeing fourth generation kittens showing up to eat. I have two cats, myself, and I feed the colony, but I can’t afford to pay $500 to TNR, even if the trap deposit is returned.

  4. I take care of a small feral cat colony and thank goodness for the TNR service that the Great Plains SPCA provides. All have been fixed and are doing well. Not sure what an alternative would be. I do not think people use this service as a way to provide care to their household pets. Thank you Great Plains SPCA!!

  5. Hello…Our neighbors that lived across the street from us, moved recently but left behind their 4 cats. I have gathered them together, but they are really infested with fleas. One of the cats, I believe to be the oldest, has been scratching so much that she is bleeding. I can not keep these cats, my husband and I are getting ready to move as well. The apartment complex only allows 1 pet, I already have my cat. This is really a crucial time thing cuz I am concerned that the fleas are going to really hurt these cats. They all have names, I do know that. Lucy is the oldest cat who is scratching and bleeding. I don’t want them to be left here to die! Please let me know if I can bring them to you, tomorrow if at all possible.

  6. I have some feral cats that I have been feeding, now on second generation and I am afraid soon to be more. I have been trying to socialize them (some respond, some don’t) in the hopes of finding homes for some of them. Two have been taken by a friend and are doing well. I have a total of 7 kittens who are about to be four months old, and 5 that are 2 months old along with their mothers (4). What kind of help is available to me in Lawrence? What is the cost to spay or neuter? A few of them are very social. I think I can trap most of them to bring them in. What about the recovery time after surgery? Are they just immediately released? I could care for them for a few days I think. Thank you for this service and for helping me with this. God bless you for your work.

  7. Hi Gail, Sometimes you can get neighbors to chip in on the cost before you ask check and see if GPSPCA has any grants that might be available for TNR in your area. Unfortunately We can’t get away from cost, whether it goes for TNR or more cat food that you’ll need to feed the increasing colony. It’s much better choice to end the suffering of the babies being born outside. Even if you could get homes for every kitten born outside, you will be keeping people from adopting at the shelter. When I did my colony it was such a huge relief, especially not seeing kittens die from disease, predators or parasites. There is

  8. Hi Laura, Most rescue people have been trying to educate people for years. But in areas of blight, cats run rampant anyway. In those areas People are more concerned about feeding their families and keeping a roof over their head. We can’t wait for the few people to finally ” get it”. We have to act fast. Or the cats will just keep breeding. While we are out TNR, we do incorporate education. You would be surprised how some people fight the notion because A lot of the caretakers think that they are not going to hunt the rats and mice if they are fixed. Contrary to that notion I get more comments how the fixed
    feral cat killed a big rat and left it on their step as a prize.

  9. Carmen Williams

    Presently, I am caring for two cat colonies. I spend $200.00 of funds from my fixed income to feed these poor kitties. I have had my own pets spayed and neutered; however, like Gail, I can’t afford the $30 per cat plus $70 trap deposit for cats we already feed but do not actually belong to us. One cat colony resides in the RV Park behind McDonald’s on Hwy 24 in Independence. One day I witnessed someone kicking one of the cats at McDonalds and confronted them. I originally fed them there and was threatened by a worker at McDonalds. Evidently, another woman was prosecuted for feeding them. I simply choose to go to the RV Park and met someone there who is helping me. One of the cats is missing a foot and there is a bone protruding which hurts her when it scrapes on the ground. I also care for a cat colony near my home. I have asked neighbors for help; however, since the economy is horrible and they are unemployed or underemployed, they are not in a position to help with any fees. Any suggestions?

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