What to Do with Ferals in Your Area

If you see a feral cat or a feral cat colony around your home it definitely is a good idea to find a way to trap those cats for at minimum a trip to the vet and a spay or neuter.   Depending on the feral state of the cat, how you trap the cat will differ. If you have a totally feral cat around, you may want to try to gain the cat’s trust before trapping.  Food is usually the best motivator for feral cats.   You might consider putting food out for the cat at the same time every day.  Watch from a distance to see if the cat notices and eats the food.  If he/she is taking your food, continue putting it out at the same time every day to develop a routine for the cat.   After a while you can wait near the food so the cat can see you and associate you with the food or, if you’re lucky, seek contact with you.  Once the cat is comfortable in your presence you can start trying to approach the animal.  Make sure you always move slowly, and talk slowly and softly around a feral animal.  Always listen to what the cat is ‘saying’ with the position of its body, ears, tail and whiskers, and never rush the animal into contact.  If he/she ever gets frightened or angry, don’t push it.  (See also cat communication for how cats communicate and how to read their signals).  Eventually you can put a humane trap out for the animal.   You can usually purchase or borrow one from your local humane society or shelter.  Once you have trapped the animal, you can take him/her to the vet for a full check up and to be fixed.  It will be a good idea to have the cat tested for FeLV, FIV, FIP, fleas, mites and other diseases.  Once the cat is back from the vet and is medically taken care of you must decide whether to rescue or release the animal.

Once the cat is found to be healthy, you have three choices.  You can give the animal to a shelter with the hopes that he/she will be adopted, socialize the animal yourself (and then either keep him/her or give him/her to a shelter), or release the animal back into the wild and take care of the cat as part of a monitored feral cat colony.  What you should do really depends on how feral the cat is and how much time and patience you have.  If you feel that the cat is well socialized and would be able to make a good pet you probably want to consider either adopting the cat yourself or giving the cat to a shelter to be placed.  This works well for slightly-feral cats who have gained your trust and are already somewhat adjusted to humans.  If the cat is semi-feral or totally-feral you can consider socializing the animal.  Feral socialization can be a major undertaking and requires great patience, so know what you are getting into.  After the cat is socialized, you can either keep the cat as your own pet or give the pet to a shelter for adoption.  If the cat is a totally-feral animal or a semi-feral animal who is unwilling to accept you and other humans and thus will most likely have a very hard time being adopted, or if you have tried to socialize the cat to no avail, you may want to consider releasing the animal.  Totally-feral cats who go to a shelter may be immediately euthanized (most shelters don’t have the resources to socialize feral cats) or will have a very hard time being adopted (as most people won’t adopt any sort of ‘problem’ cat) and will eventually be put to sleep.  Thus if faced with either living spayed or neutered in a monitored feral cat colony or being put to sleep, it makes sense that the cat be left to live in a monitored colony.

If and only if you feel the cat has a good chance of getting adopted should you call your local shelters and find one who can take the cat.  You may want to ask each shelter what their policies are as far as how long they will keep the cat, what their euthanasia policy is, what they will do if the cat can’t be adopted and so on.  Make sure that you find a shelter that you are comfortable with and which you think will give the cat a fighting chance!