From Alley Cat Allies
What is your usual reaction when you come across an outdoor cat? Is your instinct to call the local shelter or animal control to find her a home? On occasion, the cat you’ve come across is not homeless at all, but lives quite happily outdoors. Feral cats have no desire to snuggle with you on your couch. Do you know the difference? Feral cats are not socialized – they are usually not friendly towards people. They have either never had human contact or it has diminished over time. They are fearful of people and survive on their own outdoors. A feral cat is not likely to ever become a lap cat or enjoy living indoors.
Feral cats live healthy, natural lives within groups called colonies. They aren’t adoptable, and THEY DON’T BELONG IN SHELTERS. In animal shelters, the only happy ending for animals is adoption. Feral cats get euthanized.
Since it is difficult to determine each cat’s socialization during a stressful event such as trapping, it’s a good idea to observe cats on their own outdoors using the guidelines below. Remember that these guidelines are not hard and fast rules and that just one of these traits is probably not enough to draw a conclusion. Bottom line: If a cat you don’t know approaches you or if you can touch her, she is most likely not feral. Not all stray cats will do this though, especially at first—each cat will act differently in a variety of situations. More monitoring using these guidelines may be necessary to determine if the cat is socialized.
How do you tell feral and stray cats apart once you have trapped them?
When in a frightening or stressful environment—such as a trap or a shelter—a friendly stray cat may act like a feral cat, avoiding people and possibly even showing aggression to avoid being touched. “A lot of cats seem feral in traps but are just afraid,” explains Alley Cat Allies Feral Friend Genevieve Van de Merghel. Who can blame them? The cat is in a new and unfamiliar place. Here are some ways that will help distinguish a feral cat from a scared stray cat when they are frightened, confined, or in a new place.
Please think twice before you call your local animal control about a feral cat or decide to take it them yourself. Instead, find out if your community supports Trap-NeuterReturn. Trap-Neuter-Return is a humane approach for feral cats. Through this program, outdoor cats are painlessly trapped, brought to a veterinarian to be evaluated, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped. Cats who are friendly to humans and kittens are adopted into homes. Healthy adult feral cats are returned to their outdoor home.
If your community doesn’t have a Trap-Neuter-Return program, organize one!
Visit www.alleycat.org to find out how you can help change shelter policies that don’t address the needs of outdoor cats.