No one likes to see a stray or feral cat that is malnourished, sick, scared, and homeless. According to surveys, studies, and the number of cats brought into shelters annually, it is estimated that up to 58 million cats live on the streets in the United States as of 2018. Many of these animals have become lost from their owners, or simply neglected and abandoned. Domesticated indoor cats can live up to fifteen years. Feral cats, on the other hand, do not have access to wellness care, vaccinations, dental health, and parasite prevention. The life of a feral cat can be very difficult, with an average lifespan being just two years. Make the right decisions to ensure that your cat doesn’t become a statistic. Charles D. Whitworth, DVM and his team can discuss your pet care options to ensure that your cat is healthy and happy for life.
To understand the differences between a domesticated, stray, and feral cat, you have to understand behavioral patterns, and ways to break the cycle.
- Domesticated: Domesticated house cats are well socialized and perceived as preferring their own company, but they’re quite capable of making deep connections with humans and other animals.
- Stray: A stray is an animal that is lost or separated from its owner. Stray cats tend to be socialized and friendly to humans. In some cases stray cats have been known to join feral groups to survive.
- Feral: Feral cats are wild and are the offspring of a stray or other feral cat. Their exposure to humans is non-existent or has eroded over time. Once grown, they’re not known to become friendly to people.
Feral Cat Behavior
Perhaps surprisingly, feral cats do form their own colonies. Formed around or adjacent to readily available food, colonies can include over a dozen cats who help each other hunt, scavenge, and raise kittens. Feral cats do not place themselves at risk of being touched by humans, or worse, trapped by them. However, over a period of time in which a human caretaker provides food, shelter, and even medicine, feral cats may give in to human attention/affection.
Don’t ever try to forcefully grab a feral cat or chase them. Sudden movements and loud noises are especially frightening and repel feral cats from being tended to. Feral cats usually crouch low to the ground, protect their bodies with their tails, and do not make eye contact. Typically, they won’t meow or make sounds like other cats.
How Can You Help?
The Importance of Spaying and Neutering
The benefits of spaying or neutering are obvious for house cats. While the same virtues exist for feral cats, the procedure greatly reduces overpopulation, breeding fights, and even the spread of disease. Plus, when feral cats are trapped and sterilized, they can also receive the rabies vaccine and an ear clip that signals the care they’ve received.
Ways to Help Control the Stray Cat Problem
- Don’t feed stray or feral cats.
- Do not abandon a cat.
- Have your cat spayed or neutered. When feral cats are neutered and released back into the population, the birth rate goes down and the cats are healthier.
- Socializing feral kittens is a major component toward their hopeful adoption. Without the development of proper and complete social skills, feral kittens are most likely to shun all human contact.
Dr. Whitworth and his veterinary staff recommend annual checkups for most pets. Ask us about wellness and procedures that you can do yourself to ensure your pet’s health. Make an appointment at Whitworth Animal Clinic in Madison, Alabama, to have your pet’s health checked.