About Feral Cats

Feral cats appear in many communities. If you have seen some, are you not able to resist the urge to feed them, because they may not have had a decent meal for a long time? You are not alone!

Feral cats overrun many neighborhoods. Not only is an uncontrolled population a nuisance, but also a hazard to humans and domestic pets.

Please know the difference between stray and feral. Stray cats lived with humans at one point. They either strayed too far away from home (hence the name) or evicted from the house by their owners.  Stray cats, if not too scared, may come up to you and allow you to pet it. They may seek help from humans to save them from hunger and homelessness. Those cats may have another chance of becoming pets due to prior contact with humans.

Feral cats, on the other hand, are completely wild. These cats are as wild as raccoons and squirrels. Feral cats never lived with humans or had any contact with them. They view humans as enemies, therefore, do not attempt to bring one in your home. They have never lived in a house and will become very stressed, and possibly dangerous. Kittens or young adults may have a chance at becoming house cats.

If a feral cat starts to trust you, it may come closer to you. If it does, do not try to pet it. They can quickly scratch you! Consequently, the scratch can get infected quick which can lead to serious health hazards. You can be more trustworthy to the cats by keeping your distance and never reaching your hand out to them.

Feral cats may not become “tame” no matter how much you feed them. You may gain their trust, however, turning them into pets may be a challenge.
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18 comments

  1. This is a very interesting article. I’ve never owned a cat, but there are cats at the barn that I work at. Interesting story – we had a cat named Sunshine; he lived at our barn for 2 years, and then disappeared. We presumed him gone/dead, but 6 months later he returned. He was very malnourished, though. Also, I can vouch for the information in this article, as we tried to take in a feral kitten that was just old enough to support herself. She would come and go, eating the mice in the barn and having her own kittens.

    1. Hi Ethan

      thanks for visiting my site. Some of the cats, such as Pepper and Patches, I’ve been caring for about 3 years. I saw them both when they were kittens. They still shy away from me when I come out to feed them but still stay close by. I haven’t been able to trap Pepper or Patches (they are too smart) but I am going to try to catch Patches’ two kittens and hopefully get them adopted.

  2. I grew up on a hobby farm and we had three feral cats that lived in the stables. They must have been someone’s pets at one stage because two had been neutered. Anyway one of the females would always come up to the shed while we were milking our cow, to get a squirt directly from the cow’s udder. They were never really comfortable with cuddles but did come close enough for a quick pat. It was good knowing they were around to cull of the mice. I totally agree that they should be neutered and any program that helps in that way is a fantastic idea but cats are very intelligent and can sniff out a trap a mile away. These three especially, I think they may have been abused and were very curious. They stayed with us for years and eventually, one by on they disappeared, I think, they went away to die.

    1. Hi Tracy
      Thanks for visiting my site.
      If the cats come close to you for even a quick petting then they must have lived with people at one point. Cats that are completely feral will run at the sight of humans, and will hiss and act aggressive if approached.
      The way to tell if a feral cat has been trapped/neutered/released is the tip of the left ear will be snipped off (called ear-tipping). That was done to all the cats that I had trapped and neutered.
      I’m sorry to to hear your cats disappeared. There was one in my colony, a solid black one, that I haven’t seen in over a year so I can assume he’s gone. Patches (one of my ferals you will see on this website) had four kittens but I’ve only seen two for the last week.

  3. Your article is so interesting, the article is so informative, In our house there was that feral cats but they looks dangerous because you can come in contact with this feral cat, my kids were likely to be friendly with this feral cats but it was so diffficult to them.So thank you for your informative article.

    Best wishes
    Jose

    1. Hi Jose

      Thank you for visiting my website.

      Feral cats can be dangerous of brought in the house. It would be like taking in any other wild animal. Some feral cats, if young enough, can adapt to living in a house, but that does not always happen. They can get stressed being separated from their colony. They will view the house as a prison rather than a sanctuary, and make every effort to escape.

      Normally, feral cats will run at the sight of people. If cornered, however, they will fight. That is true, for families with young children, for the parents to make sure the children do not become friendly with the cats – the cats will not be friendly in return.

  4. He looks quite like a cat which comes to see us sometimes – but he has a home about 2km from here. Nonetheless, he is happy to eat from the foodplace we have outside for whoever comes by. – THIS IS THE WAY WE END UP TAKING CARE FOR STRAY Cats (sorry for the big letters), sometimes with good results (our blinf cat kittie) and sometimes with sad results ( the stray cat Oli), you find stories about them on my cat website!

    1. Hi Heidi
      I haven’t seen Barney (the orange cat on the home page) in a while. I’m not sure where he is. Hopefully, he returns soon. I’m not sure where the cats go during the day. I have makeshift shelters in the backyard but I’m not sure if they use them. I see the cats go to neighbor’s houses so possibly they hae shelters there too.

  5. hi and great article used to have feral cats myself and found them very loving more so than cats who aren’t feral not sure why but maybe because they appreciate people more.I found your article very informative keep up the good work.

    grant

    1. Hi Grant
      The cats that i’m caring for now are still not comfortable enough to get too close to me, and I still haven’t attempted to touch them. I’m afraid it could be a very long time before that part comes.

      Freddie, my house cat, was believed to be feral, but he may have been domesticated at some point because the person who found him was able to pick him up and pet him with no trouble. He’s actually more affectionate than cats I got as kittens and raised up, so your theory of feral cats more affectionate than non-feral may be correct.

  6. I always fancied being the person who collected strays and fed them, but haven’t had a chance to prove because there are actually no strays where I live! We did find one kitten in our laundry once, since no one claimed it we kept it. Otherwise the only cats I see are well fed and looked after in our neighborhood.
    In parts of our city where it is a problem, the SPCA has been capturing them, fixing them up and releasing them again so that they can’t have kittens. I think it must be working because there aren’t as many anymore, though the shelters are completely full 🙁 I didn’t know that there was a difference between stray and feral, how sad 🙁

    1. Hi Emma
      I have also trapped 5 of the cats and had them fixed and released. The one mother cat who I’ve been unable to catch (she is Patches, the mother of Biscuit) has been missing for about 2 months, so I’m not sure what happened to her. She’s been the one having kittens, with Biscuit being one of them. Yes, the trapping, fixing and releasing is a good thing. It slows down the population growth. Same here, shelters are full and more cats are euthanized than adopted 🙁

  7. This is a wonderful and well written and very informative article, i have a couple of feral cats out the back field, however i have never gone near them, i have a cat myself and i got him as a feral young cat.
    He sleeps in the shed witch is snug but he never wanted to come into the house. In your opinion would you put a box out for a feral cat near where you put the food out for him?

    1. Hi Gareth

      Thank you for visiting my website. My house cat was also taken in when he was young and stray (I don’t think he was completely feral because when he was found, he let that person pick him up and take him to the cat rescue) and he is a very affectionate and social cat. Now he likes being in the house and refuses to go outside.

      I have put large Styrofoam coolers with holes in them, and covered the floor with hay for the cats to go in. I have yet to see the cats go in the coolers. I also leave my shed door partially open and line the floor with old chair cushions. I can’t tell if the cats are going in there because I just see them at night, and I don’t go in the back yard at night. Feral cats would prefer their shelter a distance from their food source, so cats from other colonies do not find their shelter.

  8. Hi Karin

    I would just like to say to people our there if they going to buy a kitten or a new cat, if they would consider adopting one instead. I know some people want a new clean fluffy one from the pet shop but shame, there are so many of them out there homeless and hungry.
    I would not just approach any random cat as they can be dangerous, most the time they will just run away but some can hold their ground and scratch you when you get close. Many of them end up in shelters and are put down if no owner is found or no one adopts them.

    Just some food for thought.

    Best regards,
    Kamil

    1. Hi Kamil

      I adopted Freddie, my house cat, from my local shelter. He was once a stray but was domesticated at some point as when he was found, he was very friendly and let the person pick him up.

      Yes, it is a shame there are many homeless and hungry cats out there. Some of the cats were born in the wild and were never in a home, so they are completely wild like any other wild animal. The feral cats in the colony I care for are completely wild so they cannot be adopted. Many shelters in my area want nothing to do with feral cats and will not take them.

      I help keep the population down by trapping, neutering, and releasing the feral cats. The cats cannot be relocated as they will eventually find their way back to my house. If they can’t breed, then no more cats can be produced. The cats will eventually die out. They do not live as long as house cats. It would be illegal for me to kill them, and I would never think about doing such a heartless thing anyway.

      Since I’ve been feeding the feral cats, they have lost their fear of me. I still make no attempt to touch them as they could scratch me and it would deteriorate the trust that I took so long to build with them. I never approach them anyway, I let them have their space and it builds trust.

  9. Interesting article. I live in Michigan and have never seen any feral cats here or any where else that I have lived. Maybe it’s because I live in the city? Is it more of a rural thing? Your site really drew me in and kept me wanting to read on. Thanks for the info.

    1. Hi Andy
      I’m in the suburbs and feral cats have been a problem in some neighborhoods. Feral cats are not often seen in big cities. I had five of the cats trapped, fixed and released to keep the cat population down. I am in a neighborhood as I do not want feral cats overrunning the neighborhood.

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