Feral-a term you have probably heard from time to time but do you really know what it means?
Some people shudder at the sound of the word. Feral must mean violent, aggressive, full of disease, angry.. right?
Not necessarily! There are feral cats living all over the world.
A feral cat is typically part of a litter from other feral or stray cats. These cats are typically unaccustomed to human interaction, and therefore may be skittish.
Feral cats are usually considered to be distinct from stray cats, which are socialized cats who no longer live in homes.
Stray: a pet who has been lost or abandoned, is used to contact with people, and is tame enough to be adopted.
You may ask, “can a feral cat become a happy, healthy house cat?”
Yes! In fact, I own a once-feral, now socialized kitty, and although a little skittish, he is a treasure!
Gandalf under the Christmas tree
Helping a cat make the transition from feral to house-cat is no ‘better-half-of-a-day’ situation. It takes time and patience and a whole lot of it! The lovely foster mother of Gandalf (Amy) spent weeks with Gandalf and his sister, Catniss, and their transformation. Having been found in a dumpster as a kitten, regular human interaction was quite an odd setting for my sweet Gandalf.
But today, you would think “Oh that cat is a little skittish” but you would never think “Oh my, he was surely feral.”
From cowering in the corner and literally knocking over the trash can for any scrap of food to purring in our laps and waiting for his brother to also finish breakfast before he licks the bowl, we can attest to the fact that feral kitties can be part of your household.
Although some kitties can be transformed from feral to house-cats, there are also TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs out there that are protecting outside-living feral cats. One of these programs is Community Cats through the Animal Humane Society. (There are many other programs out there similar to this)
In this particular program, cats found outside in the wild, with no identification, are taken in and are spayed/neutered and vaccinated. If the cat seems to do well with human interaction, this cat will be set up in an adoption program. If the cat was healthy and seemed to thrive in the outdoor, feral community, this cat will be ear tipped and placed back outside in the environment they were found in.
Ear tipping is the practice of cutting off the tip of the left ear, while the cat is under anesthesia. A paste is used to stop any bleeding that may occur and the cats usually have no recollection that this occurred. This is a procedure to signify that the cat has been spayed or neutered and vaccinated.
Learn more about ear tipping here.
If you see a cat in your neighborhood with a tipped ear give them space but know that they do not cause any direct threat and more than likely are not the reason your sweet Fluffypants got out once and is now having 13 kittens. (Fluffypants should have been spayed too)
Feral doesn’t have to be a scary term.
Want to help out feral cats in your area? Here are some ways you can help:
1. Be observant and look for tipped ears.
2. Know the contact information for a local shelter or organization that helps feral cats.
3. Leave a bowl of water outside your home for a wandering kitty.
4. Love them but also give them space if need be.
I would love to hear your thoughts on feral cats. Perhaps what you thought the word meant or any experiences you have had. As always, thanks for stopping by!