Managing Feral Cats


A feral cat is a cat that has become ‘wild’. Usually feral cats originate as offspring of domestic cats that have been abandoned and left to breed. Feral cats do not trust humans and usually do not allow humans to touch or handle them. Because of their elusive nature, feral cats do not function well when removed from their natural outdoor environment and they are rarely able to domesticate. Feral cats often live in colonies and defend their territories together.

They are often wrongly portrayed as disease-ridden nuisances living tragic lives and responsible for endangering native species. As a consequence, feral feline communities too frequently are rounded up and killed.

But removing and killing feral cats does not reduce feral cat populations. It only provides space for more cats to move in and amplify the breeding as now more food is available for pregnant females.

Many methods of managing feral cats exist including (1) doing nothing and letting starvation, disease, and fighting control the population; (2) trapping and killing cat colonies, and (3) trapping, sterilizing, and returning feral cats to their environment (trap-neuter-return, or TNR).

TNR is a universally recognized, humane method of controlling the growth of feral cat colonies. TNR entails the trapping of feral cats, spaying and neutering the cats to prevent population growth, and then returning the cats to their territory, enabling the cats to live out their lives in an environment that suits them best.

In addition to reducing the number of feral cats, nuisance behaviors associated with breeding, such as the yowling of females or the spraying of males, are virtually eliminated. Disease and malnutrition are greatly reduced. The cats live more healthy and more peaceful lives in their territories. For more information on what you can do to help, see the information to the right. (Partially adapted from Alley Cat Allies, Inc.)