Feral FAQs

  1. What is a feral cat?
  2. Are stray cats and feral cats the same?
  3. How can I tell if a cat is stray or feral?
  4. I would like to find good homes for the feral cats I have been feeding. Is this possible?
  5. What about a feral cat sanctuary or a barn home for these cats?
  6. I discovered some cats outside. Who can I call to come and get them?
  7. I have been feeding cats for a while and they are reproducing. What should I do?
  8. I cant touch the cats, so how can I get them to the vet for spay/neutering?
  9. There are several cats to be trapped, but I only have one trap. Will that do?
  10. I think the cat may be pregnant, can she still be spayed?
  11. What if the cat is lactating? Can she still be spayed?
  12. How old do kittens need to be to be fixed at the feral cat clinic?
  13. My neighbor is feeding cats, but not fixing any of them. What can I do to help?
  14. I have a lot of feral cats in my backyard that I feed. I am afraid if I start bringing them in to be fixed, I will get in trouble for having too many cats and they will be taken away from me.

 

1] What is a feral cat?

A feral cat is either a cat who has lived his whole life with little or no human contact and is not socialized, or a stray cat who was lost or abandoned and has lived away from human contact long enough to revert to a wild state. Feral cats avoid human contact and cannot be touched by strangers.

2] Are stray cats and feral cats the same?

No, stray and feral cats are not the same, and the terms stray cat and feral cat are not interchangeable. A stray cat is a domestic cat who was abandoned or strayed from home and became lost. Because a stray was once a companion animal, he can usually be re-socialized and adopted. Adult feral cats usually cannot be tamed and are not suited to living indoors with people. They are most content living in their established territory. Feral kittens up to about 8 to 10 weeks, however, can often be tamed and adopted. If you are willing to foster and socialize the litter of kittens you have discovered, the better the outcome will be for the kittens and for the colony as a whole. We can assist you with the process. The term ‘community cats’ includes both feral and stray cats.

3] How can I tell if a cat is stray or feral?

Observe the cats appearance and behavior. A stray cat is likely to approach you, although usually not close enough for you to touch him. If you put food down, a stray cat will likely start to eat it right away. A stray cat is often vocal, sometimes talking insistently, and may look disheveled, as if he is unaccustomed to dealing with conditions on the street. A stray cat may be seen at all hours of the day. A feral cat is silent, will not approach humans, and generally will be seen only from dusk to dawn, unless extraordinarily hungry and foraging for food. A feral cat has adapted to conditions and is likely to be well groomed. If you put food down for a feral cat, he will wait until you move away from the area before approaching the food.

4] I would like to find good homes for the feral cats I have been feeding. Is this possible?

Generally, no. Adult feral cats usually cannot be socialized and will not adjust to living indoors. A great deal of time and effort can go into attempting to tame an adult feral cat, with no assurance of success. This time and effort is far better spent sterilizing feral cats to break the cycle of reproduction. See Alley Cat Allies Fact sheet, Why Trap-Neuter-Return is the Solution to Feral Cat Overpopulation and Trap Neuter Adopt is Not. Stray cats and kittens up to 8 or 10 weeks of age can usually be socialized and placed in homes.

5] What about a feral cat sanctuary or a barn home for these cats?

It is very difficult to relocate feral cats. Most barn homes already have an abundance of feral cats because of the heartless people that illegally dump unwanted cats in the country. Feral cats are extremely bonded to their territories and will often try to find their way back home, and in the process, get killed by traffic, predators, or die from starvation, injuries, and the elements in their attempt to make their journey home.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Feral cat colonies can be managed with a nonlethal method called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), in which cats are humanely (painlessly) trapped, spayed or neutered, and returned to their colony site where volunteer caregivers provide them with food, water, and shelter. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only chance feral cats have of living safe, healthy lives without reproducing.

6] I discovered some cats outside. Who can I call to come and get them?

The first step is to determine if the cats are tame or wild. If the cats are tame, they may belong to people living in the neighborhood. Observe the cats to determine if this is so. Post lost cat flyers throughout the neighborhood. After a day or two, if you get no response and you decide they are lost or otherwise not owned, you can do the following:

Register the cats online at www.pets911.com in the Found Pet section.

Register the cats online at Arkansas Lost and Found Pet Network.

Post the cats on the Lost & Found Pets, NWA Facebook page.    NOTE:  Many smaller towns, and even neighborhoods, have their own Facebook page/group, so make sure to post to any and all in your area!

Post the cats on the Nextdoor website or App.  (This is a private environment for neighborhoods all across the country.  Registration is free, as are all postings.)

You can also put up flyers at the local animal shelters. If the cats are feral (wild), animal control or a municipal shelter is the only agency that may come and get them, and the cats will almost certainly be killed. Even no-kill shelters find feral cats impossible to adopt out because they are wild.

If you were to trap and remove an entire colony of cats, in a short time, a new colony of cats will quickly move in and take advantage of the newly vacated territory and will reproduce and start the cycle over again. You are back to square one. This phenomenon is known as The Vacuum Effect. Trap and remove is not a practical, long term solution to effectively and humanely control feral cat populations. Our organization does NOT come and remove unwanted feral cats.

Fortunately, there is a humane and long term solution! Feral cat colonies can be managed with a nonlethal method called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), in which cats are humanely (painlessly) trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their colony site where volunteer caregivers provide them with food, water, and shelter.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only chance feral cats have of living safe, healthy lives without reproducing. By fixing the cats that are at your location and keeping them there, this will keep out other cats (that are unaltered) from moving in and quickly repopulating the area. By nature, cats are territorial; they generally wont allow newcomers into their territory. TNR is a hands-on project requiring commitment from one or more volunteer caregivers, often with help from feral cat advocates living in the area. It is easy to help feral cats humanely, and many people, from all walks of life are fixing ferals and getting involved to help the cats in their neighborhoods!

7] I have been feeding cats for a while and they are reproducing. What should I do?

Have them spayed/neutered as soon as possible. Email us at: nwacommunitycatproject@gmail.com for advice on which clinic/program is best for you or click our Low Cost Spay/Neuter link and book spay/neuter appointments with those clinics. If the cats are truly feral, you will need to trap the cats using humane traps to have them spayed or neutered. Do not trap cats until the day/night before their scheduled appointments! Never release a cat the same day it has been spayed/neutered.

Trapping feral cats sounds complicated; in reality, its a simple and rewarding process, and it doesn’t hurt the cats. Once the cats are spayed/neutered and vaccinated, return them (after overnight recovery) to the place where they were trapped (kittens can often be tamed, sterilized, and adopted). You should then provide ongoing food, shelter, and care to keep the feral cats healthy and safe. Talk to some of your other neighbors/family/friends/coworkers who may be willing to help you feed the cats a few days each week, or would be willing to donate cat food once the cats have been fixed. Visit Alley Cat Allies for more information on trapping.

8] I cant touch the cats, so how can I get them to the vet for spay/neutering?

Do not try to touch them! And never attempt to catch a cat by throwing a towel or blanket over just the cat. Never use tranquilizers on outdoor cats as the risk of injury (to you and to the cat) is too great. The day/night before their spay/neuter appointment, trap the cats using humane (painless) traps and have them spayed/neutered and vaccinated (we can help guide you thru this process). Immediately after the cat is in the trap, cover the trap with an old sheet or beach towel. This will help keep the cat calm. Failure to cover trapped cats results in the cat injuring herself trying to escape from the trap. Don’t wait to fix the cats, thinking the cats will get used to human presence and become tame enough to catch in a regular cat carrier. They may never be tame enough, and while you wait, several litters of kittens will be born. For specific information about traps and trapping, go to Alley Cat Allies – Successful Trapping.

9] There are several cats to be trapped, but I only have one trap. Will that do?

Generally, no. And do not plan to trap a cat, then transfer him to a carrier so you can use the trap again right away as the danger of injury (to the cat and to you) or escape is simply too great. The NWA Community Cat Project has free loaner traps available, along with instructions on how to use them. Please thoroughly clean and disinfect the traps you use before returning the traps to us. Ideally, you should have as many traps as there are cats. If not, aim to trap all the cats in two or three sessions. How many cats you can trap during each session also depends on how many your vet, or the clinic will sterilize at one time, and the recovery spaces you have available for cats to recoup from their surgery. For more information about trapping feral cats, along with information on recommended traps, go to Alley Cat Allies – Trapping Equipment.

10] I think the cat may be pregnant, can she still be spayed?

Yes, female cats can still be spayed while they are pregnant.

11] What if the cat is lactating? Can she still be spayed?

Female cats can still be spayed while they are lactating. However, you should make every effort to locate her kittens and know the approximate age of the kittens. Please call the participating vet or clinic for individual guidance/advice regarding lactating female cats. Female cats can still get pregnant while they are nursing a previous litter, and cats are only pregnant for approximately eight weeks.

12] How old do kittens need to be to be fixed at the feral cat clinic?

Kittens need to be approximately three months old or three pounds to go under the type of anesthesia used at spay/neuter clinics.

13] My neighbor is feeding cats, but not fixing any of them. What can I do to help?

Let your neighbor know that low cost spay/neuter services are available through our program. Give her/him our contact information and offer to help with the logistics of getting the colony fixed. Many times, people just get overwhelmed with the day to day care of the cats, and don’t realize (for whatever reason) that they need to also spay/neuter the cats to prevent the population from growing. Some people are just not aware that low cost spay/neuter services are available, and some people just don’t even know where to start to get the situation under control. If she/he is not willing to spay/neuter, consider yourself invited to help! It is easy to help feral cats!

14] I have a lot of feral cats in my backyard that I feed. I am afraid if I start bringing them in to be fixed, I will get in trouble for having too many cats and they will be taken away from me.

The NWA Community Cat Project is a volunteer based organization with a mission to humanely control feral cat populations through low cost spay/neuter services. By not fixing the cats you feed, your colony will grow exponentially, and your neighbors could eventually call animal control and report you for having too many cats. Please set a good example of a well managed feral cat colony. Being a responsible caretaker is not only important to you and your colony, but to the TNR and No- Kill movement as a whole.

These complaint driven calls from neighbors usually stem from cats having litter after litter of kittens, cats eliminating in neighbors yards, gardens, or flowerbeds, caretakers leaving food out all day and night that attracts insects and other wildlife (and more poop!), cats fighting/mating/yowling, etc. These are all signs of an unmanaged/unfixed colony. We want to help you before the colony you care for gets out of control. Disgruntled neighbors have been known to trap cats themselves and take them to the shelter, poison cats (which is illegal) and a variety of other unmentionable cruel things to cats that are a nuisance to them. We want to help you keep your ferals safe, healthy and in manageable numbers.