Feral cats are the same species as pet cats, but are not socialised to humans or the domestic environment - this means they behave like wild animals.
Feral cats are different to stray cats, they are usually unfriendly and stay away from humans. They often live in groups, breeding repeatedly with the other cats in the colony.
Why are feral cats a problem?
A colony of feral cats can act as a reservoir of disease such as Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), Feline HIV (FIV), and other diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to domestic pet cats. They are also more likely to be involved in road accidents.
Illness and deformity are increased in a feral colony due to poor nutrition, inbreeding and fighting - female cats in a continual cycle of breeding are vulnerable to potentially fatal diseases, which can result in a partially weaned litter being abandoned.
How to protect your own cat
- keep your cat's food bowls indoors to avoid attracting feral cats to your home or garden
- consider installing an electronic cat flap - this will stop other cats from entering your home
- ensure that your cat has been neutered to stop them from breeding with feral cats and make them less likely to get into fights with them
- keep your cat's vaccinations up to date and treat them regularly for worms and fleas
- make sure that your cat is microchipped, or that it wears a collar and tag with your contact details
What you can do about feral cats
Most feral cats will look after themselves. If you have concerns about the health of feral cats, the RSPCA and Cats Protection recommend that:
- feral cats are humanely trapped and taken for examination by a vet
- new homes are found for cats and kittens with a suitable temperament
- sick or injured feral cats are put to sleep
- healthy cats are neutered, have an ear tipped to allow for identification, and are relocated to a suitable new home or are returned to the colony
Ideal locations for rehoming are farms and small holdings where the cat can live outdoors and may be useful as a method of pest control.
If you feel that you can provide a home for a feral cat, please contact Cats Protection.
Don't leave food out for feral cats - food that is put on the street for cats is classed as littering and you could be fined.
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