Feral Tabby Cat
A Feral Tabby Cat
Angry Feral Cat
An Angry Feral Cat

Feral cats in winter environment

   Most people are well aware of the dangers associated with bites from encounters with animals, such as skunks or raccoons, in the wild. But when that wild animal is disguised as a household tabby, those dangers and common sense are often forgotten. The result could be a feral cat bite and the possibility of rabies.

   Cats should not be living on the streets. Responsibility for colonies of feral cats rests with people in the community. Owned cats should be kept indoors at all times and spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted births. Cat owners should protect their pets by obtaining vaccinations against rabies and other feline diseases. The public's perception that cats can take care of themselves is not true and needs to be changed. The relocation of feral cats is extremely inhumane. Relocation amounts to double abandonment. These animals were abandoned once in their lives and now they will be abandoned again.

   It is estimated that between 30 and 40 million homeless cats live in the United States. Many of these cats are feral cats, the descendants of unaltered tame cats that were abandoned and have subsequently given birth to kittens that have never had contact with humans. First generation feral cats generally are still domesticated and ill-equipped to survive on their own. These cats do not die of “old age.” They are poisoned, shot, tortured by people, attacked by other animals, hit by cars, or they die of exposure, starvation, or highly contagious fatal diseases, such as rabies, feline AIDS, feline leukemia, and feline infectious peritonitis.

   Even easily treatable conditions can be deadly for cats that cannot be handled and regularly taken to a veterinarian. Minor cuts or puncture wounds can turn into raging infections and abscesses. Untreated upper respiratory infections lead to eyes and noses so caked with mucus that animals can barely see or breathe. These cats often scratch their ears bloody, driven crazy by the pain and itching of ear mites and accompanying infections. Others die of blood loss or anemia from worms and fleas. They get urinary tract infections, which frequently lead to blockage in male cats, causing extremely painful, lingering deaths if not treated.

   Feral cats themselves are also a threat to wildlife. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that free-roaming cats kill millions of birds and small mammals in the U.S. every year, including endangered species, such as the least tern and the piping plover.

   Many people who encounter feral cats start feeding them, but feeding alone can actually make the situation worse. Feeding feral cats increases their ability to give birth to even more kittens (one female cat may have 3 or 4 litters over the course of one year), who are destined to suffer and die premature deaths. It is essential to get these cats off the streets in order to prevent not only their own suffering, but that of their offspring. Feeding should only be done as a prelude to trapping, to get cats accustomed to eating in a certain place at a certain time.

Page by: Fay Ryan                                                        Page last updated: 03/29/2010 12:35 PM