National Feral Cat Day: Learn About Ferals & How to Help
Today marks National Feral Cat Day, an initiative raising awareness about the plight facing feral cats and how they can be helped. Read on to find out more about these felines in need!
There are 90 million owned cats in the U.S., and probably as many are unowned. Feral cats don't ask to be here, becoming a public nuisance, living in danger from other cats and animals. Ferals are hit by cars, or cause accidents when drivers swerve to avoid them, they contract infectious diseases from other cats.
"Cats get into things that they shouldn't get into, from munching on flowers that can kill them to lapping up antifreeze when they're desperate for something to drink," points out Steve Dale, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and well-known media personality.
The number of songbirds impacted by cats may be exaggerated in some reports but the danger to outdoor cats remains constant. Feral cats that form colonies, or individual strays that go from place to place, are often flea-ridden and have worms relegating them to a very poor quality of life.
Not vaccinated for rabies, feral cats impact public health. If rabies becomes more prevalent, there are people who might suggest the feral cats be shot which can put people in danger because no one knows who will pick up a gun or how good their aim is.
Sadly, these cats have no one to love them, which is something few people consider. Ironically, as Dale notes, "They survive by avoiding people and often live their lives being afraid of people." Sometimes people feed them and they will come close enough to be fed. According to Dale, the older feral cat (and they seldom live beyond the age of 8) cannot be brought indoors except by an exceedingly understanding, patient and caring person who knows how to tame one, which isn't an easy process.
Feral cats become costly when the public complains and animal control or the police are sent out. Ferals cause behavior problems in some indoor cats because they come onto the indoor cat's territory. And ferals like to defecate and spray on homeowners' property creating another nuisance.
What is the Best Way to Deal with Feral Cats?
Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) is the best solution for dealing with feral cats. Humane traps are set, and the cats are taken to a low-cost spay/neuter clinic where they're given a cursory exam, a rabies vaccination and are altered. They're then replaced in their colony, living out their lives without reproducing, ultimately resolving the overpopulation problem.
"In 1990 I found a colony of feral cats in Washington D.C. and I soon discovered that there were no services available from the city or private shelters to help me," recalls Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies. "I recruited friends and we organized to help the cats. Within a few months, hundreds of other feral cat caregivers were being referred to me for help with their colonies of cats."
Alley Cat Allies was formed in 1991 because people needed help for the cats they were already caring for outdoors. Until that time, there was no formal organization to provide information on how to humanely care for the population of outdoor cats. "Alley Cat Allies made information about Trap Neuter Return (TNR) easily available and accessible for people who wanted to learn how to improve the lives of outdoor cats," Robinson relates.
As Dale points out, the perfect solution is that people who are not breeders will spay and neuter their pets and keep them indoors, and owners of cats with behavior problems should seek professional help instead of turning their cat out.
People who want to improve the lives of outdoor cats can visit www.alleycat.org for programs in their area and extensive information on everything from TNR, to cat and kitten care, to how they can effect change in the animal control system to better protect outdoor cats and help resolve the feral cat situation.