A Guide to Understanding and Helping Feral Cats

What are feral cats?

There’s some confusion around the difference between stray cats and feral cats. We’d like to clarify. Stray cats are abandoned or lost pet cats that aren’t fixed and feral cats are their offspring. Feral cats are free-roaming and haven’t had any human caretakers and are, therefore, wild cats.

They don’t adapt well as pets because cats have a wild genetic disposition – it’s in their DNA. Yes, even your beautiful, pampered (and spoilt) Burmese is genetically inclined to be wild because of that predatory feline instinct.

Where do feral cats live?

Similarly, that wild instinct also makes feral cats naturally good at finding shelter outdoors. However, the shelter they do end up finding isn’t always adequate to protect them against harsh weather conditions, other aggressive animals, or humans who don’t want them anywhere near their homes.

Feral cats also live with each other in colonies. As a colony, they occupy an area with access to food and shelter, and they aggressively defend their territory against other cats that may stray into it.

How do feral cats survive?

Despite their survival instinct, feral cats don’t have easy or comfortable lives, especially females. They can become pregnant at five months old and bare up to three litters per year. This makes their lives extremely stressful because they have to nurse their kittens, as well as struggle to find food for themselves.

Most feral kittens also don’t survive.

Roaming males tend to fight for mates and ferociously defend their territories. These cat fights can be very brutal and they often contract diseases from bite and scratch wounds.

How can we help feral cats?

SPCA-endorsed Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programmes help improve feral cats’ quality of life. Through these programmes, feral cats are neutered (or spayed) to prevent them from reproducing. The cats are also vaccinated against diseases, and are surgically ear-chipped. Ear-chipping is used as a sign to indicate that a cat has already been treated in a TNR programme.

To find out how to become a feral cat caretaker, or for more information on TNR programmes in your area, contact us today and make a difference in the lives of felines in need.

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