The Fearful Cat
Feral and community cats are not mean cats, they are just misunderstood. They lack trust and socialization with humans. Chances are you have them in your neighborhood or someplace you frequent. Learning the facts can help to stop the overpopulation of homeless cats.
Feral versus Stray
Feral cats are typically born outdoors with little to no human interaction. If you get too close they may run, or if they feel trapped they may hiss and run away to protect themselves. Stray cats once had a home; they were either lost or abandoned by their owners. They struggle to survive in the outdoors and become fearful of people. Most cats, however, remember that people feed them and try to stay near areas where people reside.
If a stray cat is friendly and new to the area, we recommend taking the cat to a veterinarian to scan it for a possible microchip. Sometimes they get lucky and are able to find their way back to their loving home.
Become a Caretaker
Feral cats live a difficult life. Many may live only a few short years, but those in managed colonies with a dedicated caretaker can live as long as a house cat. It is important to never to suddenly grab an outdoor cat. You risk injury to yourself and to the cat. A cat that is already fearful of people may run away and never return leaving the cat to an uncertain future. Always take your time with the fearful cats and let them approach you on their terms.
Through daily feedings, in time they will let you know if it’s acceptable to touch them. Another helpful hint: If you do decide to become a caretaker, squat or sit on the ground so you’re at their level when you regularly feed them. This approach indicates to the feral or stray cat that you are not threatening. Always respect the limits of the free-roaming cats.
Reports of nuisance behaviors among free-roaming and feral cats can be reduced with responsible caretakers. Reports of fight, yowling and spraying can be significantly reduced by spaying/neutering the cats. Many cities and counties have various spay/neuter clinics, many of them specifically for feral and free-roaming cats. During the sterilization surgery the cats receive a rabies vaccination and get their ear tipped for easy identification for the cats that have been sterilized. This prevents the unnecessary trauma and expense of re-trapping a previously sterilized cat.
Removing the prejudices and misconceptions of feral cats takes time and education. The first way is to abandon the word “feral.” Referring to them as “free-roaming” or “community” cats removes the stigma associated with them. Nobody likes to be stereotyped or misunderstood; it is up to us to educate the world on how to humanely treat these fearful cats.