Many of us have come across a free-roaming feline and wondered whether the cat was homeless or not. Although homeless cats are common across the country, not all free-roaming cats are without a pet parent. Some cats with loving homes split their time between inside and outside, while others live outside but are provided with a bed, safe place to sleep and ample food and water by devoted pet parents. Other cats are indeed homeless and may be either feral or stray.
Stray cats are cats that had parents at one point. Often, these cats have been lost, abandoned or have run away from home. Although they may be homeless, they are often friendly (although they may be skittish at first) and are familiar with people.
Feral cats are cats that have been born without humans involved or have been abandoned for so long that they have become wild. Unlike stray cats, which may be friendly and relatively well maintained, feral cats are often aggressive, fearful of people and unwilling to submit to human contact. Feral cats are a large problem in rural areas because they reproduce rampantly, are nearly impossible to re-home and often end up euthanized in shelters.
What to Do If You Find a Feral or Stray Cat
If you find a stray cat, do your best to capture the cat and keep her safe until you can either take her to a shelter or re-home her on your own. Although they may be fearful at first, stray cats are often friendly and relatively easy to re-home. An important step is to ensure identification checks are made i.e is a microchip present?
Stray cats will need to be fed and watered after being found and may require medical care. A veterinary check is highly advisable. If you are unwilling to provide these for the cat, a shelter or foster home may be able to provide the cat with the care she needs until she can find a forever home.
If you find a feral cat, contact the local humane society for advice. Humane societies and shelters often have traps that they will lend to community members and some shelters even offer a trapping service. After the cat has been trapped, she should be given food and water and kept inside the trap until she can be transported to a veterinarian or shelter.
Many veterinarians and shelters offer free spay and neuter programs for stray animals and will do health exam and routine vaccinations during the procedure. Feral cats may be admitted to a shelter or simply be sterilized and returned to the wild. This management plan prevents the feral cat population from exploding while also allowing the cats to live out their lives.
Feral and stray cats are an unfortunate reality but, fortunately, there are many things pet lovers can do to help homeless animals. By capturing and re-homing stray cats and trapping and sterilizing feral cats, pet lovers can help decrease the population of free-roaming cats and increase the quality of life for cats everywhere.