What to do with Feral Cats

By Joan Fairman Kanes, for USA TODAY

The U.S. is home to tens of millions of feral cats and Oct. 16, National Feral Cat Day, they get some attention.

So what's the difference between feral and stray cats? Free-roaming cats can be those that are allowed outside but are still family pets or cats that were pets but were lost or abandoned and live permanently outdoors. Feral cats are generally a generation or more removed from domestic cats and can rarely be tamed, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Sharon L. Peters wrote a great article for us last year about groups trying to save these cats -- many of which resulted from domesticated cats escaping or being let loose. Instead of euthanasia, the groups' efforts involve TNR: trap, neuter, release. Peters writes:

This method thwarts future litters and reduces the yowling, spraying and fighting that annoy humans. In the process, the cats usually are vaccinated, treated for minor problems and given a notch in the ear to identify they are sterile. Over time, the colony will grow smaller through attrition.

How can you mark National Feral Cat Day? The Denver Westword recommends these five steps:

  • Spay or neuter your cat and encourage others to do the same.
  • Keep cats indoors or, if outdoors, in contained spaces.
  • Donate cash or time to shelters.
  • Adopt from shelters.
  • If you see feral cats, report them to a trap-neuter-release group.

The Humane Society of the United States also has a video, FAQ and other resources on the topic.

READERS: Have you ever encountered feral cats? Have you fixed your cat? Do you let it go outside? Share your experiences in the comments.

--Anne Godlasky, USA TODAY

EducationKelli Durkin