What is a feral cat?
A truly feral cat is one that has not been socialized to humans – a cat is not properly defined as feral if it’s one that you can pet, or even one that lets you get relatively close to it. Feral cats are descended from unsterilized housecats that were allowed outside – but the offspring of those cats are often never handled by humans, and so become wild. It is not, however, just feral cats that need our help; stray cats (cats that are tame, or relatively tame, who have been lost or abandoned; or who were never owned but have been fed and are used to human contact) also need to be fixed in order to keep cat populations controlled.
Can we take the cats in our neighborhood to the municipal shelter? Or to a no-kill shelter?
Truly feral cats are not adoptable cats – they are more like wild animals and are not fit to be or comfortable with living in a home with people. If they are brought to a municipal shelter, they will be put down. No-kill shelters cannot take them in, because they cannot adopt them out. Feral cats live healthy lives outside – so keep them out of shelters where they don’t belong!
These aren’t my cats – why should I take responsibility for them?
The existence of community cats stems from a human failure – these cats are outside, and breeding, because somewhere along the line a human let them outside without having them spayed/neutered. And while that human might not have been you, it takes the collaborative work of the whole community to treat these cats fairly and humanely while still maintaining a healthy, safe environment for people. Thousands of Cincinnatians are feeding and caring for cats, and we see many of them in our clinic every day. It takes all of us to care a little in order to make a whole lot of difference for these cats. And you’ll quickly find out that these cats are just as quirky and endearing as your own pets!
If these cats are wild animals, why interfere with nature by sterilizing them?
Feral and stray cats exist in this middle ground between wild and companion animal. Though feral cats are, in almost every way, a wild animal, people still consider cats as pets and so they feed them and help take care of them. Stray cats aren’t wild, and many have grown dependent on people and do rely on care provided by their human neighbors. Either way, both are contributing to a population of creatures that are being hauled into municipal shelters and killed by the millions in the US every year. TNR is important because, whether they act wild or not, in our country we consider cats to be companion animals that don’t belong on the streets – and so instead, we round them up and have them put down. To stop this inhumane cycle, TNR is the most effective plan to implement.
Do outside cats spread diseases to humans or other animals?
Zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be passed to humans) are rare in cats, and can be easily avoided with a little common sense. In the Center for Disease Control’s statistics, there is no case of a cat transmitting rabies to humans. Other diseases that cats can transmit to humans (e.g. toxoplasmosis) can be avoided by not touching cats (or any animals) you don’t know, and by washing your hands well. A study by the American Veterinary Medical Association shows that feral and stray cats show a similar (and low) rate of disease as housecats.
Are cats that live outside suffering? Don’t they have a shorter lifespan?
Though no long-term study has yet been completed to determine longevity of an outdoor cat, caretakers report having cats that live 15 years and more. Though some cats will die young in the wild, others will live long, healthy lives. A 2006 study of over 100,000 stray and feral cats examined from 1993 to 2004 found that less than 1% of the cats had debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious diseases.
Do feral cats decimate birds and other wildlife?
Cats are predators, and will kill birds, mice and other small animals. The predator-prey relationship is a natural one, however, and we do not advocate decimating all predators (whether native or non-native species) to protect all prey. Without question, the damage that is caused by the destruction of their habitats by humans is the leading cause of birds’ decline, so it is this concern which we should address to help protect birds.
I’m feeding cats, but my neighbor has complained – what should I do?
Often the behaviors that create tension between neighbors result from mating behaviors in cats. Spraying, yowling and fighting will be minimized by having the cats sterilized – and quiet, unreproductive cats make good neighbors! Let your neighbors know that you are working to eliminate the nuisance behaviors that are bothering them. If they still have concerns about the cats, there are options for deterring cats from hanging out in certain yards. LEARN MORE
Can somebody trap the cats for me?
On a limited basis, OAR volunteers do help colony caretakers trap cats. But resources are limited, and cat colonies are numerous! You’ll be able to get your colony taken care of much more quickly and effectively if you borrow traps (from OAR or another agency) and start trapping!
I’m moving – what do I do about the cats I’ve been taking care of?
If you’ve been caring for a colony and are leaving the area, contact your neighbors and see if they would be able to continue caring for the colony. If the cats can stay put, but continue receiving the care they’re used to, that’s the best situation for them. Some colony caretakers move their colonies with them; if you opt to do this, follow the relocation guidelines to ensure the safest possible move!