Frequently Asked Questions About Feral Cats
Q. What is a feral cat?
A. A feral cat is a cat that has not been socialized to humans. He does not want human interaction. Outdoor cats can be described in various degrees of socialization – totally feral, semi-feral, semi-social, stray, abandoned, free-roaming and even tame. Homeless cats that congregate in colonies outdoors are assumed to be feral. Some of these cats may actually be owned tame cats that wandered into the colony for a free meal (feral cat colonies are usually fed by a caretaker). Stray cats are often considered to be feral because they have lost their trust in humans and exhibit feral behavior (fear of humans).
Q. What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?
A. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a full management plan in which stray and feral cats are humanely trapped, evaluated, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, then returned to their colonies. Kittens that are young enough to be socialized are adopted into good homes. Cats that are too wild to be adopted are returned to their familiar habitat under the lifelong care of volunteers. Over time, a TNRed colony will gradually dwindle in size as the cats die of natural causes. Sometimes newcomers will join the colony. Colony caretakers must be vigilant and committed to TNR newcomers to prevent breeding.
Q. What should I do if a stray or feral cat comes to my house?
A. If a stray cat comes to live at your house you should first try to determine if it is tame (socialized to humans). If it is, check with your neighbors and local veterinarians to see if the owner can be found. Put up signs at nearby intersections. If you can get it into a cat carrier, take it to a vet to be checked for a microchip.
If no one claims the cat and you do not want to keep it, contact a local rescue organization or no-kill shelter to bring it to them where it will be spayed or neutered (if not already done) and adopted to a qualified home.
If the cat is not handle-able, contact a local rescue who will help you TNR the cat or refer you to someone in your area.
Q. What if a stray cat has kittens at my house?
A. Kittens are born neutral. They will become tame if they are socialized, feral if they are not (even if they are born to a tame mom.) The most important thing you can do is socialize the kittens as soon as possible. Provide a sheltered, comfy box in which the mama can care for her kittens . She may move them but if you continue to feed her regularly, she will bring the kittens back when it is time for them to start eating solid food.
Q. What if a mama cat brings us kittens and they are already feral?
A. Feral kittens have a good chance of becoming tame and adoptable if they are captured by eight weeks old. If the mama cat is feral, it is best to take the kittens from her at about five weeks old.
Q. When can I give the kittens away?
A. Giving away unaltered kittens adds to homelessness, overpopulation and euthanasia as there are more cats than homes. Free kittens may not get spayed or neutered. Several clinics will spay or neuter kittens at 2 pounds so it is best to keep the kittens until then, get them altered, then ask for reimbursement from the adopters to cover your expenses. Reach out to a shelter or rescue in your area that will spay the mama cat for free and return her to you, spay or neuter the kittens and place them in qualified homes.
Q. What type of assistance does South County Cats provide?
A. Our mission is to end homelessness and overpopulation of cats in our community through prevention, i.e., spay and neuter. We will help anyone in our coverage area (south King County) spay or neuter their cat(s). Our assistance may include subsidizing spay/neuter, trapping and/or loaning traps, and educating the public in the resources available for spay and neuter of tame and feral cats.
Q. Can I spay my female cats to prevent pregnancy and leave my male cats intact?
A. An intact male cat will find a female cat in heat. You may have spayed your female cats but if your neighbors did not spay their female cat(s), your male cat will be contributing to the homelessness and overpopulation of cats in your community. Additionally, it is believed that male cats are less likely to spray if they are neutered (the younger the better).
Q. Is it OK for the apartment residents to feed the cats that hang around outside our buildings?
A. Many cats living around apartment complexes are cats that were abandoned when their owners moved out. There may be feral cats and owned cats as well. But, they must be TNRed. Most apartment managers will tolerate a few nuisance cats but when left to breed uncontrollably, two becomes twenty and then someone complains. Apartment complexes provide a good source of food for outdoor cats (tenants feeding, food in dumpsters, mice and rats) so removing these cats through catch and kill simply makes room for new cats to move in to enjoy the free food. This is called the vacuum effect.
South County Cats does not have a physical shelter so we are unable to take stray or owner-surrendered cats.
As our foster home capacity allows, we socialize feral kittens, spay or neuter them, then place them in loving homes. All of our cats are fostered at our homes in south King county.
Low Cost Spay-Neuter Clinics
Spaying or neutering is the solution to decreasing the euthanasia rate in local shelters. Please encourage your friends and family to spay or neuter their pets.
If you need assistance spaying or neutering your cat, our Spay/Neuter Solutions page lists many options.