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What to do About Feral Cats in Your  Scottsdale Community

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are as many as 50 million feral cats in the United States. It’s vital to reduce their numbers whether you’re concerned about them, indifferent, or annoyed by them. (HSUS website, 4/27/10)

What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?

 A stray cat is a pet that is lost or abandoned and often tries to make a home near humans (i.e. in a garage, porch or backyard.)  Feral cats are the offspring of lost, abandoned, or feral cats that are not spayed or neutered. Unlike stray cats which are generally tame, feral cats are not accustomed to people making them fearful and too wild to be handled. Stray cats may be reunited with their families or adopted into new homes. Feral cats do not easily adapt or may never adapt to living as a pet.  They live in groups called colonies, and take refuge wherever they can find food, such as: rodents, other small animals, and garbage.  “Ear-tipping” is one way to identify feral cats. “Ear-tipping is the humane surgical removal of 1/4 tip of the left ear to let people know that a cat has been spayed or neutered already to prevent any additional surgeries”. (Humane Society of the United States Online Publication, 4/27/10).   

Female cats can reproduce as young as 5 months old and have kittens two to three times a year.  Many feral cats don’t survive, and if they do, their lives are not easy without humane caretakers.  They may only live two years, but with the help of humans they can live up to ten years or more.  Feral cats are forced to endure extreme weather, be it cold, rainy, or hot. They also struggle with starvation, infections, and attacks from other animals. “Feral cats also face eradication by humans—poison, trapping, gassing, and steel leg-hold traps are all ways humans, including some animal control and government agencies, try to kill off feral cat populations.” (ASCPA website F.AQ)

There are many things you can do to help improve the health and quality of life of feral cats:

  1.  Take the necessary steps to find the owners of stray cats or a suitable permanent home for them.
  2. Some may believe that feeding a feral cat is the most humane solution. Instead, the ideal solution for handling a feral cat should be to: Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).   Many who are against feeding feral cats, may assume that if there is no food available, the cats will go away. However, this is not true. Feral cats are territorial animals that can survive for weeks without food, and will not easily or quickly leave their territory to search for new food sources.
  3.  Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the most humane, efficient, and least expensive way of controlling feral cat colonies.  TNR entails trapping cats, having them spayed or neutered, vaccinating them for rabies, and then returning them to their colony.  Once returned, a caretaker should provide food and adequate shelter while monitoring the cats’ health.
  4.  You can contact www.alleycat.org.com to help you trap and neuter a feral cat.

 Communities Benefit From TNR

“TNR helps the community by stabilizing the population of the feral colony and, over time, reducing it. At the same time, nuisance behaviors such as spraying, loud noise and fighting are largely eliminated and no more kittens are born.” (APSCA website, F.AQ)  TNR also aids communities by reducing the number of unadoptable kittens ending up in shelters in order to make space for the cats and kittens who are adoptable.  In addition, feral cats that have been spayed or neutered may actually benefit communities because they provided a natural rodent control.


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