Today is National Feral Cat Day. This day was launched by Alley Cat Allies, a national advocate for feral and stray cats and the foremost authority on Trap-Neuter-Return, in 2001 to bring attention to the unnecessary killing of cats in animal control pounds and shelters.

Feral cats are descendants of a domesticated cat that have returned to the wild. Feral cats are born in the wild, as opposed to stray cats, who are usually cats who have been lost or abandoned. Most animal shelters across the United States kill virtually all feral cats who come through their doors, because they are considered unadoptable.

Can a feral cat become a pet cat?

It it even possible to turn a feral cat into a house cat? The answer is maybe. Feral kittens have a better chance at being domesticated than adult feral cats. Taming a feral kitten takes a lot of patience, and the process can take several months. It becomes more challenging, and often impossible, with older cats. Even though most cat lovers feel that every cat should want to be a house cat, some ferals simply love their freedom too much to give up a life wrought with danger and often starvation, even in exchange for safety and a permanent home.

Helping feral cats, one cat at a time

Throughout the country, caring individuals do what they can to feed and provide basic health care for these cats. Whether it’s a group of neighbors who band together to get a neighborhood feral spayed and keep a collective eye on her well-being, or whether it’s the elderly woman who barely has enough money to feed herself, but always manages to scrape together enough for her “outside cats,” feral cats who have these advocates in their corner are the fortunate ones. Too many others are persecuted as a menace, and an increasing number of municipalities are passing ordinances to ban these helpless creatures.

Facts and statistics about feral cats*

  • Cats have lived outdoors for more than 10,000 years.
  • In the last decade, the number of local governments with official policies endorsing Trap-Neuter-Return has increased TENFOLD.
  • More than 70% of all cats who enter shelters are killed there, including virtually 100% of feral cats.
  • Feral cats can have the same lifespan as pet cats.
  • Last year, there were 450 National Feral Cat Day® events.
  • Alley Cat Allies started National Feral Cat Day® in 2001.
  • The nation’s animal shelter system is the #1 cause of death for cats.
  • More than 40% of Americans have fed an outdoor cat.
  • More than 80% of Americans think it’s more humane to leave a stray cat where he is to live out his life than to have him caught and killed.

How can you help feral cats?

Educate yourself on the plight of feral cats. Vox Felina, a website dedicated to providing critical analysis of claims made in the name of science by those opposed to feral/free-roaming cats and trap-neuter-return (TNR), is an excellent resource for learning more about the feral cat problem. Alley Cat Allie’s website provides a wealth of information on all aspects of helping feral cats.

Donate. Alley Cat Allies is a non-profit organizations and needs donations to survive. If you’d rather help cats closer to home, and you know someone who feeds feral cats, offer to buy food for them, or donate to a local animal rescue group who practices TNR.

*Statistics courtesy of Alley Cat Allies

11 Comments on National Feral Cat Day 2013

  1. I’ve adopted several feral cats (or should I say that they adopted me?) Both of them were adults. One was about six years old (according to the vet when I took him in to be neutered) and the other was about a year-and-a-half to two years old when he planted himself at the patio door and demanded to be let in to be a house cat.

    I don’t often see ferals around here, since there are literally hundreds of acres of woods and few feral cats venture out, although the occasional one (other than the two I adopted) have taken up residence in our stable. I provide food and water for these, but they generally haven’t stayed long.

    Muggsy, the six-year-old, showed up one day very thin and very hungry. I began feeding him, and, although it took about a year before I could touch him, I was eventually able to get him neutered and into the house. After he had gotten to the point where he could be touched, he used to “ask” to come inside to visit for awhile, and he would sit with me while I petted him and then go back outside.

    One night, I decided that that boy had to change his lifestyle, and, since I had no trap at the time, I grabbed him and eventually managed to get him into a dog crate and then to the vets. He spent several months in a downstairs bedroom getting used to indoor living, and, after that was one of the most loving cats I have ever had.

    Bumper, on the other hand, although coming for food, was really aggressive and would attack for no particular reason. For my own safety, I got a trap, caught him, and got him neutered. I never thought that he would become a pet, but several months after neutering, he planted himself at the patio door and insisted on coming inside.

    I had joined a Yahoo group about feral cats where I got lots of good information on dealing with ferals, and Bumper tried VERY hard to figure out what he needed to do to be an indoor kitty. It took awhile, but he, too, ended up inside and very affectionate.

    It took time, but it was definitely worth the work. I’m glad that I didn’t know that most adult ferals can’t be tamed. LOL

  2. I have a feral colony in my backyard, and I am so grateful to the information that I’ve received from Allied Cat Allies over the years. I am attending a couple of workshops on Sunday at a local low-cost spay/neuter clinic; I attended their free TNR class years ago, and they’ve neutered/spayed five feral cats for me. When I found my first stray in 2008, I had no place to turn to, and had built a network of co-workers and rescue shelters to help me. Since then, so much more information is available, but we need to keep spreading the word! Until there are no more homeless pets, let’s all pitch in when and where we can. Thanks, Ingrid!

  3. That this is all so true. Feral kittens can be tamed and made into wonderful pets. The feral cats are really nice cat and very loyal to the people that feed them. This is a great post.

  4. Great article! I am a volunteer in my area through Alley Cat Allies. If people have questions about feral cats they call me. I had a woman call me yesterday about some young ones around her apartment building. I guided her to a couple different places to locate traps, because she wants to get them neutered/spayed. It makes me feel good when i can help.

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