Q & A

What is a feral cat?

A feral cat is any cat who is too poorly socialized to be handled and cannot be placed into a typical home. Most feral cats live in groups known as colonies near homes or businesses where people feed them.

Where do feral cats come from?

Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats who are not spayed or neutered. Females can reproduce two to three times a year. Their kittens, if they survive, will become feral without early contact with people. Cats can become pregnant as early as four to five months of age and the number of cats in a colony rapidly increases unless the cats are spayed and neutered.

What should I do about the feral cats in my neighborhood or where I work?

The most effective way of dealing with feral cats is through a process called TNR or Trap – Neuter – Return. Cats in a colony are trapped in a humane trap, taken to a clinic where they are spayed or neutered and vaccinated, and then returned to their colony. This process improves the quality of life for feral cats, reduces their numbers, and reduces the nuisance behaviors associated with mating. Very young kittens who have been trapped may be removed, tamed and adopted into homes.

Why can’t I just stop feeding them? Won’t they go away?  

The cats have some sort of food source at this location so they will stay.  If you remove all the food sources available to them, they will either slowly starve to death or they may move to another nearby food source which simply “transfers” the problem to someone else!  It doesn’t make it “go away” at all!  

What’s wrong with just leaving the cats alone?

A colony of unaltered feral cats can cause a number of problems, including continually growing numbers of cats; frequent and loud noise from fighting and mating behaviors; strong odors from unneutered male cats spraying to mark their territory; and suffering of sick and dying kittens and injured adult cats. In addition large numbers of kittens and adults from feral colonies end up in animal shelters, forcing the shelter to euthanize higher numbers of cats because they are unadoptable, or because there are just too many of them.

What is a managed colony?

Feral cat colonies require ongoing care. A feral colony caregiver monitors the colony for newcomers who are either born into the colony, “dumped,” or wander in from nearby. The newcomers and any unsterilized cats are then TNR’d. The caregiver also provides continued food, water and shelter to all colony cats.

Why shouldn’t I just trap and remove the cats from an area?

Trapping and removing cats rarely works to reduce a feral cat population. Feral cats live in a certain location because they have found the food and shelter they need. If feral cats are removed from the area, cats from surrounding colonies move in to take advantage of the newly available resources and start the cycle of reproducing and nuisance behavior all over again. In addition, if any of the cats in a colony are left behind, they tend to have more kittens that survive to adulthood because of the reduced competition, and the population rapidly regains its former size.

Can’t I just move the cats to a different location?

Relocating feral cats is a difficult and time-consuming process. Moving cats from one colony to another is very stressful to the cats and is rarely successful. The few sanctuaries in existence that house feral cats fill up rapidly and the quality of care is variable. Allowing the cats to remain in their “home” colony through a TNR program is the most humane and simple, and cares for the largest number of cats with the fewest resources.

Will the animal shelters help me trap feral cats?

No, shelters don’t have the personnel to assist with trapping. Trapping is done by good-hearted volunteer caregivers.

What happens if I surrender trapped feral cats to an animal shelter? 

Feral, untamed cats cannot be adopted into homes, therefore the only option is to humanely euthanize them.

How can I keep feral cats out of my yard?

Motion-activated sprinklers -  

  • The Scarecrow, made by Contech, To order, go to http://www.contech-inc.com  or call 1-800-767-8658.  
  • Another motion-activated sprinkler is Spray Away, manufactured by Havahart.  To order, go to www.havahart.com.  

Ultrasonic devicesCatStop contains a motion sensor and, upon being triggered, emits a high-frequency alarm imperceptible to humans but highly annoying and startling to cats. To order CatStop directly from Contech (www.contech-inc.com) or call -1-800-767-8658.  
Buy it for less through Safe Pet Products.  To order (and view installation instructions) go to www.safepetproducts.com  . Or call 1-888-977-7387.

Scent repellants

  • Both naturally-based and chemically-based scent repellants are available.  
  • Naturally-based products include:  The Coleus Canina WARNING:  There are many varieties of Coleus plants, so make sure you order the correct one - Coleus Canina. 
  • For protecting gardens or flower beds, common household items may be effective, including the herb rue, either planted or sprinkled in its dry form. Orange and lemon peels (cats dislike citrus smells), cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, lavender oil, lemon grass oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and mustard oil. 
  • Havahart Get Away dog & cat repellent uses capsaicin pepper and oil of mustard as its active ingredients. It repels by both taste and odor, has a lemon scent, lasts 7-10 days and needs to be reapplied after rain or new growth. Model 5400; 32 oz. bottle sells for $14.16. To order online, go to www.havahart.com. 

Physical barriers to digging -  

  • Gardens and flower beds can be protected from digging through a number of means:  Cat Scat from Gardener's Supply consists of plastic mats that are pressed into the soil. Online: cwww.gardners.com Phone: 1-888-833-1412
  • Cover exposed ground with rough surfaced rocks.
  • Take branches from a thorny plant, like a Rose of Sharon tree, and lay them on the ground in a lattice-type pattern, then plant flowers and seeds in the openings. Regular lattice type fencing used in this way will also discourage digging.

Make an Outdoor LitterboxA sandbox will tend to be an attractive place for cats to do their thing. Take a very large Rubbermaid plastic container and fill it with regular "kiddie sand box" sand. If you can, put a couple of pieces of the cats' poop in it to attract them. The cats will enjoy digging in the fine sand and will shift to using it. Scoop occasionally and once a month or so, dump and replace the sand.