According to estimates from The Feral Cat Coalition, there are over 60 million stray and feral cats in the United States. If you see a cat wandering around your property this post will tell you how to handle the situation and help the kitty!
Feral vs. Stray
There is a difference between a stray cat and a feral cat. Stray cats are former pets that have either been abandoned or have strayed from their home and got lost. Most importantly, they’ve had interaction with people. Feral cats are wild animals that have never had any socialization with people. They may also have a chip in their ear.
How Can I Tell the Difference?
Stray cats will approach you, meow at you, and walk around relaxed as if you two have known each other your whole lives. Feral cats will not come near you. They won’t interact with you, and will most likely run away or hide from you.
What Can You Do?
Stray cats: You shouldn’t have a problem getting a stray cat to come into your home. Once the cat is in your possession, check for a collar or any tags. If there isn’t any identification, go to a veterinarian or rescue shelter and check if the cat is microchipped. Check the paper and the Internet for any ads about a lost cat that matches the description of your stray, and place your own “found” ad online and in the paper.
If you have no luck finding the owner and don’t know anyone who’s looking for a new pet, you can turn the cat in to a shelter. Always remember to ask the shelter about their euthanasia policies.
Feral cats: Feral cats are not adoptable. If you take a feral cat to a shelter, there’s an extremely high chance it’ll be put to sleep. That’s why associations like the ASPCA encourage people to participate in the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program:
- Trap – Feral cats will not come up to you willingly, so you have to trap them (humanely, of course!) While they might not be too happy about it, trapping cats does NOT harm them. *Note: Before trapping (if possible) look to see if the cat has a chip in its ear. If it does, the cat has already gone through the TNR process. In this case, simply leave the cat be.
- Neuter – Once you’ve trapped the cat, take it to a veterinarian where it can be vaccinated, neutered, and ear-tipped.
- Return – After surgery, return the cat to where you originally found it. Make sure not to release it in an unfamiliar place, feral cats typically belong to a colony. Colonies are the equivalent to families for feral cats, so returning them to the same location is very important.
Michelle is an avid animal lover and animal rights advocate. She’s an aspiring writer who currently freelances for Havahart®, an animal-friendly company that specializes in cruelty-free animal traps.