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What to do with a stray or feral cat

cat porch outside Do you have a stray cat wandering around your property? Here’s how to help!

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.

outside stray cat chair

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 cat trapFeral 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.

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One Response to What to do with a stray or feral cat

  1. Woodsman says:

    Be cautious about using any cats taken from outdoors for adoption or you could be held criminally responsible. There’s no way to know a wild-harvested cats’ vaccination history, if any, nor their exposure to all the deadly diseases cats carry. If a cat has contracted rabies then a vaccination later will do no good. It’s already too late. There’s no reliable known test for rabies while keeping the animal alive. They need to be destroyed after they are trapped. It’s the only sane and sensible solution. This is why all wild-harvested animals of any type intended for the pet-industry must, BY LAW, undergo an extended quarantine of a MINIMUM of 6 months before transfer or sale of those animals to prevent just these things. Cats are no different than any other animal when wild-harvested. You’re risking this following story happening in every shelter across the land.

    Google for: rabid cat adopted wake county
    Another example (of thousands), Google for: rabid kitten jamestown exposure

    Adopting or approaching any unknown cat that’s been outdoors is just playing Russian Roulette.

    The net is flooded with similar examples every week. THOUSANDS of people must endure, pay for (out of their own pocket) the painful and expensive (more than $1000) rabies shots if they get scratched or bitten by any stray or feral cat, especially if that cat cannot be trapped again to destroy it and test it for rabies. Stray-cat feeders are guaranteeing this, by training and teaching these cats to approach humans for food. These cats then lashing out by biting or scratching at any hands that try to touch or pet them.

    Even vaccinating your cat against rabies won’t prevent it from finding the nearest rabid bat dying on the ground to rip it to shreds for its daily cat’s play-toy. Then bringing back a mouthful or claws full of fresh rabies virus to you, your family, neighbors, other pets, or other animals. ANY cat allowed outdoors can transmit rabies to others, vaccinated or not.

    These are just the diseases they’ve been spreading to humans, not counting the ones they spread to all wildlife. THERE ARE NO VACCINES against many of these, and are in-fact listed as bio-terrorism agents. They include: Campylobacter Infection, Cat Scratch Disease, Coxiella burnetti Infection (Q fever), Cryptosporidium Infection, Dipylidium Infection (tapeworm), Hookworm Infection, Leptospira Infection, Giardia, Plague, Rabies, Ringworm, Salmonella Infection, Toxocara Infection, Toxoplasma. [Centers for Disease Control, July 2010] Sarcosporidiosis, Flea-borne Typhus, Tularemia, and Rat-Bite Fever can now also be added to that list.

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