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How To Help Feral Cats

Feral cats roam the streets their whole life

Feral cats roam the streets their whole life

Feral cats are a huge issue throughout the world. Most people know a few feral cats in their neighborhood, and some areas are infested with ferals. Feral cats are cats that grew up on the street and live their lives in the great outdoors. They provide problems for a variety of communities, including people, birds, and other cats. Luckily, there are many ways that people can help with the feral population in a humane and loving way. Here, we’re going to tell you everything there is to know about feral cats and how you can help.

Are feral cats different than strays?

In a short answer, yes. Feral cats are cats that have lived their whole lives outside or in the wild. Stray cats are cats that were living in a home at one time or another but were lost or abandoned. Stray cats and feral cats behave very differently due to their previous experiences of exposure with humans. A stray cat may come up to you and beg for food, while a feral cat would wait in the background until you left the area. Feral cats rarely make any noise, where a stray cat has learned to meow around humans. Stray cats openly depend on humans while feral cats barely acknowledge them.

How do feral cats live without humans?

The life of a feral cat is not an easy one. For starters, they have no medical care and are therefore extremely susceptible to disease, infection, and parasites. Feral cats also have to deal with inclement weather; from rain, to snowstorms, to overwhelming heat waves. They are at risk of animal abuse simply from being outside, and have to avoid animal poison and traps. Finding food is a constant task, and fighting over territory with other cats is always a threat. For all of these reasons, the average lifespan of a feral cat is less than two years. This isn’t including the fact that approximately half of feral kittens born die in the first week.

Did you know: October 15th is National Feral Cat Day


What are some ways to help with feral cats?

There two main ways that a person can help the feral cat population. Both are aimed at keeping the feral population down in a humane way, as well as relieving communities from the harmful effects of untouched feral colonies. Feral cats that haven’t been spayed/neutered are more likely to spray, fight, and of course, remain on the streets for the rest of their lives. The ways that you can help keep the feral cat population down, and increase the quality of life of the feral cats in your community:

Participate in trap-neuter-release: Trap-neuter-release, or TNR, is the single most effective way of humanely keeping down the population of feral cats. In TNR, participants will set out humane traps to catch the feral cats to later pick up and bring to the veterinarian. The veterinarian will then spay/neuter the cat and likely vaccinate them against rabies. Then, the cat will be released back in the area that they were trapped from. This way, the cat can no longer produce more feral kittens, or transmit rabies to another animal. This is the most cost-effective, humane, and efficient way to keep the feral cat population down. Many veterinarians and animal hospitals provide free spay/neuter services for feral cats, or at a discounted rate.

Become a colony caretaker: Colony caretakers will take it upon themselves to TNR a particular colony in the neighborhood, as well as a few other responsibilities. If a cat needs surgery, the colony caretaker will trap and drive the cat to the appointment, and then offer their home for aftercare. They may also step in and foster feral kittens so that they can be housecats and help to adopt them out. If you are interested in becoming a colony caretaker, Alley Cat Allies has a great guide for the whole process.

Feral cat colonies like this one can pop up anywhere

Feral cat colonies like this one can pop up anywhere

Is relocation an option?

It may sound simple: “Why don’t we just move the feral cats somewhere else?” Well, unfortunately, cats are very territorial creatures and will simply make it their goal to return to the same area that they’ve been hanging out in all along; Not to mention the fact that it would be difficult to transport and then find an area for the entire colony of cats to live in.

Can I bring a feral cat to the shelter for adoption?

Unfortunately, feral cats are often past the point of being adoptable. If a cat is truly feral, their behavior around humans is not desirable for almost any cat owner. They don’t know how to interact with humans and won’t learn any time soon. However, if the cat living in your back yard seems friendly and eager to come inside, they are likely a stray cat, not a feral cat, and might be a great candidate for adoption.

Can I adopt a feral cat?

Again, feral cats are not the same as housecats. A feral cat and a housecat are great examples of the nature vs. nurture argument. Although both cats are cut from the same cloth, their upbringing severely changes the way that they interact with humans. Even if you had two kittens from the same litter, one left to the wild and one brought into the home, they would grow up to act completely different. Early socialization is the best way for a cat to learn to behave with humans. Bringing a feral cat into your home is a danger for your entire household, since feral cats may have any number of diseases, infections, and parasites, and may behave violently towards humans.

Can I adopt feral kittens?

Feral kittens can become housecats if they're exposed to humans early enough

Feral kittens can become housecats if they’re exposed to humans early enough

Yes! As long as the kittens are at least four weeks old, the minimum age required for kittens to nurse from their mothers, they can be safely brought into the home. Make sure to take the kittens to the veterinarian for their shots and spay/neuter procedures, and socialize them as much as possible. Kittens generally shouldn’t be up for adoption until they are at least 8 weeks old; at that point, you can adopt them out yourself, submit them to a no-kill shelter, or decide to keep them yourself. If feral kittens are brought into a home early enough, they can end up just like any other happy human-friendly kitty.

What should I do if I find a cat on the street?

If you find a cat on the street and they come up to you, they are likely a stray cat, not a feral cat. You can proceed by contacting your neighbors, bringing the cat to a veterinary clinic to be scanned for a microchip, and contacting all local shelters to add the cat to their lost-and-found bulletin. You can also see what resources for lost cats are online for your area. Fostering the cat and helping by posting “found” ads yourself will probably end better than a shelter, since most shelters are kill shelters and will only hold onto strays for a few days before euthanizing them.

How do I trap a cat?

Trapping a feral cat for TNR may be saving its life

Trapping a feral cat for TNR may be saving its life

You’ll need to purchase a humane cat-sized trap, for starters. You can find these at most hardware stores or online for less than $50 each. Remember that you can use this trap more than once, so it is a worthy investment, especially if you live near a colony. Resist the urge to feed the cats for two days before trapping so that they’ll be extra hungry and will risk entering the trap for a treat. Place wet cat food in the trap behind the trip plate, and wait for the cat to be caught. Then, you can take the trapped cat to your veterinarian as soon as they’re securely in the cage. The veterinarian will do the procedure, and then likely ear-tip them. Ear tipping is a way to tick the cat’s ear so that humans will know that they are TNR’d.

By participating in TNR, you are helping keep the feral cat population down, as well as helping the feral cats in your area have a greater quality of life. Feral cats didn’t choose the street life, the street life chose them, so you can think of them as your housecat’s weird cousin. Happy TNRing!

Do you have a feral cat colony in your area? Let us know in the comments!

Green Gato Visits The Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue

Jeff & Jenny's first big cats, Pebbles & Bam Bam, relaxing in their spacious enclosure

Jeff & Jenny’s first big cats, Pebbles & Bam Bam, relaxing in their spacious enclosure

The Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue is located in Rock Springs, Wisconsin; just a hop and a skip from Chicago or Madison, WI. Owned and operated by big cat enthusiasts Jeff and Jenny Kozlowski, this sanctuary was brought to life strictly by their own funds and the donations of fellow cat-lovers. Many people wonder how these big cats ended up at the rescue, and why big cats would need to be rescued. Green Gato went to visit the sanctuary this week and got some face-to-face time with Jenny for an in-depth look at The Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue.

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13 Little-Known Facts About Black Cats

Black cats: No longer a mystery

Black cats: No longer a mystery

Many rumors and superstitions have surrounded black cats for years. However, nearly all of them are unfounded, and black cats are no different than any other delightful housecat. We’ve got 13 lesser-known facts about black cats for you right here, so keep on reading to learn all about the majestic black beauties.

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Cat Breeds 101: The Ragdoll

Purebred Ragdoll CatIf you’ve ever met a Ragdoll cat or kitten, you’ll likely have noticed their adorable markings, their cute and playful temperament, and their patient way with people. Ragdolls are popular throughout the United Kingdom and the United States and are regularly shown in cat shows, in commercials, and on television. After learning all about the Ragdoll, you might just find yourself wanting to add one to your family!

Where do Ragdolls come from?

Ragdolls originated in the U.S. in the early 1960s. A white domestic longhaired Persian cat named Josephine mated with a male Birman cat, producing a kitten with point coloration. This was the first known kitten to have the Ragdoll look of a fluffy cat with blue eyes and dark spots on their ears, muzzle, and paws.

Ann Baker, an American breeder, purchased kittens from one of Josephine’s next litters, in the hopes that she would produce a new breed of cats. She began to breed these self-named “Ragdoll” kittens, trademarked the name, and set up her own registry called the International Ragdoll Cat Association. The breed was eventually accepted by most major U.S. cat registries, and stuck to its strict breed standards until 2005, when the trademark “Ragdoll” wasn’t renewed. To this day, around 45% of the genes in the ragdoll breed come from the original pair produced by Ann Baker, which is why so many are prone to genetic health problems.

What do they look like?

The look of a Ragdoll is very distinct. These cats are large and sturdy, as opposed to being slender and sleek. Adult females will range between 8-15lbs, while males weigh between 12-20lbs. The most noticeable trait that overcomes all Ragdolls is their striking blue eyes. These blue eyes come along with the breed’s point coloration. Point coloration refers to animals that have a light-colored torso with darker extremities. This means that the color comes in on the cat’s tail, ears, face, and paws.

Closeup Kitten FaceThe reason that these areas are darker-colored than the rest of the cat has to do with temperature. Point coloration is a form of albinism, meaning that the cat’s melanin production is different than that of most cats. The dark colors are the result of cooler areas on the cat. On that note, it is worthwhile to point out all the color variations that Ragdolls come in. They can be red, seal, chocolate, blue, lilac, cream, and tortoiseshell. The most recognizable colors of a ragdoll are white with dark brown color points.

What do they act like?

These cats aren’t called Ragdolls for nothing. They have a tendency to go limp when picked up, much like a ragdoll or a baby. Their docile-ness has been a key trait of the breed, going so far as to have certain breeders question whether or not the trait helps or harms the breed. They are so snuggly and trusting that some breeders fear that they may have lost the ability to detect danger or pain. However, as long as a Ragdoll is in good hands, there is simply no reason to stray away from this sweet breed.

If you have a Ragdoll, or more than one, you’ll notice that they will infamously flop all over what is around them. This could mean sleeping right on top of each other, or in other silly locations. This flopping puts them up at the top of the list to be a lap cat. They are intelligent and relaxed and ready to hang out in a calm environment. They enjoy playing and being playful, but their most famous personality traits are their dog-like loyalty and calmness.

What is their general health like?

Unfortunately, Ragdolls aren’t known for being the healthiest cat breed. This is due to inbreeding as an attempt to keep the breed going. Since the breed is relatively new and has so many distinct aspects to the look and behavior, as many as 40% of Ragdolls are inbred. This means that their parents were very close in relation; either stemming from the same litter or parents.

It is estimated that only 63% of Ragdolls live past the age of 10, which is a high early mortality rate for a cat. They are prone to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a painful heart disease that shows up in many felines. It is important for breeders to only breed parents that lack the gene so common in Ragdolls in order to ensure that it is not passed on.

How To Make Cats Like You

Portrait Of Beautiful Young Woman 20 Years With A Fluffy Red CatWhen meeting a new feline friend, do they flock to you like you’re a can of tuna, or tend to avoid you like you’re the vet? Cats aren’t the type of animal to automatically like any human, and can take more time than other animals to get to know. In order to be like-able to cats, you must understand what they’re looking for in a new friend and how to best approach a cat. Here, we’re going to discuss how to make feline friends and keep them coming back!

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Why Are Cats So Cute?

Cute gray kitten on carpet on floor at homeThe question at hand may sound silly, but there must be a reason why we find cats so dang cute. Why do cats populate such a large percentage of the internet? Why do we take these feral, fur-covered, fang and claw-wielding creatures into our homes? To understand why we find cats so cute, there are a few factors that we must examine.

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Dear Green Gato #9 – Musical Cats

Pretty Western Woman With Guitar And CatDear Green Gato,

I have an odd question for you. My cat, Bootsie, seems to have a passion for music. Whenever I play my guitar, Bootsie comes running from wherever she is and plops down right next to me. If I turn on my record player, she will prance in and grab a seat near a speaker. When it’s time to flip the record, or if I stop playing guitar, she instantly gives a big meow. Even my friends have noticed that she seems to like music. Is this possible? She doesn’t come running when I turn on the television, so I don’t think that it’s just the noise of it. Do cats like music? Do they only like certain types of music? What’s the deal here?

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Kitty Noses 101

Does this make you want to boop your computer screen?

Does this make you want to boop your computer screen?

Ah, the adorable kitty nose. So tiny, so pink, so cute. Cats are adorable for so many reasons; among them, their silly little noses. As cute as they might be, a cat’s nose provides tons of information to their brains and is one of the most important body parts that your cat has. From sensing danger, to a form of greeting, to understanding territory markings, your cat’s nose helps them with tons of things. Read on to learn all about your cat’s nose!

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8 Health Benefits Of Having A Cat

Beautiful Black CatIt’s safe to assume that anyone who has a cat understands the complex bond that humans and felines share. Their silly nature provides endless entertainment, their intuitive nature offers companionship, and their passion for cuddling fulfills daily affection requirements. However, did you know that there are several scientifically-proven health benefits of having a cat?

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The Truth About Fostering Cats

Being a cat foster-parent is a great service that benefits both the foster parent and the foster animal. This mutually beneficial relationship offers a home to an otherwise homeless or worse, euthanized, kitty while providing the foster home with some welcome visitors. Another great reason to foster is so that you can “try out” a pet before committing to being its forever home. Lots of people are curious about fostering, but not everyone knows how it works.

Many people don’t know why a cat would require foster care. Animals that require foster care are normally animals that will be perfectly ready for adoption, but need some time before they can be back in the shelter for a variety of reasons.

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