Caring for Feral Cats and Strays

Caring for Feral Cats

Feral cats are not for everyone, and you'd be surprised just how many exist within urban areas of the UK. The biggest problem is breeding - if you decide to feed or encourage them, chances are the local population will explode causing issues in the local environment. You'll often hear feral cats howling and scrapping outside during the night.

Taking the decision to care for a feral cat, or a stray cat as we know them, is a huge responsibility not to be taken lightly. It can be a hard, long term commitment, but if you are an experienced cat owner you can experience some real reward in taking in a stray.

Sometimes you'll find a rare breed that may have become lost or abandoned, or discover a cat that was domesticated but has become a stray, and has no identifier to return it to its rightful home.

Trapping a Stray

If you have a regular stray cat that visits, its a good idea to establish a routine, whether it be feeding or petting. Seeing the cat everyday also allows you to monitor any changes in the group and to be aware of newcomers, pregnancies or new kittens. Cats are creatures of habit - if they know that food will appear at a certain time, in a certain place, you can be sure they'll be there.

Once you have established a feeding routine, and the stray visits you regularly, the cat becomes your responsibility. You have become the caretaker of the stray. When the cat becomes used to you and comfortable in your company and environment, its time to take the next step and have it checked and micro-chipped by a vet.

Using a cat carrier as a trap to lure the cat safely into a hold will enable you to transport the cat to your local veterinarian. Here, decisions can be made on healthcare and spaying, and the cat can be checked for underlying health issues and chipped.


Behaviour issues

Be aware that your stray may have certain issues that it carries over into your household as a result of living and surviving on the street. Some strays have a tendency to gorge on food, if it has been scarce in the past, and this rarely settles even if fed regularly. You may hear a lot of howling for attention or feeding, and find that the cat behaves a little oddly when nervous or seeking attention - its not unheard of for a stray to climb on your shoulders or spray around the house when nervous.

Keeping a stray cat can be hugely rewarding, but it must be considered some time is needed to tame it, and a lot of patience and gentle handling is required over time.


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