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post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
What is a feral? According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a feral is defined as “Existing in a wild or untamed state. b. Having returned to an untamed state from domestication.â€

What then, you may be thinking, is a stray? According to the same source, a stray is “a domestic animal that has gotten lost, or wandered away from its human host.â€

I have been working with ferals and strays for over a dozen years. The difference that I have observed in the two types of cats is that a stray cat is easier to approach, than a true feral. A stray hasn’t been in the wild for its entire life and although its trust meter is on a low setting it is often more accepting of humans, unless it has been abused.

A feral, on the other hand has lived his entire life outside, fending for himself, fighting tooth and claw for food and survival. The toms mate at every opportunity. The females get claimed every mating season, sometimes more than once by over zealous Toms. Ferals are adept in hiding, and will launch an attack if you decide to crawl underneath a house for a visit, or they will simply run off. They respond on a fight or flight pattern only.

Some people claim that ferals should never be pets, and I beg to differ strongly. Once you win the trust of a feral, you will have a loyal, wonderful loving cat. Winning this trust does not happen overnight, and you have to reset your thinking when you are working with a feral cat. You must establish a routine with him and stick to it so that he knows he can count on you. His first sign of trusting you could be hours, days or even months away, and will come initially as a head-bump against your arm. You will not ever have a domesticated pet per se, as a feral will always retain his natural instincts and will for example, flee at the slightest unaccustomed sound. But you will have a wonderful cat who has retained a certain independent streak that is essential to his survival, and that defines his character.

If guests come to your house, your feral cat will revert to the behavior he first exhibited when you brought him home and hide the duration of their stay. A stray on the other hand will show some mistrust right at first, but he is easily won over and will soon be purring away on your guest's proferred lap.
post #2 of 41
that is very interesting.

I'm not sure if moe and neo where ferals or not. We found them at around 5 weeks old. Moemoe was very mean at first to my bro but once we gave him food he liked us :LOL: now they are both cuddle bunnies.

Snowwhite will walk up to dh and I and meow but if we sneeze, cough, or drop anything she takes off. So i guess she is feral. It took such along time to win her trust.
post #3 of 41
Some people claim that ferals should never be pets, and I beg to differ strongly.

Oh, yes, I'll definitely second that comment! It's a fact! I had been told that same exact thing from the Humane Society when we took Lucky in - being that she would hiss and was a feral. Thank goodness I came to this site for advice and help - because I must say, Lucky has turned out to be quite a lovey dovey girl! It was a great challenge, but the love received from her after all the patience was worth the wait.
post #4 of 41

I'd just like to add that kittens born of feral moms can more easily be socialized than their feral parents. It also takes time and patience, but their trust can be gained with food, time, and consistency.

I do find it interesting, however, that most feral kittens exhibit the same feral behavior as their parents, despite having been around humans from very early ages. They also flee at loud noises and strange people, and they ALL love to burrow into small spaces.

Of 8 ferals kittens we've rehomed, only 2 are not scared of strangers. One flees at first, and then comes out to stare at the stranger (that's our Shelly) - perhaps for hours. Our poor guests, LOL! The other just isn't afraid of people and strangers (anymore). (That's Thanksgiving, who we're still putting up at a boarding facility).
post #5 of 41
if you are with a kitten from the time it was born are they more likly to be friendly. Since snowwhite is a stray or feral, not all that sure, i wonder if her babies will warm up to me since i plan to talk to them (but not touch, i'm scared of getting bit!) from day one. She is really friendly towards us now. she does freak over any little sound though.
post #6 of 41
I can definately tell he is a feral then.....what is soo neat and out of the ordinary is I always have my windows open, and my kitties sit out there and if this feral happens to be out there, they sit and look at each other in amazement....even if I happen to be sitting in the chair next to the window where I can see him, he will just sit and watch us..I talk sweetly, and soft to him, and he looks at me with his sweet loving green eyes, like he wants to be a part of us, but he is just too scared....
I would like to try to trap him, and take him to the vet and have him checked out nutered and all...but I will let him go back outside to his natural culture.......the kids and I are trying to think of a name for him..he is all brown..the color of a chocolate lab....maybe Rusty?? I just want to call him something...
post #7 of 41
Thread Starter 
Call him Hershey?
post #8 of 41
Hey, that is a good one!
post #9 of 41
This is my first post here and just found you all by chance. I need help!!! We have moved to a farm in SE Kansas and have also inherited the feral cats that were in the barn too. They have multiplied to at least 40, and I really don't know where to start. I found a litter of kittens which one mother had had in a huge tree behind the barn (15 feet in the air) after the mother had been hit by a car and injured. She couldn't climb the tree anymore and the kittens fell out after about a week. That's when I found them. They are the only ones that I can get hold of and have adjusted quite well to being picked up and held. All the other cats are really wild and even though I take them food daily, they won't get near me. There is another litter of kittens in the straw in the barn which I found yesterday and I'm guessing them to be about two weeks old. However, they all seem to have a mucus coming out of their mouths and I think that must be a very bad sign. I have two very loveable house cats which don't come outside (except on the screened-in porch). I don't want to have any diseases from the outside cats reach my inside kitties so wash my hands very carefully when I come in from being outside with the kittens.
How should I go about getting hold of the wild cats and getting them neutered (if I can afford it). My husband is not in favor of putting out that much money for all these wild cats. Help!
post #10 of 41
Antoinette, I want to commend you for caring for these extras that came with the house.

First, keep doing what you're doing. Feed them on a regular schedule. Once they know they can depend on you for food you've got a foot in the door, and the development of trust can begin.

Here is a thread that gives great tips for trapping ferals. Also, check out for low cost spay/neuter resources. And for resources (as well as our forum) for tips and education about feral cats and how to work with and manage the colony.
post #11 of 41
Thread Starter 
First I would suggest you get the kittens to the vet as soon as possible, and until you do, I wouldn't handle them very much, even if you do wash your hands before going into the house. These kittens need to be seen quickly.

With such a large number of cats, it would be advisable to get some help in trapping them. I do not know of a feral organization in Kansas, but you can contact Alley Cat Allies by email and ask them if they have any representatives near you? Another thing to do is call around to the different vet offices and ask them if they know anyone who rescues ferals. Some offices keep lists and will give out phone numbers, or will call the person and have them contact you.

You can make a fairly inexpensive feral feeding platform. You need a sheet of plywood, a stiff piece of cardboard and a plastic trashcan with tight fitting lid. Take the can and cut a hole in the side, toward the bottom of the trashcan- not a very big hole about 2 inches round is good. Place the cardboard inside the trashcan to cover the hole.

Fill the trashcan up with dry food, set it in the middle of the plywood, and lift the cardboard. The food will spill out and the cats can come and eat. When the food gets stuck, all a cat has to do is stick his paw into the hole and more will spill out. It is the best way to feed a colony that I have found. When you go to refill it, set a schedule and stick to it, so they know when you are coming, they will get used to you.
post #12 of 41
Click here to go to the Alley Cat Allies web page. You will find an incredible amount of information regarding the care of feral cats. You will also find information about the Feral Friends network of people who are experts in trapping, neutering, and returning ferals to their colonies. There might be a feral friend near you who can help you learn to manage such a big colony of feral barn cats.

I tip my hat to you for caring about these wild kitties. I hope they win the heart of your husband soon!

Keep coming to us for help as well. Between Hissy, LDG and the others, we have quite a lot of experience with ferals.
post #13 of 41
Thank you all for your suggestions. The vets here don't have a list of people, as some larger areas might. There are many feral cats in the country, just seems like the majority are at my barn!

I do feed them regularly in the morning and again at night; but they still haven't warmed up to me. A couple of them will hang around the dish and let me get close but friendliness isn't their strong suit.

I will take the kittens to the vet after classes today. (it's final week and I'm a teacher)

Thanks again for your help. I'll look into the website you have provided.

P.S. How do you get the little pix of the kitties under your name? Or by your loggin name?
post #14 of 41
Look near the top of the page. You will see a bunch of buttons. Click on the "user cp" button. Then click on "edit profile" and "edit options" to add an avatar (the picture under your name) and to add a signature (the pictures at the end of each post).

Good luck with grading all of the final exams!
post #15 of 41
Thanks, lotsocats. Guess I'll have to write a lot to get those cute photos of kitties. I'm so glad I have found this site. Looks very informative and fun.
post #16 of 41

Is my 6yr cat a feral. I adopted her from and ad in the paper 6 yrs age. The woman said she was born to a stray who left her. She was 8 weeks old. She is totally devoted to me and to my husband. She sleeps with me and at times seems to be attached to me. When company comes she hides under my bed. If I have weekend company she will hide 2 - 3 days under there, except to eat and do her business. If I sneeze she bolts off the floor, loud noises the same. I never even heard of a feral cat until today. Should I be aware of anything?
She does have kidney disease and I do treat her with fluid therapy 3 time a week, she seems to be ok with that.
post #17 of 41
Thread Starter 
She wouldn't be classified as a feral because you were able to socialize with her almost immediately. She would be more liable to be labeled a nervous stray.
post #18 of 41
You could put an ad in your local paper to ask for donations to helpsterilize these cats. There is a group here who simply put in an ad saying: The city's feral cats need your help. Call xxx-xxxx." and got help. You need to call around to shelters and rescue groups to find out who offers special rates when. One of the shelters near my work offers $20 spay/neuter + shots + microchip every February for 2 cats per I line up friends and we each take 2. Most importantly, call Alley Cat Allies and ask about the Vets for Life program to see if it operates in your state at your veterinary college. The vets need cats to practice on and they will do it cheap. Alley Cat Allies waits until the vets have some experience in January rather than using virgin vets in the fall. In the fall I heard anyone can bring in cats free to the vet students, but they have no experience. I can attest to the cats getting extra care from the students. It is an ideal place to take ferals. The vet students say they love working with ferals because they see many more conditions than with pet cats and they obtain more experience.
post #19 of 41
There is some thought that if 64%-70% of the feral colony is sterilized then the colony has attained "stability" in which incoming cats (born, wandering in) equals outgoing cats (dying, leaving). Apparently this is proven out for preventing disease epidemics. Apparently it is also experimentally observed to be true, although I can hardly believe it.

A male cat finding a female in heat is not as random as the chance encounters which spread disease on account of female pheremones which male cats smell from afar. With 98% of my colony sterilized, the two remaining intact females ALWAYS get pregnant, Fibonacchi numbers or no. They, indeed, still ahve 5+ kittens each. There are less cats born to my colony because there are less intact females, but the majority of males being neutered does not prevent the intact males from finding te intact females. This is fact 1.

Fact 2 is that the colony gets at least a 10% turnover each year. The cats that leave are sterilized, the cats that come in ARE NOT. What keeps this from being simply awful is that 99% of the cats wandering in are male. Still, you should note a trend -- teh cats that get hit by cars or die of cancer or what-have-you are sterilized, the cats that wander away in search of adventure are sterilized, the cats that are born and that wander in are NOT.

This 70% stability number is extremely important because it gives you a resting point to regroup your energies, but the job is far from done until all cats are sterilized!

Also, the statistics hide a lot of individual suffering. I was told that the kittens of one of the two remaining intact females in my colony always die. How sad! This cat suffers pregnancy emaciation season after season, loves her babies, but has to watch the light fade from their eyes one by one and drag them out of the nest. Yet the colony is "stable." It's not enough.
post #20 of 41
It's hard to tell one from the other in some cases because people pet wild-born cats but do not take them in so they become partially tame and also because trapped cats are so scared they will spit even if they are tame.

I try to get to know the cats in my colony and observe them when they are at large and I also have reports from the local businessmen on what they think. Often we can surmise whether or not the cat is feral before the cat is under undue stress. Feral cats walk around like they own the place, strays often act nervous. Feral cats are quiet, which their mothers teach them to elude predators. Strays will often meow for food or for rescue from a trap. I have 4 cats who come to my porch for food in my own neighborhood -- two of them run away if I so much catch sight of them and they do not come back even an hour later. The strays will even wait for me to put food out and let me get within a foot or so of them (although they will not let me touch them). Stray cats sometimes look like they are trying to decide if they can trust you and you get the feeling you are making visible progress in coaxing them to be friends. Feral cats can be tamed too, but the results will be slower, rather like glacial movement.

Once you have the cat in a trap you can't reliably tell anything unless you put him in a cage and let him relax. I no longer put cats in cages unless I a priori suspect they are not feral. Then I put them in a cage and attempt to pet them with welder's gloves on. They do not have to snap down on my hand like a bear trap for me to release them -- I have too many cats to take any but the cheerful, potentially adoptable ones. To this day I regret returning one that I thought may not have been feral but was unfriendly enough that I didn't feel that I could spend the time to try to get him adoptable. It turned out it was Luella's feral, one of 8 Luella kept in her garage who were semi socialized. Luella decided she was too old to care for them and simply had them all euthenized. Rafe's life was once in my hands and I was too exhausted to give him the benefit of the doubt and now he's gone. I'm sure we all have ghosts of cats we once knew that haunt us...

I believe you can tame any feral but some will take as long as 5 years. We always have to weigh what we can offer the cat in terms of happiness and what resources we have to expend. Some cats are so stressed in captivity that they may waste away. It almost happened to the cat I let have her babies and had to retain until she was done nursing. However, I still believe that had she been put in a cage with nothing to hide behind and upstairs where she could watch my cats enjoy being petted (this does help destress ferals who learn by watching) she would not have been so stressed. However, because of her litter, I put her in a huge dog cage which then had to be in the basement and because it's cooler in the basement I gave her a lidded box to have her babies in and all she ever did was hide and worry.

If you groom a feral kitten (such as with a wet washcloth) it will understand that you are taking on the role of Mom and it will stop being so afraid. You HAVE to keep the kitten in a cage at floor level which you are not playing with him/her for some period of time (at least 2 weeks). Young ones will lose the instinct to run if they are in a cage that prevents it and they will get used to the fact that people are so much taller than them if the cage is on the floor. After a certain age it may not be possible to unteach the kittens the instinct to run. This does not mean they won't make great, tame cats. They will be the cats who dive for cover when something spooks them, but seek you out for affection afterward. What it does mean is that they can never be indoor/outdoor pets because if you let them out they may not return.

After you tame one, you can use that one to tame the rest as all cats learn by observing. If you can sit a wild one on your lap and pet him quietly while your other cats com eup and purr and head butt you, the feral will start to get the idea that s/he is very lucky to be in your arms where all the other cats want to be.

You can certainly tame a 5 month old. Shelters generally won't do it because anything over 3 months is a risky proposition and depends on the personality of the cat. Sick cats tame easier so grateful they are for your help. Dominant cats are hard to tame at that age but it can be done if you have the time to devote. If the cat is a spitter, it is likely to take so long to tame the cat that I'd just give up right at the start. There is a rescue league in my state that takes in entire feral colonies and commits to taming them all. They report that it takes some of them as long as 5 years to tame up. Any Alley Cat Allies folk reading this may be appalled at taking in ferals against their will, but the cats are taken in with all their friends and they are not caged so they are happy. This group also reports that the cats are terrified to go outside again. They say they never took in a feral who ever wanted outside again... In my climate the feral caregivers I know can't sleep nights when the winds are 20 below for worry about our colonies...
post #21 of 41
Originally posted by oomomma
This is my first post here and just found you all by chance.
. . . .
My husband is not in favor of putting out that much money for all these wild cats. Help!
Welcome Antoinette, you've found the right place to be!!!

Ask your husband, "Dear, are you more willing to put out money to care for 60 to 80 cats than these 40 or so? Because, if we don't spend a little now, we might have to spend a LOT later on."

And, if he's still not convinced that putting out money to speuter the cats is such a good idea (and who can blame you guys, since you just moved, and that's expense, too!), then explain to him that if you try to have these cats removed, you may find that the NEXT group, that moves in in their place, will either be rats and snakes, or a worse group of cats than these cats. Yep, TNR *is* the way to solve this sort of situation.

We can coach you on how to find low cost help for the project, just stick with us, and ask whatever questions you or your husband may have!
post #22 of 41
Poe is this great big gray cat that started hanging out in the neighborhood about 2 years ago. At first you couldn't even be outside without him hissing or running for cover. Also he fought with our cats and other neighborhood cats all the time. Over the last 2 years however he has warmed up to the piont he will meow...usually at a window to be let in...he will play with our cats and other neighborhood cats...we can pet him and he knows his name.
I don't know anything about ferrels vs strays but 2 years ago I would have said Poe is a ferrel now he acts more like a stray...he always acts like he owns the place and other then when Elfi was in heat he has not acted viciously for about a year.
post #23 of 41
Poe sounds feral to me. I strongly suggest borrowing a humane trap so you can take him to the vet to be neutered and vaccinated. You will find that most behaviors you do not like (fighting and spraying for example) will likely go away once he is neutered. We can help you figure out how to do this and can help you find financial resources as well.

May I also suggest that you have Elfie spayed as soon as her kittens are weaned as well. She will live a much longer and healthier life once she is spayed.
post #24 of 41
we are going to spay her...had planned to spay before she got preg but it just took us to long...we were planning to do it end of March she got preg the begining of March. In the past year we have not noticed any fighting or spraying from Poe he'll practically sit in my lap if I'm outside...inside just petting allowed. The only time mom will trap ferrels and we have in the past is when they are going to the human society. She won't fix a cat that is not hers. While Poe comes in our house, he is really more the neighbor guys outside buddy, which is why mom hasn't taken him to the shelter.
post #25 of 41
I'm glad your mom hasn't taken Poe to the shelter, because the Humane Society usually kills feral cats rather than adopt them out. This is because feral cats (usually) take more work to be friendly with people than cats that lived with people but now live on their own. Feral cats are usually scared of people - like your Poe was at first. But as you can see, over time, ferals can come to trust people, and then they're just as wonderful as the other kitties that were raised by people!

Maybe you can talk to your mom about taking up a collection from around the neighborhood and everyone can contribute a little bit towards getting Poe neutered? Even if you haven't noticed him spraying and fighting, he is doing that somewhere, and he may get hurt, or hurt one of your pets or your neighbor's cats. It'll also help him live a longer, healthier life. And then he won't be able to get kitties like Elfi pregnant, and unwanted or unplanned kitties won't have to be born.

You may not know it, but there are a lot of homeless cats! As a matter of fact, it's a really serious problem here in the U.S. Shelters that don't automatically kill the feral cats are almost always full - and even shelters that do kill "unadoptable" cats are usually full. Many shelters have to kill cats just because they've been there for a few weeks in order to make room for "new" cats being dropped off. It's really sad. And the only way to stop that cycle is for everyone to help spay and neuter not only their own cats, but the strays or ferals that turn up on their doorstep.

If you want to know why it's healthier for cats to be spayed or neutered, there's a link in my signature line that says "Why spay or neuter your cat?" That'll take you to a place that has lots of links with lots of info about the health benefit of spaying and neutering.

And if you want to learn more about homeless cats and what is being done about the problem, please visit .
post #26 of 41
Laurie, I just wanted to say that's about the BEST basic explanation of the feral cat situation in the US that I have EVER read. Thank you for putting it all so accurately and clearly!
post #27 of 41
Well on the topic of Poe if I can get the money saved up from working this summer I might pay for him to get fixed...that is if I can get him to trust me enough that he'll go into the carrier...we have trapped them so that only place to go is in carrier but I don't like doing that.

My Scruffy was my baby if not for him I wouldn't have made it through a lot of high school.....he had feline leukimia...while he was diagnosed at the end of my freshman year of high school 94 he was a healthy happy cat until the spring of 99 at which time he held on for so long and then gave me a look that said "mommy, I can't no more, let me go." the next day mom called the vet and she knowing that while it was my mom's signnature required said she wouldn't unless I said to because he was mine and if not for me he wouldn't have made it as long as he did...she said it was my love that cause him to be healthy for so long...I can't wait to post some pics of him...people tell me I'm nuts because I still talk about him all the time....but this was the cat that let me hold him tight after a classmate killed himself, who was there for me when I just needed to talk for the sake of saying my words, he laid on my backwhile I read books....used to let me pretend he was a guitar.....he was in one of my senior pictures for gosh sakes.

Also Stubby had both FLV and the other one...we had to put him down when he got a tumor in his lungs....he was Stubby cause his tail was just a stubb.
post #28 of 41
Wynterangel, it's easy to tell you're a real cat-a-holic, LOL! Mr. Scruffy was obviously very important in your life, and I don't think you're nuts at all for still talking about him so many years after he's gone. I think it's really nice that he's part of your life, and I expect he thinks so too.

I know it seems like its cruel, trapping the kitties, but it really isn't. With most feral kitties, they have to be trapped using a special kind of trap that doesn't harm them (called a have-a-heart trap) because people can't get close enough to them to pick them up - let alone even "scruff" them to get them into a crate!

If you decide to be brave and use a trap to catch him rather than using a crate, even though you don't like to do that, please feel free to come post here at TCS. We have lots of trapping hints that will help make it easier on both you and Poe. Believe me, both he and the whole neighborhood will feel much better, even if no one's quite sure why.... AND he'll become even friendlier than he is!
post #29 of 41
Ooops! Forgot to say thanks, Linda!
post #30 of 41
Thanks Laurie,
It makes me feel good knowing someone other than my mom who had to watch me let Scruffy go know how special he was to me. There are two days I'll never forget...the day Dr Jones said he had 6 months to a year to live in the spring of 94 and the day I finally had to let him die in the spring of 99. As much as I miss him I know that I was lucky to have him as long as I did and I cherish ever memory.
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