The term “feral” cat is often misused. Feral refers to a previously domesticated animal that has reverted back to a wild state. We certainly do have feral cats around – totally untouchable cats that act just like wild animals. But often that term is used to refer to a stray or abandoned animal that is living outdoors on his own, often with the help of people who put out food. In today’s vocabulary these are called “community cats,” and rightfully so because that is what they are.
We often get these cats either when they becomes sick or injured, and the story goes like this: a neighbor moved out some time ago (fill in the number of years) and all the neighbors have been feeding him but no one claims ownership; especially if there is a cost, like a vet bill, involved. Instead it falls on the government agency that provides animal protection to bear that expense. Given that the animal, after all that time on his own, is most likely not an adoption candidate, that usually means euthanasia.
When it’s just a situation where there’s a fertile female creating havoc by producing too many offspring, or an intact male that’s being macho and aggressive to other cats, we can help by offering free spays and neuters – on the condition that the cat is allowed to go back and be cared for by the person seeking help and his neighbors. A semi-wild cat does not have a lot of options in a traditional shelter environment. We need to be able to safely handle the cats here in order to clean their cages, feed, medicate and show off the cat to adopters. Since there is no “feral” land for these cats to be relocated, often the only option for them to leave the shelter alive is to be returned to where they were originally caught. The assumption is that they were living quite nicely there before and could again, with the help of neighborhood feeders.
Once in a while it just won’t work to return a cat to where she was caught and then we look for a possible outdoor relocation sites. It’s not easy to try and relocate a cat that is going to be strictly outdoors. She needs to be caged on the site for at least a month to acclimate to the sounds and smells and to get accustomed to the schedule of daily feedings. They say that it takes a cat about a month to claim a new territory as their own. If you just plop a new cat on a 3-acre parcel of land, even if it is a perfect location for a wild cat to live (barn, mice, gophers, acreage, etc.) they will be gone as soon as the door of the cage opens up. They have no reason to stay! But once that hurdle of the first month or so is past, this can be a great solution for many felines that just can’t make it in the regular adoption program.
Do you have space on your property for an outdoor feline? Sometimes we have friendly cats that need an outdoor placement either because of litterbox issues or because they resist confinement but they are social and can be petted. We also get some of those “community cats” that have been a neighborhood cat but now needs a new “community.” A true feral cat would be a great at catching mice or gophers and would do fine living in a barn setting. Given the number of creeks that run through Rohnert Park, and the mice and rats that come with them, a few outside cats could be a good thing!
We are working with Forgotten Felines to try and give these community cats and ferals a second chance. We will have them spayed or neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and ear-tipped for free, as long as they have a place to go to. Forgotten Felines will help with the logistics of relocation – loaning you a cage and giving guidance and support needed for a smooth transition. There is always a list of cats waiting for relocation so talk to everyone you know who has some land and see if they wouldn’t like to offer a home to cat in need.
Meet the Bunny, 2nd Saturday of each month (next one is July 14), 1-5:30 at the shelter. Meet our adorable adoptable rabbits, have your care questions answered by our knowledgeable volunteers, bring your bunny for a free nail trim, and shop our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, fun toys and fabulous deals on supplies.
Kidz ‘n Critters Summer Camp – Six more sessions this summer, so enroll your little animal lover today! One-week sessions of fun and learning – all about pets. Details available at rpanimalshelter.org or by stopping by the shelter.