10. FERAL CATS EXPLAINED
A domesticated animal which has reverted completely to a wild state, is described as feral.
True Feral cats have been born wild of feral parentage & have little or no contact with humans.
Once upon a time their ancestors would have been pets, but un-neutered & un-spayed they will have lost themselves, joined with others & bred.
Semi-Feral cats have less fear of humans, they are often domestic pets that have gone astray or their offspring. They may live nearby & have some limited interaction with humans.
With time & patience, semi-feral & sometimes even feral cats can succesfully come in from the cold to join our families.
It can be extremely rewarding to befriend a feral, they can make exeedingly loving companion animals having been lifted from a squalid existence, into comparative luxury.
Kittens that have not had much contact or socialising with humans will be fearefull & suspicous, the more handling & contact kittens have the friendlier they will be as adult cats.
Feral-colonies of cats form near food sources, but usually away from human habitation. Wastelands or industrial estates offer good hunting grounds, while railway lines allow for wide ranged - scavenging & forraging. Colonies in the U.K. are less obvious but it is still a problem. Responsible pet owners neuter & spay their companion animals, but many still don't. This contributes to the numbers of animals that stray & kittens that are born in hedges.
In cities they can go largely unnoticed as they are crepuscular - meaning they are most active during the low light of dusk & dawn. On the whole they avoid human activity, but they are happy to scavenge around bins.
They become more noticable as their urge to mate warms up with the weather, but it is easy to mistake a feral cat moving through the gardens or streets for someones pet. Cats fighting & yowling in the streets & gardens at night are likely to be ferals & or entire strays.
One difficulty in rescue & rehabilitation centers when these fearfull animals are brought in for one reason or another - young or old - is that they can easilly learn that the apparent human threat will back away whith aggression. This can serve to re-enforce negative behaviour. It is a fine balancing act between allowing a cat comfortable personal space, looking after their basic needs & luring them from their protective shells at their own pace (without injury or negative associations). It takes time and patience but can be extremely rewarding for both parties.
Kittens born feral have a slim chance of survival & are most likely to starve, they are regularly brought into rescue centers - particularly in Spring and late summer. They are more noticeable as they cannot go far from where they were born - at first - & they attract the most attention.
Some charities in the U.K. tackle the problems & excersise trap - neuter & release policies. This limits the breeding capability of a colony & prevents any population increase.
Not everyone has the patience to tame a feral, rural or sensitive homes are desperately needed!
Some farms appreciate having cats around to control rodents, there is no guarentee a cat will be a good mouser but often their presence alone is enough of a deterant.
Feral kittens & cats can be tamed depending on their environmental circumstances, their past & present situations (coming soon - Monty's story - an example of a feral becoming tame).
Wild cats once upon a time were welcomed in by us as pest deterants, they quite naturally tamed & became household companions, but cats have never lost their wild streak.
Morris, Monty & Matilda
Monty caught on camera, asleep by the window
Grateful for food, but keeping a wary watch
Cat carriers split into two halves, straw scattered inside (available as rabbit bedding in pet shops) makes great bedding. Ensure nests are sheltered from rain