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Posted on 10-18-2013

Feral, stray and pet cats are all members of the same species; they are all domestic cats. All three differ from each other in a very important way; in their relationshipand interaction with humans. Some cats are allowed outdoors on occasion, but spend most of their time indoors with their families. Others live outdoors, but are fed by a caretaker. There are also those cats that are former pets that are lost or abandoned. Lastly, there are those cats that are or have become feral. These cats spend most or all of their lives outdoors on their own, living in a wild state, without much human contact.

Feral cats typically live in groups and in areas where there is food and shelter readily available. Dumpsters, restaurants, barns and abandoned buildings are a popular place for them to dwell. Feral cats may not enjoy long lives, but due to the lack of neutering/spaying them, they breed and become overpopulated very quickly. The best thing you can do for a feral cat is vaccinate them, spay/neuter them and leave them where they are. This not only provides a better life for the cat themselves, but also you are protecting your own cat. Unvaccinated feral cats have the possibility of passing on disease and parasites to other cats.

If you have captured a feral cat and wish to make it a house cat, you must remember that they are in essence a wild animal. Cats that have not had much human interaction by twelve weeks of age will have trouble interacting with people at an older age. Older cats that have had no contact or interaction with humans their entire lives will most likely never become a friendly house pet. You must understand that they may be petrified of you no matter how much time you spend with them. They may not associate you as a good person who is trying to take care of them. Because of this, they may never be able to relax with their new “parents”. If this is the case, the best thing to do is return them to where they were originally found. If you are determined to turn a feral cat into a house cat, you must prepare yourself for a long and slow process. Over a period of months or years, they may get used to one or two family members and not run away from them, but you must never expect them to be an overly social animal.

If you believe you have a feral cat living in your neighborhood, please contact us for further information at Eagle Animal Hospital. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Glenmoore, Exton and the surrounding area.

Written by Alyson Kelly, veterinary technician

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