Tuesday, October 16 is National Feral Cat Day

What’s a Feral Cat?

Alley Cat Allies quickly describes the difference between a feral cat and a stray cat in this video:

The video was made in 2009 when approximately 70% of all cats entering animal shelters in the U.S. were killed. The situation has improved, but not substantially: the most recent estimate is that around 50% of all cats entering shelters are killed. This is a huge number of cats! In New Jersey, in 2010, 45% of all cats entering reporting shelters were killed. 25,625 cats dead in 2010 – 70 every single day – and not all shelters are required to report these numbers!

Feral cats do not belong in shelters – they are wild animals that are not suitable house pets. Every feral cat that ends up in a shelter means one less cage for a friendly cat. Removing a colony (known as Trap & Kill) does not work – instead, different cats will move in for the food & shelter. Remove the food or shelter and the colony will simply move on down the road; thereby displacing the “problem”.

Click here for a short primer on the TRUTH about feral cats.

So, what’s the answer?

Trap – Neuter – Return

Trap: using humane traps, cats are caught (usually around feeding time) and transported to a safe, indoor location while they wait for the trip to the clinic. Withholding food for a day or so will usually ensure a hungry kitty … trapping can be aided with the use of tuna, sardines or even Kentucky Fried Chicken (nope, we’re not kidding!).

Neuter: Males are neutered, females are spayed and when the whole colony is fixed this results in no new kittens! It is common practice to also vaccinate the cats for rabies and other feline diseases (like panleukopenia or distemper). The left ear of the cat is either “tipped” (surgically removed) or tattooed – this provides an easy visual marker for others that the cat has been fixed.

Return: Returning the cats to their colony or territory is very important. These cats are not friendly and don’t want to snuggle on your couch. Relocation is possible but is labor intensive and requires several months of dedication to transition a feral cat to a new territory (and sometimes the resident cats will not welcome newbies). Seek professional advice if this is your only option.

You can help with our TNR efforts by volunteering or donating – just $35 will pay for one kitty to be fixed and vaccinated!


Founded over a decade ago by Alley Cat Allies, National Feral Cat Day is a day to “promote humane care for feral cats” according to the Official Website for National Feral Cat Day. National Feral Cat Day is a day of education, in which communities of caregivers reach out to the extended community to “share information and educate others on the importance of Trap-Neuter-Return.” Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the best way of reducing the population of community, or feral, cats living on the streets.

Alley Cat Allies has another great resource here for TNR background information.

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