Stray, feral or loved pet?

Cats as we're sure you are aware are not like dogs and can often do their own thing!
However, a cat in need of help or support, for whatever reason, is still an animals needing help – but depending on which category the cat falls into can determine the best way to help that cat.

We thought it might be helpful to give you some information about the best ways to help either a stray, feral cat or someone's pet who maybe lost.

A stray – this is a cat who has, at some point, been someone’s furbaby and possibly most importantly could be again!  If you see a cat around your house or garden, who suddenly starts turning up and looks dirty or scruffy, it could be that they are a stray, i.e. a domestic cat, who has been abandoned or ‘strayed’ from their home and have become lost.  In the first instance, if you are concerned about the cat, you can make enquiries around your house to see if the cat belongs to anyone.  If they do, then problem solved - generally!  However, if no-one claims the cat, then it is a good idea, if you are able to touch the cat, you can initially look to see if they have a collar on, & if there is any information about their owners on it.  If you use social media, there are numerous lost and found pet pages, and it is a good idea to share the information about the cat to as many of these as you can.  If after 7 days, there has been no contact about the cat, then you can put them in a carrier and take them to your nearest vets, who can check them over and scan them for a microchip.  This will tell you if they are owned, and where that home should be.  If there is no microchip, or the owners are not able to be contacted – then it is advisable to ask a reputable cat rescue to take the cat in and rehome it.

If you have a cat who likes to explore outside then a good idea can be to put a paper collar on them with your contact details on, so that if they are found, you can be contacted without your cat being taken to a vet to be scanned for a chip.

A feral cat, is still a domestic cat, but it is one who has never been socialised with humans, or whose socialisation has diminished significantly over time and therefore they are unlikely to ever want to live in close proximity to humans again.  Kittens who are born feral are often, up to around 6 months, able to become socialised with humans and potentially could be rehomed.

However, a true feral, whatever the age, will be at their happiest living out doors with their feline family with little to no contact with people.  This lifestyle is not often an issue, however, & there is a big but!  If all ferals, male and female were allowed to live their outdoor life completely un-checked, they will inevitably breed, uncontrollably (a sexually mature female cat could have up to 3 litters per year often with more than 4 kittens per litter – the more kittens she gives birth to the more chance there is of some survival!) and this would cause feral numbers to increase dramatically.  This in turn, would mean increased competition for environment and food, which can also have negative effects for house cats in the area as well as people living in the area, not to mention the quality of life for the ferals themselves. 

To prevent this situation happening and to give feral cats as good a quality of life as possible there is something called a Trap, Neuter, Return programme.  This is as simple as it sounds, but is very effective.  Because feral cats are not happy with human contact, they generally need to be trapped to catch them, this is a humane trap though and causes them no harm.  They can then be taken to a vet, who will neuter them and tip their ear.  (This simply means that the tip of one of their ears is cut off so that in the future, if the cat is seen or found, it is very easy to tell that it is a feral and has been neutered.)  Again, tipping an ear causes no distress to them, as it is done under anesthetic at the same time as the neutering and does not affect their hearing.  They are then released again, back to where they came from, or into a safe area, if they were not before.

Sometimes though, a loved pet cat can wander the surrounding area of their home and often learn other places where they may also receive food or a loving fuss.  This in itself may not be a problem, but, please bear in mind, if you do befriend someone else’s cat, that you do not know the cat, and therefore maybe unaware of issues they may have, such as food intolerances.  This could mean they become poorly from the food you are giving them in good faith.  Cats can also be led by their stomachs, and so if you are feeding someone else’s pet, you could cause them to spend less time in their home, which can cause stress and upset.  If a cat is lured away from its home, it can also mean that the cat becomes no-one’s responsibility, which can then become a major problem if they become unwell or need more specific care.

We receive many calls daily from people who are concerned about animals they have seen & so we thought it could be worthwhile putting this information together and sharing it with you.  We are hoping to demonstrate that there are successful processes in place, for strays, ferals and pet cats, which are very effective if the majority of people know what to look for and how is best to help in different situations.    If you have any questions about any of the information in this article, then please contact us we will of course help as much as we can.

We feel this is especially needed at the moment as numbers of abandoned and unwanted cats is increasing the longer this pandemic continues.
We would also like to say thank you for your support, because without you, we would not have been able to help the animals that we have done.

If you would like any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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