Feral cats are cats that live outdoors and are left to fend for themselves. They fear humans and try to avoid contact with them. With the growing feral cat population, there are many questions about them, including their potential to be house pets. Here is a guide that will answer your questions about the interesting and enigmatic feral cats.
Aren’t feral cats and stray cats the same?
Biologically, there is no difference between house cats, stray cats, and feral cats. However, behaviourally speaking, there is a huge difference. The main difference between a stray cat and a feral cat is that a feral cat has little to no socialisation with humans, whilst stray cats used to be house cats. If you want to know more about their differences, click here.
How can I tell if a cat is feral?
The following are signs that determine if a cat is feral or not:
- The cat’s body language and vocalisation
Feral cats stay low to the ground; they crouch and protect their bodies using their tails. Generally, they appear frightened and/or hesitant when a person is nearby. They are also not likely to make eye contact, purr, or even meow at people, and they may avoid human contact entirely. Stray cats, on the other hand, tend to behave casually like a house cat, make eye contact, and meow at people when approached.
- Socialisation with humans
Since feral cats have little to no socialisation with people during their formative age, they are not likely to approach humans. Instead, they may run away or hide. In contrast, stray cats may approach humans.
- Socialisation with other cats
Feral cats may be a part of a colony, whilst stray cats live by themselves. They also may be more territorial compared to stray cats.
Can feral cats become good house pets?
With proper socialisation with humans, a young feral cat can possibly be a good house pet. As adult feral cats have not been exposed to people, they will always lack the skills to live in a house; therefore, it is very challenging to turn them into house pets. Additionally, the experience may become stressful for the feral cat as well as the other pets you already have at home.
If you happen to find a feral cat, never try to turn it to a pet nor take them to a shelter as they may be only euthanised. The best thing to do is to contact local groups that have a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programme. They will trap the feral cat, vaccinate, spay or neuter it, and then return it back to its colony. Programmes like this help in reducing the overpopulation of cats, lessen the cat’s chances of spreading contagious diseases, and control aggressive behaviours.
Health concerns about feral cats
Contrary to popular belief, it is rare for people to acquire a disease from a cat, especially feral ones as they are not likely to get near humans.
Many cat parents also worry that feral cats may transmit virus and diseases to their beloved house cats. For that reason, TNR programmes are helping to reduce such risks.
Common misconceptions about feral cats
Feral cats have a bad reputation because they are misunderstood. A lot of people think feral cats are likely to attack humans because they are perceived as aggressive. They are considered a nuisance in the community. However, in reality, feral cats are just another type of wild animals.
To help feral cats in your area, report them to your local TNR programme.
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