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6. Feral Cats

A domesticated animal which has reverted completely to a wild state, is described as feral.

Feral cats are different to true wild cats as they are a species which has been introduced accidentally or otherwise by man. Cats were at one point taken on board sailing ships for luck & to protect food stores. Sometimes after docking, ships left without their feline passengers who had gone off ship. Stranded boy cat met stranded girl cat & populations increased, presenting a serious threat to wildlife that, not evolved to deal with the predators. Feral cats can be found on every continent including, the galapagos islands, Australia & even the antarctic Macquarie's island.

Truly feral cats have been born wild with 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 have lost themselves, joined with others & bred.

Feral cat numbers boom if they find themselves in an environment with no natural predators. Cats are a prolific species that depend on numbers for genetic survival. Populations will grow around a food source & ultimately decline through suffering due to the unsustainable numbers.

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.

One difficulty in rescue & rehabilitation centers, is that these fearfull animals - young or old - can easilly learn that the apparent human threat facing them, will back away when scratched. This can serve to re-enforce the negative behaviour. It is a fine balancing act between allowing a cat comfortable personal space & luring them from their protective shells at their own pace (without injury or negative associations). It takes time and patience but is extremely rewarding.

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, 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.

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.

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 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 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.

Starvin Marvin

Starvin Marvin

Morris, Monty & Matilda

Morris, Monty & Matilda

Monty caught on camera, asleep by the window

Monty caught on camera, asleep by the window

Grateful for food, but keeping a wary watch

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

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

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