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Most likely, there are feral cats around where you live — there are 70 million feral cats total in the U.S. and hundreds of cats per square mile in urban areas. If you see feral cats in your neighborhood or near your home, here’s what you should do and not do to make sure the feral cats, your own pets, and any nearby humans all stay safe and disease-free.
A feral cat is a domestic cat that does not have an owner and lives outside; typically, feral cats don’t want anything to do with humans. Feral cats are distinct from stray cats — whereas stray cats once had an owner but became lost at some point, feral cats were born and grew up in the wild. Stray cats might give birth to a new generation of feral cats. Ferals are often shot by humans, killed by other animals, or end up dying of diseases that would have been totally preventable if they had access to medical care.
Here’s how you can help feral cats:
PETA does not recommend feeding feral cats, as this often exacerbates the problem — feeding ferals can keep them healthy, meaning they keep giving birth to kittens and the cycle of disease and suffering continues. Instead, the goal should be to get feral cats off the street.
One way to do this is by humanely trapping them. Set a box trap (often available at your local Humane Society) when you have time to stay nearby and watch it and create a trail of food leading to the trap. When a cat goes into the trap, take the trap to a pre-arranged location such as a vet’s office. Your vet can conduct any necessary medical procedures, tests, and vaccinations.
Once the cat has been spayed or neutered and received its vaccinations, you have a few choices regarding what to do next. First, it’s possible to release the cat back into the wild; this is known as the trap, neuter, and release method, or TNR. With this method, you trap a cat, have it spayed or neutered, and release it again. This solves a lot of issues at once: In addition to letting the cat continue to live its life, it reduces the number of feral cats and ensures that children in the neighborhood will not be exposed to sick cats.
If you’ve trapped a feral kitten instead of a cat, another option is to rehabilitate the kitten and adopt it out. Feral cats that are under eight weeks old are typically able to be socialized enough to have a home with humans. The process of taming feral kittens requires patience and commitment, but with advice from local professionals, in most cases, it’s completely possible to rehab and then adopt feral kittens.
Release or rehabilitation is not possible in all situations, however. Although this is never the preferred choice, sometimes it, unfortunately, may be the best choice to euthanize a feral cat because of severe or expensive health issues or other problems. Your local shelter and veterinarian can help weigh in on the best decision for a particular cat.
If there aren’t feral cats in your neighborhood or you are not able to help trap and release them, there are other ways you can help feral cats around the country. Consider donating financially to an organization that spays and neuters feral cats, or help raise awareness about the best methods to care for feral cats.
And finally, keeping up with your cat’s well-being regularly will help keep your furry friend safe. Spaying and neutering your own pet cats is essential so you don’t contribute to the problem. Also keeping up with your furry friends’ vaccinations and vet visits will allow you to be sure your pet is healthy year-round.
You can also make sure your pet is covered with PetFirst Pet Insurance. Pet insurance provides peace of mind that if your pet gets sick or injured you don’t have to think twice about the financial aspect and you can just focus on your pet’s care. Pet insurance provides peace of mind that if your pet gets sick or injured you don’t have to think twice about the financial aspect and you can just focus on your pet’s care.
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