Feral Feline Fix


Watch a great video of the FREE spay/neuter feral cat event we conducted on October 16th, 2011 in honor of National Feral Cat Day.


Due to its moderate climate, and therefore extended mating season, Charleston has a high population of feral and free roaming cats.  In the past, if the cats were feral, animal control was often the only agency that would come to get them, and the cats would almost certainly be euthanized.  Even forever shelters, like Pet Helpers, find feral cats difficult to adopt out.  


However, there is a solution.  Feral cat colonies can be managed with a nonlethal method of population control call Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR).  Through TNR, cats are humanely (and painlessly) trapped, spayed or neutered, and returned to their colony site where volunteer caregivers provide them with food, water, and shelter.  Until 2009, roughly 2,400 of the 4,500 cats euthanized each year in Charleston County were feral.  Thanks to current Charleston County legislation, their lives are now being saved.







A full management plan in which stray and feral cats already living outdoors in cities, towns, and rural areas are humanely trapped, then evaluated, vaccinated, and sterilized by veterinarians.  Kittens and tame cats are adopted into good homes.  Healthy adult cats too wild to be adopted are returned to their familiar habitat under the lifelong care of volunteers.



Here are answers to some basic questions regarding feral cats (courtesy of the Alley Cat Allies website):



What is a feral cat?


A feral cat is either a cat who has lived his whole life with little or no human contact and is not socialized, or a stray cat who was lost or abandoned and has lived away from human contact long enough to revert to a wild state.  Feral cats avoid human contact and cannot be touched by strangers.


Are stray cats and feral cats the same?


No, stay and feral cats are not the same, and the terms "stray cat" and "feral cat" are not interchangeable.  A stray cat is a domestic cat that was abandoned or strayed from home and became lost.  Because a stray was once a companion animal, he can usually be re-socialized and adopted.  Adult feral cats usually cannot be tamed and are not suited to living indoors with people.  They are most content living outside.  Feral kittens up to about 8 weeks, however, can often be tamed and adopted.  See Alley Cat Allies' resources on taming feral kittens.


How can I tell if a cat is stray or feral?


Observe the cat's appearance and behavior.  A stray cat is likely to approach you, although usually not close enough for you to touch him.  If you put food down, a stray cat will likely start to eat it right away.  A stray cat is often vocal, sometimes talking insistently, and may look disheveled, as if she is unaccustomed to deailing with conditions on the street.  A stray cat may be seen at all hours of the day.

A feral cat is silent, will not approach humans, and generally will be seen only from dusk to dawn, unless extraordinarily hungry and foraging for food.  A feral cat has adapted to conditions and is likely to be well groomed.  If you put food down for a feral cat, he will wait until you move away from the area before approaching the food.





More than likely, the mother cat is close by or off eating.  Cats do not abandon their babies.  However, please follow these steps to ensure the safety of the kittens:


1.     Look at the kittens and make sure there are no bugs crawling on them.  If they are covered with bugs and cold to the touch, it is more than likely that something has happened to the mother.  Only at that point should you take the kittens.  Otherwise, proceed to step 2.


2.     Keep a far enough distance so that they mother cat won't be afraid to return to her litter.  Sit in a car or in your house and watch for the mom.  If the kittens are already walking around, the mother cat will leave them for longer periods of time.  If the kittens' eyes are still closed , she will leave them only for very short periods of time.


  3.     If a single kitten has crawled off from where the other kittens are, find the rest of the litter if possible and put the kitten with the litter.  If you can't find the rest of the litter, you can put the kitten in a box to prevent him/her from crawling away any further.  Again, watch from a distance to see if the mother cat comes back.  This may take several   hours.



 If you have already removed the kittens from the mother cat, please follow these instructions:



Put some uncooked rice in a sock and heat it in the microwave.  Place the kittens, a towel, and the rice sock in a box, and place it where you found the kittens.  The box must be large enough for the kittens to move away from the rice sack if they get too warm.  Watch from a distance to make sure no other animal harms the kittens.  Watch for the mother cat.  If the mother cat does not return within three hours, you will need to feed the kittens.  At this time, call Pet Helpers to learn more.



 Further information about what to do if you find a litter of kittens can be found on the Alley Cats Allies website.



Pet Helpers assists feral cat caregivers by loaning humane traps, providing special pricing for feral cat spay/neuter surgeries, and supplying caregivers with cat food on an as-available basis.


Any member of the public may participate in Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) by renting a trap from the Pet Helpers Spay/Neuter Clinic.


Read more about Charleston County's Community Cats.