Thank you to our friends at Alley Cat Allies for putting this FAQ together!
What is a feral cat?
A feral cat is a cat who has limited to no contact with people. They prefer the company of other cats to humans. Most feral cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors. Feral cats are members of the same species as pet cats—and are therefore protected under state animal anti-cruelty laws.
How do I know the cats by my house are feral and not strays?
A stray cat has been familiarized with people at some point in his or her life, and is often comfortable being close to, meowing at, or even approaching people. A feral cat, on the other hand, does his or her best to avoid people out of cautiousness or fear, and is unlikely to make any vocalizations.
What happens if I take a feral to my local shelter?
Because feral cats are not socialized to people, they are unadoptable as pets. In most shelters and pounds in the US, feral cats will be euthanized.
What is TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return)?
Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane, effective approach for feral cats. Feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and ear tipped (the universal symbol of a neutered and vaccinated cat), and then returned to their outdoor home. Socialized cats and kittens are adopted into homes. The colony’s population stabilizes—no more kittens! Trap-Neuter-Return improves their lives and their relations with the community: the behaviors and stresses associated with mating stop.
What is an ear tip?
While the cat is anesthetized during their spay/neuter, a small portion of the ear is removed. This is not painful for the cat and denotes who has already been TNR’d. Ear tipping is the most effective way to identify neutered feral cats from a distance.
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