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Feral cats

Perhaps you’ve seen a stray cat on a street and tried to approach it, only to find it retreating with lightening speed, apparently afraid to come anywhere near you. If so, you’ve likely seen a feral cat.

Feral cats are the offspring of domestic cats who have never lived with humans. They are the product of human neglect and live in colonies in alleys, dumps, parks, on university grounds – wherever they can find food and shelter.

Many people mistakenly think that feral cats refer to all stray cats. Cats that are seen roaming on the street are often runaways or neglected cats that have had contact with humans and are not true feral cats.

Another mistaken opinion is that feral cats are wildlife. As written in our Policy Statements, the CFHS recognizes that feral cats cannot be defined as ‘wildlife’ in that they are not a naturally occurring wild species. Rather, feral cats are descended from domestic animals that, due to human neglect, have been forced to live as wild animals. As such, their care is society’s responsibility.

Feral cats do not have the necessary skills to fend for themselves and survive in the wild, and most live less than 2 or 3 years if they manage to survive beyond kittenhood.

Feral cats are a growing concern in cities across Canada because they multiply quickly and spread diseases to other felines. Cats breed rapidly and one cat and its offspring can produce 420,000 cats in seven years, with two or three litters per year.

feral cat colony

If you see a stray cat, do not feed it out of pity. These strays – most of which are not spayed or neutered – will quickly produce more cats to populate the streets. Instead, contact your local SPCA or Humane Society.

Some have advocated euthanasia as the most appropriate method to solve the problem of feral cat colonies. However, this really does very little. Unless almost all the feral cats in a colony of dozens of cats are euthanized to wipe out the colony, other stray cats will join them, breed more and the colony will remain.

The CFHS supports a ‘trap, spay/neuter, vaccinate and release program’, which involves catching stray and feral cats, neutering and vaccinating them and then releasing them. The process should effectively decrease the number of feral cats as they will not be able to reproduce. In addition, the CFHS supports the euthanasia of animals whose health is either unrecoverable or poses immediate jeopardy to other cats.

As a responsible pet owner, make sure you spay/neuter your pet to ensure she does not contribute to the problem of stray and feral cats.

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