Feral refers to a generally homeless cat that lives outdoors most of the time, without having an official owner. Most feral cats are those that have been abandoned, lost or left to live on their own. It’s because of the rough environment in which they live that most ferals develop a deep rooted fear of people and when approached by humans, hiss out of fright.
They either run and hide or may even attack a person with fangs and claws bared to cause grievous injury. However, this perception of their always being vicious, is not always true. Given time, care and affection, they gradually overcome this fear and become as snug and friendly as any other domestic cat.
It is generally seen that 10 to 15% of these cats are tame and abandoned with some even being declawed. Most others are old and have been abandoned, following the death of their owner by his family members.
Caring for the Feral
On an average, the big bad world allows a feral to survive for two years (in the mountains perhaps even less since a fox, bobcat, and so on could grab a feral cat). With regular care, however, including shelter and daily feeding of nutritious foods, a feral’s lifespan can be expanded to 10 years. The first step towards feral care is never to make an effort to forcefully grab it or make any sudden movements towards it. Give it the time to come close to you on his terms rather than yours.
Give it something to eat at a certain time every day. Leave it outside in a bowl even if you don’t see it. This daily habit of yours will convince it that you mean no harm and draw it closer to you. You can then make physical contact with it over time. This can give the cat some hope. This can help the cat manage the elements better to.
Also, squat on the ground when you feed them so you can operate at their level and indicate that you don’t men to threaten.
A common problem with ferals is that they fight and yowl a lot, especially when their territory is invaded or during the mating season. A possible remedy is spaying/neutering.
Local animal lover groups will help you to humanely trap them and get them neutered or spayed. The trapping is best left to professionals as forcible or incorrect trapping may result in serious injuries to both parties. Spaying and neutering is vital for all cats as one never knows when they will escape and get lost. And neighborhoods do not want dozens of feral cats running all over the place.
Also administering an anti-rabies vaccine is essential to prevent spread of the dreaded disease. During the process of spaying or neutering, it is always advisable to “tip” the cat which implies clipping the tip of one if its ears under anesthesia. This will indicate for all times that the stray cat has been sterilized and prevent the trauma and expense of re-trapping and spaying again in future.
Once the feral has been spayed, you can bring it home and keep it like any other pet. Feed it regularly, give it a clean bed to sleep in and take care of its medical needs. Your love and affection is bound to shine through and get him on your side in no time.