There is a lot of confusion about feral cats, and whenever I try and inform on the issue, I usually get blasted as being uniformed, not doing my research etc etc. People simply like to believe they are saving a feral cat when a shy stray comes knocking on the door for food. I am happy that they do this (feed the cats that is). But I do find it a bit disconcerting when I am criticized for my cat research skills and it is assumed I have no experience or knowledge of the topic. I hear things like “I have forty years experience at re-homing cats.” “Ok, and that makes you an expert on ferals? or “I had a feral cat and here is my video.” I go and visit the video and it is this really pretty black kitty rubbing and nuzzling against the person as the person is rubbing the kitty’s back…Yea right..Sorry, NOT FERAL. My favorites though are the people who become defensive and accuse me of spreading “disinformation.” The reality is one or two google searches and a few article selections from very well researched sources or direct feral cat resources reveals what so many refuse to accept.
The average lifespan of a feral is about 2 years. There is a great video of a true feral on You Tube that I have shared here. The cat has the body type and demeanor of a feral and the video’s captions tell us that, while he adapted to life inside a house, they still could not touch him. It is the same with my Idgy. The video shows the feral welcoming two little kittens into his life.
Affectionate behavior is actually very common among male cats who are neutered, and it is highly unlikely that the cat in the video is intact. Actually, we know the cat in the video has been neutered because his ear is notched. This is common practice with trap and release cats, so that they can be identified as having been spayed or neutered and not picked up again during the next trap and release. My two boy cats Tibbs and Iddy are quite affectionate with each other, and with other cats who have wandered in and out of our lives over the years. Our female cats, not so much. They are much more territorial than our male cats.
I have added several articles to try and help others understand the difference between a feral cat and lets say, a colony cat managed by humans, or your house cat. They are not the same. A stray that has turned feral can possibly be re-socialized, Ferals that are born in the wild are a different story.
My cat Idgy is a feral, the real deal, born in the wild. It was several years before we could touch her. When we went to bed at night she would howl at the door to go out, and when her cries were ignored, she would do what I call the “fly by.” If your feet were not under the blankets she would run, jump up on your feet, bite them, and continue running. We adopted her out twice, and twice she was retuned because she attacked them at night when she wanted to go out and got no response to her cries. Both of these adopting parents were attacked in bed.
Did you know that there are no Alphas among felines? In the wild, the Queen always gets the best of everything and there is always a dominate cat. House cats on the other hand that are neutered or spayed do not share the same kind of hierarchy as feral cats. This is because in the wild the hierarchy is based on breeding and the Queen and the Tom are the top cats.
We decided that Idgy was going to be a lifelong commitment for us. To adopt her out surely meant someone would have her put down. Ferals are difficult to deal with. Idgy stopped doing the “fly by” when we began to close the doors of the house at night, forcing her to stay in the living room alone. She liked closed doors less than the joy she got from biting us in our sleep. Every week or so I would open the door and if she acted out the biting behavior that night I would close it back. It took several months of this but she stopped the behavior.
Idgy still cannot be touched like a regular house cat. She howls constantly to be outside and she has protocols. You can read the article about her here
A feral cat is not tamable, no matter what you have been told, and unless you have actually raised one, understanding the issues to be faced and the commitment necessary might be difficult for some to wrap their head around. This is because most people have never encountered a feral cat unless they are involved in Trap and Release. Children especially are vulnerable because they want to pet and play with the cat. This is just not possible with a feral. And many families adopt cats for their children to have the pet experience. Feral cats are un-adoptable.
“Is that scrawny, unfed, sickly looking cat, hanging out by your back door, feral? Most likely no. Ferals are usually large with thick necks and muscular bodies. They may “look” healthy (that does not mean they are. See the video I posted below). They seldom if ever raise their tails and do not like eye contact.
Feral vats do not mew with human beings. They reserve their mews and click sounds for other cats.
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