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The word 'feral' means members of a domesticated species that have reverted to living as wild animals and have had little or no contact with humans.
You can find out more about the difference between ferals and strays in our visual guide;
Cats learn what is normal at a very young age, during what is known as a 'socialisation period.' Between the ages of two to six weeks, kittens can learn to enjoy human contact, forming a bond and becoming great pets.
Feral cats are usually the offspring of stray, feral or abandoned cats and have missed out on this early experience, making them likely to be wary of humans.
Despite their wild nature, feral cats still need a level of care. With many ferals living in colonies, the cat population can grow quickly. Neutering and returning the cats to their colony stops continual breeding.
While most ferals are resourceful when it comes to finding food, it is good to keep an eye on them during the winter. If you suspect a feral cat is sick or injured, they can be trapped and taken to the vet. An RSPCA log number can be obtained to assist with vet costs on 0300 123 4999, the RSPCA may be able to assist with getting an injured feral or stray cat to a vet.
Feral cats, or those born wild, are equally protected in law as domestic cats and are more susceptible to disease. Simply removing feral cats isn't a long-term solution - a new colony will often move in.
The best option is to neuter all of the feral cats within as short a time frame as possible, reducing the size of the colony and therefore keeping vermin levels down. Cats Protection may be able to help towards the cost of neutering a feral colony, provided the cats are returned to their original site.
While Cats Protection can assist with neutering costs, this can only be used for this purpose and cannot be used for other veterinary treatment or euthanasia. Your application needs to be made in advance of neutering taking place - our local branches may be able to assist with costs and pratical assistance, dependent on resource.
If you'd like more information on feral neutering, please phone our helpline on 03000 12 12 12, choosing option 2 (lines open from 9.30am-1pm)Is the cat a domesticated Stray?If the cat is a domesticated stray (is happy to be around people and can be stroked) then the first thing to do is to either see if a local organisation can come and scan the cat for a microchip or take the cat to a local vet who can scan the cat for free. If the cat is a lost pet then this can help reunite them with their owners.Collect a paper collar from us, or print one using this link http://www.cats.org.uk/uploads/documents/COM_1032_Lost_and_found_collar_print_out_AW.pdf write on a message to a potential owner asking them to contact you if its their cat.Post a picture and information on social media pages, local groups and lost and found pages to try and locate potential owners.If no owner can be found then we can put the cat on our waiting list to be rehomed to do this please call the centre on 03000121505 but keep in mind our waiting list can be up to 12 weeks for a space. In the mean time If the cat is not neutered and you have the resources to take the cat to the vets then this is a great help to reduce unwanted litters. You can obtain a neutering voucher from 03000 121212 to help cover the costs.Some people are happy to temporarily house and feed a stray cat whilst waiting for a rehoming space. If not please consider the weather and look at offering the cat a temporary shelter such as a large plastic storage box with lid. You can turn it into a shelter by cutting a hole in the side and stuffing it with blankets or straw. Take a look at the following web page for inspiration.. http://meowblog.cats.org.uk/2016/02/how-to-make-stray-cat-shelter.html