The word 'feral' means members of a domesticated species that have reverted to living as wild animals. While they are often mistaken for stray cats, ferals have little or no contact with humans and cannot be tamed.
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.
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 practical 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).
Banner - Anton Darius - unsplash.com