feral cat sitting on wallOur trapping volunteers have been out in the strangest and most difficult of places in all weathers to trap feral cats. They have climbed over six foot walls surrounding derelict gardens of empty houses, they have hidden in bushes, in portocabins on building sites, in people's kitchens ready and waiting for mumcat to lead her kittens into a trap baited with chicken and they can pull the cord to enclose them. Similarly they have waited and watched over automatic traps designed to cats single feral cats to take for neutering

This volunteer role is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling, to know that you have helped a feral female that will never again have continuous litters of kittens which have a poor chance of survival, or to take young kittens and socialise them to a life of domestic bliss. Every year we manage to successfully home kittens born outside to feral or stray mothers as domestic pets due to the dedication of our trapping volunteers and our feral kitten fosterers

What is a feral?

True feral cats are often the offspring of ordinary un-neutered domestic cats that have been lost or abandoned. They form colonies wherever they can find food – the grounds of hospitals and other institutions, farms, disused buildings industrial complexes, housing estates and building sites. Or they will find refuge in neglected unused gardens, where there may be people living nearby who are prepared to feed them. They live where they can survive. And they multiply; an uncontrolled feral colony will grow quickly producing several generations of cats and kittens that have little or no contact with humans. As a result they are often scared of people and will avoid them. If nothing is done to intervene, the numbers in a colony will spiral out of control leaving the cats short of food, susceptible to disease and potentially a nuisance to their human neighbours.  It is therefore important to trap and neuter feral cats to keep the population under control and ensure that the cats can live happy and healthy lives

Feral neutering
We can help towards the cost of neutering a feral colony, whether it is one mumcat with her litter of kittens that are past the time frame for easy socialisation to the human home because they have come to our attention too late. Or whether it is an established colony of several adult cats and kittens and providing we have the resources we will do our best to assist in the catching and neutering of feral colonies. BUT .... it helps greatly if we get assistance from the people whose land they are on. Quite often these folks are willing to trap and transport to the vets while the branch loans the traps and covers the cost of neutering the colony

Once they have been neutered, our policy is to return them to their colony where a sustainable one exists. Sometimes though cats cannot be returned due to redevelopment, demolition, an unsafe environment, no one to feed them, hostile people etc, and for these we seek a new home in a suitable environment where they can thrive. Stable owners and smallholders value them as working mousers. Anyone interested in providing a home for a feral cat or two should contact our helpline. We are hoping to have a waiting list of suitable homes ready to take a pair or three should the need arise

Sometimes it is not possible for a small colony to stay where it is. For example if living in someone’s garden or place of business and the owner does not want them there and is not willing to provide food. In these cases they can be relocated if we can find a place for them to go. Farms, stables and smallholdings could provide the ideal opportunity to give them a second chance and provide a useful service to the business as they are effective in controlling mice and rats

Cats have lived on farms and smallholdings for hundreds of years. Most are not regarded as pets, but as working animals that are expected to earn their living by keeping yards and outbuildings free of vermin. These outdoor cats ask very little - shelter, a regular supply of food and veterinary treatment when required

If you have an area of land, away from busy roads with suitable shelter perhaps you would consider homing some outdoor cats. They would need a secure shed or outbuilding (with daylight) to stay in for a few weeks until they settle in

Is it possible to home such cats to the domestic life?
When an older cat has lived its whole life away from close human contact, there is little we can do to domesticate it however it is different with kittens.  When captured before 12 weeks of age, with lots of love and attention, they usually tame very quickly to become loving and friendly household pets. These kittens tend to make very loyal and affectionate companions, though they don't like strangers too much, but that just makes them extra special to the ones they do trust. Generally speaking, because these kittens tend to be timid, they need to be homed with experienced cat people who are prepared to give them extra time to adopt to their new surroundings

The kittens featured at the bottom of the page were rescued from the grounds of a hotel along with their mum.  They were tamed and loving homes found for them. Mum was friendly as you can see but she was keeping her babies safe and hidden. Also read A Trappers Tale about another mum and kittens.

Are there semi-ferals?
True ferals may have little or no contact with humans. As a result, they are often scared and mistrustful of people and will avoid them. However domestic cats do exhibit feral behaviour (fear and mistrust of people) and appear very shy and timid

Many people think they have seen a feral cat or that a feral cat is coming to their door to be fed. This is very unlikely. What you may be seeing is a previously domesticated cat that has either become a stray or abandoned for various reasons and is now fending for itself. These cats have known human care at one time and know that they can get food from this source. These 'semi-feral' cats may often look in poor condition because fending for themselves is not their normal environment. These are usually trusting and affectionate cats that have come to humans for help and often been chased away or shouted at and as a result have lost their trust in humans.

If the cat is an un-neutered female she will give birth to kittens which she will keep hidden safe from harm. It is when they are five or six weeks old and romp away from the nest that they come to people’s attention and they ring the branch for help. Once brought into care the kittens can be socialised and mumcats revert back to the loving cats they are and will be found a loving home

We can only do this if we have enough fosterers and trappers. We are always looking for help with trapping and releasing as well as the domestication of kittens. At the moment our branch doesn't have enough trained people to meet the demand so we are looking for volunteers who could make up a small group of field workers that could be mobilised when needed. Similar to fundraisers, they would be involved with the branch, but not on a day to day or week to week basis - just when needed.  TNR work is best learned 'on the job' and we will 'buddy' you with an experienced trapper when we have a job to do.  If you think you might be able to help then please read about  Trap-Neuter-Return Volunteers  and also read our page about Fostering Feral Kittens 

Download Cats Protection lealfet on FERAL CATS here

For more information please visit the Cat Action Trust website
The Cat Action Trust is the pioneering society for the welfare of feral cats. It was founded in 1975 and was among the first to use the Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) humane method of controlling feral cats

trapping jet and jasmine Tabitha and smithers