feral cat definition 1

Feral Cat Definition. Living in the shadows A “feral” cat is unsocialized and tends to be fearful of people and keep a distance. Ferals are most often found living outdoors in groups known as colonies. The cats in a colony share a common food source and territory and may include not only ferals, but also strays – former pet cats who were recently lost or abandoned and are still tame. Most feral colonies originate from unneutered stray cats. Ferals, as well as strays, are increasingly referred to as “community cats” or “free-roaming cats.” While they live outside human homes and exhibit wild behavior, feral cats are not wildlife. The vast majority rely on some form of human-based food source for their sustenance, whether it’s a caretaker who feeds daily, a dumpster behind a supermarket or scraps left on fishing docks. Very few subsist on hunting alone. “Feral” is a behavioral characteristic, not a biological one. As a result, the same cat can be feral and not feral at different points in her life. An outdoor kitten may be born feral, then be taken indoors, socialized and adopted out as a friendly pet. Or an adult cat may be a gregarious pet for years then become lost and, after a few months of living on his own, start to act unsocialized. In addition, feral is not a black or white quality, but different cats will be feral to different degrees. Just how feral a cat is will depend primarily on four factors: Age – kittens less than eight weeks old, even though born to a feral mother, can usually be socialized within a matter of days. Beyond that age, socialization becomes a longer and more uncertain process with each passing week. After reaching four months old, a kitten will likely retain some typical feral characteristics for the rest of his life, such as fear of strangers or change. A fully adult feral cat may require years to socialize, if they ever do. Number of feral generations – the more distance, in terms of generations, that separate a cat born outdoors from her original stray, once-socialized ancestor, the wilder that cat will be. In other words, feral behavior will tend to increase with each successive feral generation.

Feral Cat Definition

Amount of human contact – cats who regularly interact with people are more likely to show at least some signs of socialization than cats who have little or no contact. Individual personality – cats, like all animals, are individuals with their own personalities. Some ferals are naturally friendly and will warm up to people quickly. Many colony caretakers have also observed that some ferals, after being spayed or neutered, begin to behave more like pets. If a cat is truly feral to a significant degree, then the most compassionate choice may be to allow him to live outdoors with his colony mates. Trying to force him to exist indoors as a pet, or even worse in a cage, may be harmful to his psyche. Trap-Neuter-Return respects a feral cat’s inner needs. By neutering the cats and providing food and shelter, a caretaker plays a role most supportive of ferals, giving them the opportunity to live among their own, be free and answer to their own unique natures.
feral cat definition 1

“Feral” is a behavioral characteristic, not a biological one. As a result, the same cat can be feral and not feral at different points in her life. An outdoor kitten may be born feral, then be taken indoors, socialized and adopted out as a friendly pet. Or an adult cat may be a gregarious pet for years then become lost and, after a few months of living on his own, start to act unsocialized. In addition, feral is not a black or white quality, but different cats will be feral to different degrees.
feral cat definition 2

A feral cat is typically born in the wild or outdoors with little to no human interaction. If you attempt to get too close or try to pet them, feral cats view your hand as a claw that will harm them and will hiss and/or run away. Feral cats are born from other ferals or from stray cats. What is the difference between the two? Well, a stray cat was once a pet cat, until it was either lost or was abandoned by its owner. While they struggle to survive in their new outdoor environment, some strays become fearful of people, even adopting feral behaviors after a period of time, depending on their surroundings. However, most stray cats remember that humans feed them and try to stay near homes, carports, and other areas where people concentrate.
feral cat definition 3

Feral is an adjective defined as existing in a wild state, not domesticated. It can also be used to describe a quality of wild animals as ferocious or brutal. The meaning of the term feral cat varies between professions and countries, and is sometimes used interchangeably with other terms such as free-roaming, street, alley, or community cat. Feral can also mean reverting to the wild state from domestication therefore, some of these terms are also used to refer to stray cats, although stray and feral cats are generally considered to be different by rescuers, veterinarians, and researchers. Stray cats are socialized cats who no longer live in homes, but could potentially be successfully reintroduced to a home environment.
feral cat definition 4

When in a frightening or stressful environment—such as a trap or a shelter—a friendly stray cat may act like a feral cat, avoiding people and possibly even showing aggression to avoid being touched. “A lot of cats seem feral in traps but are just afraid,” explains Alley Cat Allies Feral Friend Genevieve Van de Merghel. Who can blame them? The cat is in a new and unfamiliar place.
feral cat definition 5

A survey of rescuers and veterinarians in the United States found that there was no widely accepted definition of a feral cat. Many facilities used waiting periods to evaluate whether a cat was feral by observing whether the cat became less afraid and evasive over time. Other indicators included the cat’s response to touch with an inanimate object, and observation of social behavior from the cat in varying environments (in response to human contact, with a human nearby, or when moved to a quieter environment). The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals defines community cats as either cats who were born and raised in the wild, or domestic cats who have been abandoned or lost and turned to wild ways in order to survive.
feral cat definition 6

Fact: Millions of feral cats are fed by kind people. Others find food for themselves. The average lifespan for a feral cat is estimated to be 10 years. Incidence of feline leukemia and FIV is no higher in feral cats than in owned cats. At Forgotten Cats, we see many outdoor cats. While a few of them lead hard lives, most of them are pleasantly plump and healthy! Most feral cats we see are full of life and eager to return to their homes when we release them.
feral cat definition 7

Feral cats often live in colonies, groups of feral cats that live together in one territory, often near food sources and shelter. Researchers disagree on the existence, extent, and structure of dominance hierarchies within feral colonies. Different types of hierarchies have been observed in feral colonies, including despotic and linear hierarchies. Some colonies are organized in more complex structures, such as relative hierarchies, where social status of individual cats can vary on their location, the time of day, or the activity the cats are engaged in (particularly feeding and mating).
feral cat definition 8

Adult feral cats without human assistance have been found in surprisingly good condition. In Florida, a study of feral cats admitted to a trap-neuter-return program concluded that “euthanasia for debilitated cats for humane reasons is rarely necessary”. A further study of over 100,000 community cats (feral and stray) admitted to TNR programs in diverse locations of the U.S. resulted in the same 0.4% rate of euthanasia for debilitating conditions. The body condition of feral cats entering a TNR program in Florida was described as “generally lean but not emaciated”. However, many community cats had suffered from parasites such as fleas and ear mites before entering TNR programs.
feral cat definition 9

Feral cats are the result of a domestic cat being abandoned or lost and left to fend for itself. The offspring of the domestic (now considered feral) cat are usually never handled by people and become terrified. Many times, when approached by people, they will hiss out of fright. Given the chance, they will run away and hide. This is misunderstood as being vicious, but that is not true. Almost all feral cats that are trapped will cower to the back of the trap and shake from fright. Some even urinate due to uncontrolled fright. If the trap were to be opened they would not attack, but run away.
feral cat definition 10

Feral cats live on all continents except for Antarctica. The worldwide feral cat population is estimated to be at least 100 million. The United States’ feral cat population is estimated at 60 million, Australia’s at 12 million, and Britain’s at one million.

 Feral Cat Definition

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