The definition of a feral cat is as contentious as other elements of its life. Researchers and care givers have not agreed on the best definition of a ‘stray’ and ‘feral cat’. While the two are found in the wild, there is a slight difference in their behavior as well as how they got to the streets.
A stray cat is one that was originally domesticated. In fact, it still displays some behaviors of being a domestic cat. For instance, it knows that food comes from humans and will therefore come near living areas and depend on foods humans to some extent. It is advisable that whenever you come into contact with a stray cat to take it to the nearest vet. The veterinary will scan for microchips and possibly reunite the cat with its owner. Where the reunion is not possible, it will be placed under animal care. Know Hidden Cat Illness Symptoms
Feral cats are naturally wild cats. They are born from two feral cats or a cross of a stray and a feral. Their behaviors include running away from human being and their settlements all the time. They only come to scavenge for food and then return to their hiding dens. These feral cats are very shy and aggressive whenever a stranger comes near them.
Feral cats will not entertain any form of human interaction. Even when you establish a feeding relationship, it will always be aggressive whenever you come near or extend you hand. The cats are fearful of human beings even after spending feeding time trying to bond. Why Do Cats Purr
The Way Of Life For Feral Cats
Feral cats are also referred to as bush cats. They can be found in colonies in areas where they can access food with ease. These places are also easy for them to find secure shelter. In some cases, animal protection agencies provide food for these cats in colonies. Animal rescue organizations also adapt their kittens with the aim of socializing them and taming them as pets. This is an uphill task but is also achievable.
A feral cat that is trapped or encounters a human being will hiss, bare their teeth, growl and even strike out when the need arises. Even when interacting with humans who feed them, the cats will only appear when it is sure that it is out of danger. The colonies that house these cats are hierarchical. This means that there is a dominant cat with escalated levels of leadership. Even in such cases, they will all flee when faced with human encroachment.
Taming And Socializing Feral Cats
The natural and wild appearance of feral cats is alluring. This has seen many homes desire to tame and domesticate the cats. Rescue organizations also target these cats for onward transmission to owners. The best time to domesticate a feral cat is at kitten stage. Though the instincts still switch to flight whenever the cat interacts with humans, they are not strong enough and can be tamed with ease.
The concern for researches and veterinarians is usually the behavior and treatment of these cats at home. Originally, the genes of these cats are not those of pets. Even after extensive attempts at domesticating, these cats remain fearful and can easily become violent. The difficulty of this process causes some owners to abandon them into the neighborhood.
- The cat makes the first move- here are feral and semi-feral cats that can be tamed without the assistance of rescuers and veterinarians. This is a slow process that is also very difficult. It will require all your patience. In fact, you might domesticate a feral cat over months without knowing. It all starts with feeding or provision of care. Experts advise you to allow the cat to always make the first move. This is a strange proposition considering that it is you who wants to tame it, but the action will elicit curiosity and need. Semi-feral and feral cats are also animals that desire pleasure and attention. When it comes for food, it begins to get an assurance that this is a safe and ‘good’ place. The interaction you provide should remain positive.
- Become a reliable source- whatever you are providing, make it consistent and reliable. If the cat is sure of finding food whenever it comes, the urge to return will grow. The cat begins to find your area enriched, relaxing and free of threats. Even in the wild, all animals will look for such an environment. According to researchers and rescuers, meal times are the best time to initiate interactions. Toys and treats will gradually entice the cat to hang-around longer than the time taken to snatch a meal and run. The cat begins to relate you with good things.
- Begin to desensitize the cat- there are actions human beings take that are easily translated to mean danger by animals, especially the wild ones. Opening the door may be a sign of threat. Music and even sudden movements are translated as threats by these animals. You need to make the cat comfortable with human life gradually. Meal times provide the best opportunity. Speak slowly and softly to the cat. Make slow movements. Never close the escape route during initiation socialization. This will make the cat to feel threatened and may turn wild. It may even escape and never return.
- Respect the cat’s space- the fact that you have a regular feral cat at home does not mean that your work is over. A lot still needs to be done. The cat remains fearful and nervous. Feral cats are only comfortable in their private spaces where there are no sudden sounds or movements. They also want a place where they can easily scan the environment. Most importantly, you must provide a place to hide as well as escape when the need arises. Whenever the cat lacks an escape route, it will fight back. You will not like the outcome. The space should not be too much that it overwhelms your cat. Cat-proof the space provided by removing wires that can be chewed or fragile items that can be broken.
- Provide a calming experience- the cat is used to flight and fight and will live on the edge at the beginning. It requires a lot of reassuring to be comfortable in its new environment. Consider offering a hot bath or herbal tea to calm the cat down. Do not rush into petting the feline. Be observant and respond whenever it shows desire for attention and companionship. This will make your cat comfortable and tame its wild instincts. There are pharmaceutical behavior modifiers that can be used to reduce transition time. Essential oils and herbal extracts also help to provide comfort.
- It all requires patience- semi feral cats may take weeks to tame. For the fully feral cats, you might need several months or an entire year and still not achieve all you desire. The pedigree of wildness and the steps you take over time will determine how smooth and fast the process of taming takes place. Almost all cats are candidates for taming. Develop a consistent schedule and never surprise the cat. Follow instructions and be conscious of the natural needs of your cat. Provide a lot of treats and be as social as possible to inspire confidence and the urge to socialize.
Common Feral Cats Myths
Feral cats come with a share of fear and uncertainty for potential owners and the general public. This has led to emergence of myths that exaggerate the fear and are likely to cause most people to avoid these felines. Here are some myths alongside expert and researched facts about these cats.
Feral cats spread rabies and other diseases.
Cats, even the domesticated ones, can be victims of multiple diseases including rabies, but they are never the cause. Rabies is reported in a large percentage of wild animals including raccoons, bats and foxes. It is the encounter with wild animals that causes most of them to spread the disease. Since 1975, there has not been a documented case of rabies spread to human beings from cats. Further, animal care organizations run vaccination programs for wild cats and animals they come into contact with. This significantly reduces the chances of contracting rabies and such common diseases from your pet cat. In fact, research indicates that feral cats do not pose any health or safety risk to humans unless it feels under threat.
- The Life Of A Feral Cat Is Harsh
This is the mentality that has seen many people trap and kill the cats in an attempt to remove them from the harsh environment. Feral cats are naturally built to fend for their foods. Millions of them get food through volunteer organizations and people in the neighborhood. An average domesticated cat can live for ten healthy years. This is almost the same lifespan enjoyed by the feral cat. Most of them are eager to return to their wild life even after taming. Such details are a confirmation that there is not significant difference between the feral cats and those already tamed in regard to their lifestyle.
- Feral Cats Will Kill Endangered Birds
The fact that cats kill birds is not contested. However, there is not scientific evidence to support the assertion that endangered species are killed by the feral cats. Birds being eaten by cats are likely to be as a result of naturally culling. Further, there are wild cats in reserves and conservancies yet their population has not affected that of birds. This is a confirmation that the population of birds is not dependent on that of cats.
- Disease Prevalence In Feral Cats
One of the greatest worries for people who intend to domesticate feral cats is their risk of spreading diseases. As noted earlier, the threat of rabies is an imagination since it is not supported by scientific evidence. However, there are diseases that are common to feral cats and not their domesticated peers. Others are common in both domesticate and wild cats without any form of bias. Here is a look at disease preference in cats.
- Rabies- this is a fatal disease that comes from contact with other wild animals like fellow cats and bats. With no cases of cat to human transmission for decades, it should not be a cause for worry. Immunization of wild cats and colonies through trapping has also dramatically reduced the possibility of transmission.
- Feline leukemia- this is an immune-suppression disease that is transmitted through saliva and nasal secretions. This disease is fatal, especially because it leaves the body susceptible to other diseases. There is not treatment but clinical trials are in progress.
- Cat scratch disease- this is the most commonly transmitted disease in felines. It causes lymph nodes near the scratched area to swell and redden. The infection will clear within two weeks but there are instances of the disease spreading to vital organs and thus requiring more specialized treatment.
- Other health concerns for feral cats include- plague and parasite infections. The parasites can be spread to people in the vicinity or pets that come into contact with the wild cats. If you are dealing with cats, take necessary precautions.
Cats and other pets are prone to diseases, infections and parasites without necessarily coming into contact with other animals or pets. In fact, human beings may also spread infections and pests from their surrounding to the cats. The most important step is to seek medication or treatment from a qualified veterinarian immediately you detect a health concern.
Feral Cats As Pets
Feral cats are captivating to have as pets and will offer company that is as satisfying as your tamed cats. You need to understand the steps of taming the cat and follow them keenly. Domesticating a feral cat is a matter of trust. However, this trust takes time to build. Teach the cat that good things can happen when it is around human beings and it will begin to follow your instructions. Speed makes the feral cat nervous. Take it slowly and always remember that the natural instincts are to be wild.
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NOTE: *** By no way is this content intended as a Substitute or Diagnosis for taking your Cat to Veterinarian. It is for FYI of what to look for by informing you of some Signs and Symptoms to help keep your cat safe.***