Feral cats are homeless cats that will likely stay anywhere where they feel secure and comfortable. They can be spotted in abandoned spaces or areas where they can find food, such as different parts of houses including someone’s backyard, garage, and more.
Feral cats will cause a lot of mess if they regularly come back to your backyard. To get rid of them, you should remove their food supply and shelter. You can also disturb their possible resting areas by using repellents and structures. Scaring them with motion-detecting lights and sprinklers can also work.
Your last resort is to contact local animal control or shelters. Some veterinarians are authorized to execute euthanasia on feral cats with the purpose to prevent them from suffering outdoors from the lack of food and shelter.
In this article, we will discuss why feral cats exist, the reasons why they are considered a problem, and how to get rid of them. Topics regarding how to help outdoor cats, animal shelters, and ways to eliminate them will also be tackled.
Differences Between Feral Cats and Stray Cats
Feral and stray cats are varieties of cats that can be found roaming around. Feral cats are undomesticated animals with wild behavior and are afraid of humans, while stray cats are abandoned or lost. The latter are usually calmer and more sociable than feral cats.
Before you get rid of the cats, it’s important to recognize their kind first. The differences between feral and stray cats are worth taking note of to identify the effective ways to restrain them from returning if they are causing a mess in your backyard.
You can identify if a cat is feral or stray based on their reactions if you interact with them. Feral cats will probably run away from you, while stray cats can be controlled and tamed. With the disparity in their behavior, still, both of them are capable of killing other animals, like birds or rats.
Feral cats are naturally wild compared to stray cats. These kinds of cats grew up on their own, which resulted in them developing a fear of humans. Consequently, they tend not to socialize with people as a form of self-protection.
Feral cats are easily scared by just noticing a person’s presence. Usually, feral cats are hard to administer, which makes it harder for a person to take them as a pet. They won’t obey their owner, no matter what. However, we can still help them by giving them food. There are numerous ways to provide them their needs.
Feral cats cause problems in backyards and are hard to manage without knowing their nature. Some people might think euthanizing these cats can solve the trouble. However, there are still several things to consider before asking animal control services to do it.
Stray cats are domestic cats that were abandoned by or left their owners. Contrasting their traits, they can be tamed easily compared to feral cats since they already experienced being under human supervision.
Stray cats are friendlier and do not isolate themselves from humans. They can be easily managed, even if anyone approaches them, as long as they don’t feel threatened.
These cats can also be adopted or returned to their owners. Sometimes, these cats are just lost pets who wear tags so that their owners can easily identify them. They can adjust and fit into their new home in a short span if they get adopted.
Why Are There Feral Cats?
Feral cats are the offspring of stray cats. If lost cats spent a long time outside their homes, their kittens will likely turn feral due to the lack of domestication. In some instances, strays may turn into feral cats if they continuously disconnect from human contact or are influenced by other feral cats.
Although, feral cats don’t just simply exist on their own. Just like humans, they also originated from a wide family of cats. Domesticated cats who strayed from their homes are the primary origin of the feral cats’ birth.
For example, a female pet cat left their owners and became pregnant while spending time outdoors. Their kittens will grow without any attention or care from humans, and in turn, will become feral. The habits and characteristics will naturally rub off on them while investing their daily lives together with feral cats.
Feral cats have a range of populations of 60 to 160 million, according to scientists’ estimations. They are observed to be predators that started the vanishment of 63 animal races, based on the assessment of the impact of invasive species. Their presence is a real menace to their own kind.
In the United States, free-roaming cats eliminate a million birds annually, according to the American Bird Conservancy.
On the other hand, feral cats may be tagged as a threat to various animals, although some people think they can help eradicate urban rats. These assumptions are cast doubt on by several studies expressing they are not exactly effective in this situation. They deemed that rats are not actually cats’ key targets.
Why Are Feral Cats Considered a Problem
Feral cats are considered a disaster to people as they can transmit viruses that can lead to diseases. Besides, they hunt down several mammals, especially birds, which are recognized to be the top mosquito killers. After hunting, they leave the animal’s dead bodies, which attracts urban rats.
Feral cats’ existence causes numerous problems, not only to wildlife but also to society. Indeed, they can spread diseases, leave wastes behind, damage the backyard’s plants, and annoy everyone in the house. These are just a few of the disadvantages you can experience if feral cats choose to visit or live in your backyard.
- They are predators of animals and leave the bodies behind
Cats are some of the animals that are identified to be the culprit of surplus killings. These killings are called “kill for fun,” which means they engage more in hunting than in eating their prey. As a result, these killings provide food supply to scavengers, most especially rats.
The main downside of the feral cats’ killings is that they can have harmful effects on humans. Indeed, the body of the animals they hunted emits bacteria and viruses to the scavengers. Through the scavenger, these organisms can be transported and spread to households, which can cause diseases to us.
Cats have an annual record of mammal slaughter of almost 7 billion. Birds and cats are a “deadly combination,” says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Meaning, these two animals shouldn’t stay in one location as birds are cats’ prey.
Rural cats have estimated bird killings from 8 million to 219 million in Wisconsin, citing John Coleman and Professor Stanley Temple’s 1996 study.
- They transmit viruses and parasites to humans
A lot of species can also transmit such bacteria and viruses, and one of them is cats.
Cats are the primary conveyor of rabies to humans in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. On their domestic animal surveillance, more than 250 rabid cats are reported every year, and around 60 to 70 for rabid dogs. The center said that most of these animals are unvaccinated and gained the virus from wildlife.
Not only rabies, but feral cats also carry Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) parasites that causes infection to humans. Toxoplasma can be transmitted from contaminated and undercooked meat, as well as cats’ wastes. It can also be transferred from pregnant mothers to their babies.
Toxoplasmosis mostly targets those with a frail immune system. The infection can result in lung infection, brain inflammation, and even blindness. So, having a feral cat staying in your backyard is definitely a disaster.
- Feral cats kill mosquito predators
Feral cats primarily hunt down the primary killers of mosquitoes, namely bats and birds. If the population of these animals declines due to feral cats’ attacks, it can increase the number of mosquitos. The situation will result in shooting up the number of Dengue carriers.
Indeed, mosquitos are the top carrier of the Dengue virus, malaria, and more. Bats and birds are recognized to be the main hunter of these insects. During the summer, several songbirds can consume about 300 insects daily. Their absence from the food chain will have a bad effect on humans due to the growth of the mosquito population.
- T. gondii may cause mental disorders
As mentioned above, these are parasites that could lead to several infections. To clarify, cats alone don’t cause mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, but the T. gondii parasites found in cats do. Numerous studies are focusing on this since some people believed that having a cat as a pet during their young ages can lead to such disorders.
The misconception was then studied by several professionals and some said that owning a pet cat won’t lead a person to develop any mental disorder. Nevertheless, it still has not been proven whether or not such circumstances are true. Whereas, the T. gondii parasites in cats have been discovered and confirmed to cause mental illness.
- Feral cats provide food supply to urban rats
Feral cats are considered “surplus killers,” and the carcasses of their prey are usually consumed by rats. Most of us thought that rats were the primary prey of cats, but actually, in these instances, they help each other in terms of food source. The cats will hunt the birds, and the body will be left to be eaten by rats.
The drawback of such a situation can lead to the increase of the urban rats’ population in a city. Although, rats are also carriers of diseases and viruses, like leptospirosis, hantavirus, and more. On some occasions, SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted from animals to humans, according to the World Health Organization’s outbreak news published last year.
Ways to Getting Rid of Feral Cats in Your Backyard
Feral cats cannot be managed with simple methods. It requires you to remove their food supply and shelter from your backyard. You can get rid of them by using cat repellents, irritate their resting spots, or scare them. Animal shelters and animal control services can administer them.
- Take out their food supply
Feral cats probably choose to stay in your backyard due to the food supply they can get. The sources don’t come directly from your kitchen, but rather from the food remains found in your trash bins or garbage cans, as humans throw leftovers or excess ingredients most of the time, which is alluring to the cats.
- The best way to prevent them from coming back is to remove any food sources in your backyard.
- Separate the food residue, including potential drinks, from your garbage bags. This method can help in repelling the feral cats in your backyard.
- Clean your backyard entirely and make sure there is no food left.
- Avoid giving food to the feral cats or to your pets outside your area. This will persuade them to return to you.
- Ensure that the trash cans are securely covered, so that they won’t be able to open them.
- Consult your neighbor because feral cats may target or find a food source from another house.
- Get rid of their shelter
Animals will stay in places where they feel safe and comfortable. Thus, prevent feral cats from establishing their home in any space or shade in your backyard. They will use these places to sleep, shelter, and upbring their kittens.
If possible, block any access these cats may use to enter your backyard. They are good at finding ways to penetrating a certain location. Thus, put barriers on the holes you can find, so that they won’t be able to break in.
- Irritate and expel them
If these feral cats have already found a comfortable spot in your backyard, what you can do next is make them uncomfortable. You can scare them with your presence, but it will only be a short-term solution. Instead, it is more effective to mess up their shelter. For instance, place any equipment or structure specifically on their resting spots to make them uncomfortable and discourage them from staying in that particular area.
Additionally, your female cat may serve as an attraction to male feral cats and will persuade them to return consistently to see your pet. To prevent this from happening, spay your female pet cat as she will allay her appeal to male cats.
- Use repellent
Animal repellents are available in stores and you can also make homemade ones. There are two types of commercial cat repellents, granular or liquids. These repellents are scattered and sprayed to the places or structures you want to protect from feral cats.
Applying these commercial repellents should be constant. Feral cats may be prevented from staying in your backyard for one day, but there is a possibility they come back afterward. Thus, you need to apply this repellent regularly until you don’t see them return.
If making your own repellents, remember that cats love intense “fishy” odors. Eucalyptus, citronella, and lavender are, on the other hand, irritating to feral cats. Dispersing orange and lemon scents in your backyard may also effectively disgust them.
You can also sprinkle pepper, coffee grounds, ammonia, and mothballs into your garden. As for deterrents, place pebbles on the soil of your plants. Finally, put up fences close to the porch or spray repellents to these areas.
- Scare them off
This strategy may be familiar to you if you have already looked for information on how to get rid of a certain animal on your property. But, this traditional way is known to only be efficient in some situations. Even if you don’t have in-depth knowledge of repelling animals, you’ll notice that they can be easily frightened by the sounds or movements we create.
You can’t monitor the presence of feral cats all the time, so it is recommended you install apparatus and equipment in your backyard to deter them. Sprinklers, motion detector lights, alarms, bells, and simple traps also work to scare off these wandering cats.
- Identify the type of cat
It’s best to first identify whether the cats present in your backyard are feral or stray. By knowing the type of cat, you’ll be able to identify what method you should apply. Sometimes, these cats are strayed and lost, in which case you just need to return them to their owners.
Knowing the cat type gives you an advantage and prevents you from using cat-repellent. If they can be tamed and wearing tags, they are evidently a pet. Besides, their tags contain information, such as the owner’s contact information. And if there is none, contact the animal authorities that can help you amplify the pet found.
- Contact animal control or shelter
While feral cats are hard to control and tame, their kittens can still be domesticated and adopted if forwarded to animal shelters. In turn, animal control agencies can help you catch adult feral cats. Once captured, they will transport them to the wilderness or abandoned places.
These agencies extend Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs to control the population of feral cats within the community. We’ll further discuss this topic subheadings below.
Killing animals is highly prohibited and a violation of animal cruelty laws. As for the cases of feral cats, this can be an option to lessen their numbers. However, doing so requires a lot of considerations before permitting it. Although, you should never be the one putting them down since there are professionals who are authorized to do this.
Euthanasia is known as mercy killing, which is solicited to prevent someone from suffering in a certain circumstance. This is not only restricted to humans but can also apply to animals. The process is headed and performed by authorized people, especially those who are in the specific medical field, like veterinarians.
Why Can’t Animal Shelters Rescue Feral Cats?
First of all, feral cats do not socialize with humans. Their behavior is unmanageable wherein animal shelters find it difficult to keep them, and these cats are definitely not ideal for adoption, except their kittens. Yet, some agencies assist the problem of feral cats’ existence on a certain property.
Animal shelters house abandoned dogs, lost pets, and homeless animals. The primary intention of such agencies is to look for people to adopt these animals. When it comes to feral cats, their kittens can be possibly kept in a shelter as young feral cats can still be trained under human custody.
Animal control services or agencies offer the TNR solution wherein it aims to minimize the population of urban cats. The purpose is mainly to enhance both humans’ and animals’ living atmospheres. This strategy involves humane traps of cats, rabies vaccination, spaying, neutered or returning the cats to their respective owner.
As for animal shelters, their services may be limited to keeping the cats and providing adoption assistance. A lot of people contact these facilities to remove feral cats found in their homes. However, they cannot provide shelter to these types of cats and are incapable of implementing the TNR program. The problem is their lack of budget to perform the strategy, which leads them to just give advice and lend equipment to trap the cats.
The feral cats caught can be redirected to animal service agencies, which will free these cats in the wild.
Can Feral Cats Be Killed or Hunted?
Killing or hunting feral cats is considered animal cruelty, which is a violation of the law. However, PETA allows the euthanization of these cats in certain states and circumstances. This method is offered by a veterinarian or animal shelter through injection.
“A painless death is far kinder than the fate that homeless cats will meet if left to fend for themselves,” said representatives of the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This statement left on PETA’s website expresses the possible condition of feral cats if they stay outdoors and homeless for too long. The operation involves the injection of sodium pentobarbital and is regarded as a painless death.
Euthanizing cats is not said to be okay in all situations. Some people think it’s normal to kill them due to their emerging numbers, but there is a lawful way to do this. A normal citizen shouldn’t take this process in their hands. Indeed, it should be done by authorized people, which means that you should never do this.
Some people don’t support painless killing as a solution to this issue. Euthanization requires plenty of money, which you can then multiply by the number of feral cats present in your area. With this problem in mind, people try to find alternative ways instead of spending so much money.
As much as possible, TNR tries to always offer the best proposition to tone down the number of feral cats in the community. The program is made of neuter and spaying methods, which are kinder and a great way to alleviate the feral cats’ population. The strategy won’t involve any killings and is, therefore, an ideal alternative.
While euthanasia is an option, violence against animals is a no-no to the law. Unauthorized killings or hunting of cats defy anti-cruelty laws. A person shouldn’t use poison, brutal traps, nor shoot a cat because these are crimes and acts of violence against the animals.
What Can I Do to Help Outdoor Cats?
Feral, stray, and even pet cats are considered outdoor cats. To help them, you can join TNR groups and communities that focus on helping these types of cats. When faced with feral cats, prevent your pet cat from being exposed outdoors as feral cats can influence them and stray them from your home.
- If you are willing and passionate to help outdoor cats, there are TNR groups that practice and support the control of these cats’ population. It’s the kindest solution to manage them.
- You can also contact communities that aim at helping stray and feral cats.
- Inform other cat owners to prevent their cats from staying outdoors and making them feel secured and happy at home.
- Identify whether the cats are feral or stray, bring them to their original territory, and send their kittens to animal shelters for adoption. You can do the same thing with stray cats.
- You can also take care of feral cats colonies by providing them food regularly.
Keeping feral cats in your backyard can be troublesome in many cases. Getting rid of these cats is the best solution to avoid a mess, not only in your yard but also in your garden and garage.
Even though these cats cause inconveniences to you, it’s important to remember to avoid animal cruelty when following the steps to get rid of them. Apply methods that are humane yet effective in controlling the population and behavior of feral cats.