Feral Cats

There are so many myths and stereotypes about feral (wild cats) out there. The information can be especially overwhelming to those who are faced with the first hand experience of caring for these animals and trying to save them without upsetting neighbors and even town or city officials.

Happy Cat Sanctuary has begun a very important program within Strathmore to help control it's booming feral cat colonies.  This is a process that could take years if we undertake it on our own so we need as much support as possible to make it successful as quickly as possible.  Please read our Q&A about feral cats, what we are planning to do with them in Strathmore, how you can help them in your neighborhood and what the long and short term benefits are to TNR (Trap, neuter and return) these cats.

If there are any questions that you feel were left out or would like to know please send us an email and we will respond and add your questions to this page.  Thank you for caring.

Q: What is a feral cat and how can I tell a cat is feral and not just stray?

A: A feral cat can be a domestic cat that was lost or abandoned and has reverted to a wild state, or a cat that was born to a stray or feral mother and has had little or no human contact. Adult feral cats can be very difficult to tame and are often not suited to cohabiting with people. Feral cats live in family groups called colonies that form near a source of food and shelter. Feral cats can survive almost anywhere and are found worldwide.  It can be very difficult to distinguish a feral from a stray from afar but once trapped or watched for a period of time you can generally tell because a stray cat will eventually show it's tame side where as a true feral will be very scared and either hide or even become aggressive if forced into an unknown environment (particularly indoors).  We have seen feral cats "tame" after a very long period of foster care - but the number of cats that need help, far outweighs the amount of people that can do it; which is another reason why TNR is such an important program.

Q: What is the best method to control the population of feral cats?

A: The ONLY way to control the population of feral cats is to implement a TNR program.  Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) is the most humane and most effective way to control feral cats.   When feral cats are removed (either killed or trapped and relocated to farms) other cats move in and take advantage of the food source and shelter that has been vacated.

Q: I've never heard of TNR before, where else is this being done?

A: TNR is the cutting edge of feral cat control.  It is the accepted method in large and small jurisdictions in every region of Canada and the U.S.  Ottawa, our Canadian capital has their very own colony of feral cats which are well cared for right on Parliament Hill.

Q: Wouldn't it be expensive for someone to undertake a TNR program?

A: TNR is more cost effective than trapping and killing feral cats; the average cost of sterilization for ferals is $70, while the average cost of euthanasia is $125. (These are estimated costs, each veterinary clinic charges different fees).  Happy Cat Sanctuary has worked with feral cats for years and we've seen the first hand benefit that this has on the community.  Because we have undertaken this program, we fund it 100% in Strathmore only right now- we have no outside help besides occasional donations.

Q: Why can't you adopt the feral cats into homes instead, wouldn't they be happier inside?

A: It is in our nature to want to help make these cats lives "easier" - to make them warmer, cozier, safer, and therefore happier.  It is an admirable trait, but not always appropriate.  The impulse to bring every feral cat "in from the cold" reflect our human needs, but it is not the best for the cat and can be far from what the cat wants.  Feral cats have lived without direct human contact other than, if they are fortunate, daily feeding and monitoring by a caregiver.  Their survival instincts include a wariness of humans in general and a sharp fear of confinement.  A key component in a feral cat's security is his ability to flee from perceived danger.  Even if you have fed a feral cat for a long time and he has come to trust you in an outside setting, he can very quickly lose that trust when confined and it may never be regained.  Being forced into a house or other structure can be the most frightening experience possible for a feral cat.  He may appear over time to acclimate, or at least stop hissing and cringing, but he is never at ease and may never stop looking for a way to escape.  The stress of confinement can harm the cat's physical and mental health.   Yes we have tamed feral cats, it was either that or they would have to be euthanized.  The time commitment is huge and the people involved are never enough to help all the feral cats.

Outside is a feral cats home, they form strong bonds with their colonies and their home territory, bonds that define their daily existence.  It can be difficult to accept that, despite the strong human-animal bond we share with our cats. But their animal-animal bonds and animal-territory bonds are stronger and more relevant to their well-being.  They may be warm indoors but they are happiest outdoors if they have a safe place to live.

Q: Don't these cats have short-miserable lives having to fend for themselves all the time?

A: The biggest misconception that surrounds feral cats is that they live short, measly lives.  This myth has been believed by far too many groups, including some of the most prominent animal organizations in the country.  The truth is that the well-being of feral cats is most compromised by behaviors associated with mating and giving birth to endless litters of kittens. Spaying and Neutering significantly changes the picture.  Male cats no longer fight and roam.  Female cats no longer bear kittens.  Vaccination and de-worming ensures a higher level of health.  Feral cats in managed colonies frequently live 10 years and longer.

Q: What happens to the cats when you release them? Are they just left to fend for themselves?

A: Happy Cat Sanctuary does not by any means let these cats suffer outside and fend for themselves once they are released.  We care for them and provide them with the necessities to live a better life, they are given heated and insulated shelters from the cold weather, they are fed year round and always have someone monitoring their well being every single day; rain, snow and sun.  

Here are a list of links that can give you additional information, as well as links to other groups that implement the TNR program and how it has been successful:

Alley Cat Allies - One of the most influential groups for feral cats in North America.  We wouldn't be where we are today without the great knowledge and help from many members of this organization as well as their very in depth educational materials

Cat Sanctuary - Here is a peek at the feral cats that live and are cared for on parliament hill in Ottawa. They are a successful TNR colony.

Parliament Hill Colony

People for Animals

Toronto Cat Rescue

Toronto Feral Cat Project

Toronto Street Cats


Build A Feral Cat Shelter

If you have a cat living outside your home, place of business, acreage etc. take a look at some of these easy to build cat shelters.

Ashot’s - All Weather Bin Shelter

Feral Villa – The World’s Best Outdoor Shelter

Neighborhood Cats – Feral Cat Winter Shelter

P.A.C.T. Humane Society’s – Feral Cat Winter Shelter Ideas

Winnipeg Humane Society – A Styrofoam Shelter – Helping Cats Survive the Cold