For many people, seeing a cat outside might be a nice little addition. But the problem is, feeding it can be a problem. Lots of times though, when people feed feral cats, they start to grow attached, and that can be a problem. Feral cats may look cute, but it does pose a problem if they’re fed. So what happens if you stop feeding feral cats? And what happens when you do? Well, read on to find out.
What is a Feral Cat
Feral cats might seem like they’re mean, but the truth is, it’s really just a cat that isn’t used to humans. They may believe that since they are feral, they’ll be feral to all the other cats around, but usually, they have interaction with other cats, but not with humans.
Usually, feral cats stay away from human interaction, and they usually go into hiding during the daytime. But, the problem is that at night, they come out, and you may see the cute creature, but then you’ll want to feed it. That can be a problem.
Usually, feral cats are quiet, avoid eye contact with humans, and are stealthy. But, usually, if they’ve been socialized before and have been around humans, but then are unsocialized, they can act like this. Lots of cats that are rescued do act like this when they’re initially found.
So what makes a cat feral? Well, here are some qualities:
- They aren’t socialized
- They’ve never lived or been around humans
- They typically show distrust when it comes to humans
- They usually are “wild” and act like their ancestors, such as the big cats
- They usually have “secret hiding spaces” where they avoid interaction with humans
- They are a part of the wildlife of an area
There is a difference between feral cats and stray cats, and the difference is simple:
- Stray cats have been raised around humans, but don’t live with them
- They can be feral but stray cats are more social
- They generally live outside, and they hang out with both feral cats, and with humans
Now, feral cats are honestly best left alone. The next section will discuss why you should just leave these types of cats be.
Why You Should Leave feral Cats Alone
- They control the vermin populace
- They usually are sentient and are clever with taking out these creatures
- They are great if you have a mice and rat problem
- They usually are just living their own life, and aren’t going to harm humans
However, lots of times animal control places believe that they should kill these types of feral cats since they think that their lives are horrible. Yet, usually, they are looking at cats that are sick and abused, rather than cats that are just working on living life. Killing feral cats is like killing wildlife, and something that you shouldn’t do.
Good Things About Feral Cats
So what’s so great about feral cats? Well, they actually exhibit a lot of great elements to them, and they do have some interesting points that should definitely be known.
- These cats have less trauma and disease than house cats, despite living outside
- The habitat of cats is actually supposed to be outside close to humans, due to the original way cats lived during the time humans were hunters and gatherers, where they would be interested in the grain stores and rodent populaces, rather than living with humans
- They are pretty humane, and lots of times, humans just let these cats be
- They aren’t necessarily bad, but domesticated cats are actually able to become feral if they’re left outside with other cats, not socialized for a while
With feral cats, you can’t adopt them, because usually they are not too social, and they tend to not really trust humans period. If you see a feral cat, leave them alone, and let them live their life. Sometimes, they usually see a human, and they run away, but sometimes, they like to have some contact with humans. Sometimes, they like to interact with humans every so often.
When it comes to feral cats, usually they tend to stay totally feral, and they are left alone. Sometimes some cats may have interaction with humans early on, but then they revert back to this. Occasionally, if the cat did have good experiences with humans in the past, they usually become social.
These are usually the cats that you may see outside that actually do come up to you if you say hello to them. Lots of times, most cats will run away at the blink of an eye, but there are those rare ones that actually may even reward the humans for giving them attention, and some of the key ways are as follows:
- A tail rub
- Possibly tolerating pats or two
- Rolling over to present the belly
If you notice a cat doing the last one, never go up and actually rub the belly, since this can actually be a huge problem. That’s because, just like with normal cats, they may claw you, or even bite you. The problem is that sometimes, you do touch them, they get you, and then you end up potentiality with rabies and such. You should always be careful when you’re around a feral cat, and if they’re not interested in socializing, leave them alone.
Now, remember that ultimately, the cat decides what they’re going to do with humans. While we may try to say hello, cajole them, show them that we’re not bad, lots of times the best thing to do is to just let the cat come to you. Some cats are hesitant about social, and if you’re going to try and extend that relationship, you should always be careful.
What Happens When You do Feed Them
Feeding feral cats is a huge controversy. You can look it up online, and see so many articles about why you shouldn’t. This is a controversy, because hey, we think that these cats need food, so we should go feed them. Problem is, that actually can be a problem in some cases.
Feral cats can take care of themselves. Remember, they eat a lot of various critters including the following:
- Other animals they may like
The truth is, cats know how to hunt if they’re feral. They know how to not go hungry. If you’ve ever seen a cat that is a barn cat, they know how to catch rodents, to the point where they are controlling the population of the farm, and getting a meal. Sometimes, we may feel bad when we see the cats because we think they’re hungry when in truth, they’re totally fine. Lots of times, there are even local ordinances forbidding this, but lots of times, people will feed these cats anyways.
But here is the problem, you’re starting to domesticate them. Here is exactly what happens when you feed them.
- You’re now the “caretaker” of them
- You have to be responsible
- You’re going to get a lot of other kitties to come forward
- The feeding stations will grow
- You also may attract the cops if you’re doing this
So yes, it is a bit of a problem. While you may feel bad that they’re not even eating or something, at the end of the day, it’s best to watch out for this.
What To Do If you Do Feed Them
If you do feed feral cats, lots of times, this attracts trouble. There are a few things that happen with this too, and they are as follows:
- They can have nutrient-deficient food
- They can have unflavorful food
- They may become unhealthy
If you’re going to feed, you should always give them something that they tend to eat, and that can be anything that involves this:
- No preservatives
- No Dyes
- Nothing with grain as an ingredient
- Meat, fish, or other protein ingredients
- Nothing raw since there may be bacteria in them
If you do choose to give them food, they will come back. You should never give a cat microwavable food since that can be a problem.
What About If you Stop Feeding Them
Lots of times, people think that they can just up and stop feeding these cats, that they’ll just magically go away. The problem is, if you feed them, they won’t. They’ll actually create more problems.
In truth, here is what happens if you stop feeding feral cats:
- They’ll continue to congregate
- They may bring more with you
- They will starve and die potentially
With this, you’re essentially adding in a food source to their life that they may not be used to. The problem is, when you feed them, you’re essentially the one taking care of them. It’s like they’re your cats now, but they won’t be living inside. If you’re giving them food, water, shelter, and companions, you’re basically building a home for these little guys. Lots of times, removing food, it can also cause them to still come in and bother you.
It doesn’t make them move to a new place. They’ve identified your place as their home and place to get sustenance, that they may abandon their feral ways. It can be a huge problem, and it does attract the worst kinds of problems.
Now, what does this also attract? Male cats. Male cats can impregnate female cats, and this creates a problem, because of the following:
- The female cats will be in heat
- The male cats will reproduce with them
- The female cat will be impregnated and will have babies
- You’re now the proud caretaker of not just a female feral cat and her buddies, but also the male feral cat, and the kittens that were made
Let’s couple that with maybe there are more female cats, and the male cat impregnates all of those female cats in heat. It’s definitely not a good sight, since lots of times, you essentially are giving these kitties the one-way road to never leaving your home. This can be a huge problem, and m since you’re going to be taking care of a lot of cats, and this basically desensitizes the hunting skills and such. If they’re sterilized, it’s less of a problem, but the thing is, since these cats are feral, there’s not really a chance for them to get that procedure, so they will have their reproductive organs.
If you are still thinking of feeding them anyway, what will be the best way to do so?
Even after knowing the troubles, does the cute face of your neighborhood feral cat entice you? Are you planning on feeding them anyway? Well, then you must follow some of the best practices. Tackling feral felines is not at all easy. But if you are still planning to take the stake, then you have to maintain some measures. So, here are some of the best tips that you can follow while feeding them:
Build up a feeding station for them:
While taking care of the feral cats at your home, you need to ensure that you are giving them a proper place to eat. Building a feeding station can be helpful, as you wouldn’t want to end up with a mess or an unclean environment. Also, the feeding stations need to have a proper setting and placement.
Pick a discreet feeding station for them. Put it in a place that blends properly with the immediate surroundings. Keeping the feeding station away from the public eye will offer them comfort and safety while eating. They will have peace of mind when they can easily consume their food without too much traffic at a place.
Cover the place adequately:
Did you keep a simple bowl placed on the ground with dry cat foods in it, which got rained on? If yes, then be known of the fact that no ferals will eat such soft and mushy foods. You must offer them fresh food to ensure the best feeding. Thus, ensure that the feeding station is appropriately protected and provides shelter to at least one cat for eating food while it’s raining outside.
Place the feeding bowl and water bowl inside the feeding station so that the rainy weather does not disrupt it and the foods remain dry. You can make use of large storage bins or other unused boxes at your home to construct the feeding station for feral cats.
Be cautious about what you are feeding them:
While you are planning to feed ferals at your home, you have to be much concerned about what you are feeding them while keeping their food habit in mind. It is better to choose an overall bowl-styled container for them.
Pick those bowl colors, which nicely blend with the color of the surroundings. Hence, earthy colors can be the best pick for such situations. There is no need to pick any bold-colored feeding bowl, which can draw unnecessary attention.
How do you feed them?
While feeding ferals at your place, make sure you keep plenty of freshwater aside. Also, keep the bowls clean so that it does not proliferate algae. If you are offering them dry cat foods, they must be free from any debris or dirt.
Before every meal, it is recommended to clean the bowl regularly. It will help you maintain a hygienic feeding practice. The best way to keep your neighbors away from complaining is by cleaning the feeding stations every day.
Besides, keeping feeding bowls clean is also healthy for both your cat and the surrounding environment at your place. The best way you can feed them is by maintaining a cycle of feeding at the same time every day. Daybreak and the time of dusk are considered to be the best time to feed ferals.
Make a place for other buddies too:
Naturally, your feral feline is going to come up with other buddies, too, if they find that you care about them. Hence, if they come up with other cats, make sure you are giving them a proper arrangement of food as well.
It will keep them away from conflicts within themselves and give them peace of mind while eating. Also, it is vital to make sure that you are mentally prepared to take care of your kids. Suddenly, if you stop giving food to them, it can become a potential reason for stress in them.
Ensure safety always:
Since these cats are not social enough, they need to be fed, maintaining proper safety to let them become easy with you. If you are planning to feed them in a sketch area, then go at a time when the food traffic is very low. It is better to feed them during the daylight.
Besides, always make sure the place is not getting compromised due to other strangers. In case it gets crowded somehow, move the food stations at a minimum of 10 feet away from there, facilitating enough safety for your feral cats. To avoid attracting cops, it is better not to discuss your food station area with any other person. Consider a more private place with proper safety for the ferals.
What food should you give to your ferals?
Before you feed the ferals at your place, you need to understand their nutritional requirements. They are usually carnivores and requires a protein-rich diet to keep a healthy balance in their body. Protein is an essential ingredient in the diet of a cat. Hence, 26% of their food should contain rich protein. You can offer them quality animal-based proteinaceous foods like meat, fish, eggs, and poultry sources.
Also, feral cats require a very high-fat content in their food. But remember, the fat must be the healthier one that will improve their skin coat. Again, animal sources are the best ways to deliver the required amount of fat in their diet. Make sure the food is having at least 9% of fat content in it. A proper balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids is necessary to improve their skin and health.
Well, you may have some doubts regarding whether the nutritional requirement of the ferals is the same as the house cats. Honestly speaking, it is more or less the same. Protein is essential for all cats to facilitate the good health of their muscle mass. However, in the case of the ferals, you need to put stress upon the fat content in their diet to serve them the proper amount of calories.
Maximize the calorie content in your ferals’ meal while maintaining a healthy balance of the entire diet.
More Than just Babies Though
the problem is, even if you choose to sterilize the cats, and if they have been sterilized, this will still not fix the situation. The problem is, even if you don’t have the baby issue, it creates this problem:
- They will stay in the same area and look for food
- They will stay where they’re abandoned
- New owners will find the new cat and will have to take care of it
For example, if you leave your home, a new owner takes it over, and they have the cat there, the cat that was fed in the past but now isn’t will actually stay there, and they won’t go away. Hunting will give them a chance to survive, but if human steps in, hey actually are sickly and ill as a result of this, so if you feed them, you’ve got the responsibility, and they often aren’t getting enough nutrients.
The cat will continue to roam around there, begging for food, and they usually will starve, and eventually die. So if you stop feeding, you’re essentially closing the curtain on any chance that they have at living.
What About Calling Animal Control
This is another messy situation since this does pose other issues that can be a big problem, such as the following;
- It can cause a civil or criminal prosecution
- You can get in trouble because you’re not following city ordinances
- It causes the potential legal risk of euthanizing cats that are free-roaming, and that can cause a pet to be accidentally killed
- It creates a huge PR issue since it involves people not reporting it
The really sad part about this is that minimally, you can get into some serious legal trouble, but you also can create the issue of people not reporting the cats period, and lots of times, that’s the case with these cats. They don’t get reported, since the removal program skills every cat, and even those who don’t like cats actually aren’t in favor of it.
It creates the following cycle, which really stinks:
- The property owner may order a removal
- The person is then charged if they’ve been feeding
- They may not catch all the cats
- They start to breed again
- The complaints continue
- It also costs a lot of money and time, sometimes taking days or weeks
The problem with removal is it creates an awful situation, and lots of times, if you have this already happening, it can be a big problem.
So what is there to do? Well, there are obvious preventative measures you can take, but also some measures to take if you’ve already made the commitment.
What to Do If You Have This in Place
If you’ve already made the commitment and fed a cat, they’re essentially your responsibility. You have a couple of things that you’re going to have to do, and they are as follows:
- Sterilize them
- Create a feeding station
If you’ve already been threatened by animal control, the best thing to do is to discreetly give them some food. You can do a few things, including the following:
- Move it to a discreet location
- Feed in the morning or the late afternoon
- Pick up the food once they’re done, or when the sun is down
- Feed the cats on either leaves or even some flour tortillas, because the tortillas will be bird food
- Make sure never to leave a mess, and instead keep it neat, discreet, and clean
- Keep the animal control in good rapport with you
With spaying and neutering, if you have a colony, you need to make sure that they’re all sterilized. This is a definite need, and you’ll want to prevent it if you have other mouths to feed.
Some use TNR, which is a trap, sterilize, and then release, and it’s a humane method of managing this. If you do this, you need to take responsibility, and you should definitely make sure that if you have a big enough colony, and never let it get overpopulated.
You should always make sure that you do other actions too, and they are:
- Monitor the shelter so they have enough
- Make sure that they’re vaccinated for rabies
- Make sure that they have the right healthcare, and not let them die or get sick
- Get them to co-exist with humans
- Start to create some backup care
Remember, you’re the caretaker, so if you do feed them, remember that you’re the one responsible for them.
How to Prevent it
The easiest solution to all of this is simple: DON’T FEED THEM. They may look cute, but the problem is, if you feed them, they’re essentially yours. It’s like taking care of a household cat, except it’s a lot worse and way bigger in terms of the damage that this can do.
Lots of people don’t realize the scope of this. They think that these cats are just going to go away, hat feeding one every so often is just going to be harmless. But, remember this causes them to never go away, and it can cause them to also populate your area, and people will complain.
So what’s the best thing to do when you see a feral cat? Well, read below.
- Don’t feed it
- Instead just passively acknowledge that it’s there
- If they come up to you, be gentle with actions, remember since they are afraid of you
- If possible, just let them be, since they’re doing their job
Remember, cats can take care of themselves when they’re out in the wild. A cat that used to be a household pet, and then out in the wild may become feral, but they also may come up. This isn’t a chance for you to feed it, but you can give it some attention. Just don’t feed, since it destroys the ecosystem, can cause them to rely on you, and then you have an extra responsibility.
You can always use Scram away a safe harmless way to deter cats from hanging around your property.
At the bottom of it all, you should try to just leave cats alone if you see them out there and they’re not bothering you. If they are interested in saying hi, then sure, interact, but just if you notice one, don’t chase it or try to bribe it with food, but instead, just let them live their life. Feral cats are not bad, and they’re not going to run up and attack you. In truth, they’re probably more afraid of you than you are of them, and they’ll probably just dart the moment they see you. If they do come up to you, be responsible, and don’t put a huge burden on yourself by feeding them. They’re strong, and they can take care of themselves and have been doing so for thousands of years. If you really want to take care of a pet, go to a shelter and choose a cat there. You can meet a new furry friend and one that isn’t feral.