In my country there are barely stray cats. There are a lot of “outdoor cats”. Cats who are able to sleep inside, are fed, and have an owner, but spend most of their time outside. They live a pretty good life. Compared to feral or stray cats who do not have a roof above their head. Yet, they manage to survive in the — sometimes dangerous — outdoor world. But what would you do if a stray cat happened to make his home in your garden? And are you allowed to feed a stray cat? Here is some advice.
The Difference Between Feral and Stray
Feral, stray, it’s not the same. A stray cat is a cat that is separated from his owner. He could be lost, got dumped or abandoned when the owner moved or died. These cats are used to people.
A feral on the other hand, is a cat that is born “in the wild”, they are the offspring of strays (or feral cats). Feral cats can not be approached.
Feeding A Stray Cat
Most pet lovers would feed stray cats. But it’s important to know what you can get yourself into when you feed a stray cat. It might cause trouble, because the most important reason is the risk for rabies. Rabies can be fatal in humans, especially if not caught early on time. Other diseases we humans can get from stray cats are: chlamydiosis (a respiratory tract infection), skin psoriasis (skin irritation), pink eye, lime disease, toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, cryptosporidiosis and campylobacteriosis. Additionally, parasite transmittal, because through the cat’s saliva or its feces, parasites can be transmitted to humans. So it’s very important to watch out when you’re dealing with stray cats.
Another reason why you might not want to feed a stray cat is the behavioral problems it might bring with him. The cat might be showing unpredictable behavior. A cat in pain will most likely be aggressive, not to mention that stray cats — and especially feral cats — are wild. They will always defend themselves. They basically got their fangs and claws ready.
Stray cats (and ferals) are cats that hunt for their food. Commercial cat food can give them digestive problems because they have a completely different diet than our house-tigers. But remember, if you plan on feeding them, once you feed them, they are yours. So if you don’t want the stray cat to come back, it’s better not to feed him.
When Is A Cat “Yours”?
This is a rather touchy subject. There are so many opinions that I’m afraid there is no real, correct answer to this question.
But when is it yours? What if you happen to have a stray cat around who you feed, and pet? You’re starting to build a bond with him, you might even start loving the stray. When is it considered yours? In some countries you have to register your cat, or it has to be microchipped. When is it time to microchip or to register your cat?
The moment you recognize that you two share a bond with each other is the moment that he really is your cat, as are you his human. When the cat stays for the love you give it and not just for the food and shelter.
If you do not want any stray cats in your garden or coming back one idea is to hook up your sprinklers to a sensor. Every time they come near they get squirted. And after a few times they will get the message. Another way is to use scents in your garden. Think about citronella, citrus, cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, peppermint oil, lemon grass oil, eucalyptus oil and mustard oil. Remember that every cat responds differently. Some people also believe that mothballs work. But they are considered toxic and should be avoided. You can also look in the phonebook to find a “no-kill” shelter. Or call the SPCA; they will either help you or tell you want to do.
If there is a stray or feral cat hanging around in your neighborhood or in your garden and you don’t want to feed it maybe it’s a good idea to put down shelter, so it can protect itself against bad weather conditions.
Stray cats can be taken care of, with the right information, and maybe with help of the right organisation. It might be a good idea to inform yourself about any organisations in your town that help stray cats. Educate yourself! Feral cats can be difficult to tame. Some say it’s possible but it takes a lot of time and energy. And even then, you might not succeed. This might be because most feral cats don’t trust humans.
Feral cats need to be TNRed (trapped-neutered-returned). It’s a strategy to improve the lives of feral cats and to improve their numbers. A feral cat that is TNRed is spayed or neutered, so it can no longer reproduce. Most of the time, those cats are also vaccinated against rabies.
If you aren’t sure whether a cat is a stray or not, try to figure out if the cat has an owner. Contact animal shelters to find out if they know anything about a lost cat and look in the local newspaper to see if anyone reported a missing cat. You can also hang up flyers around the neighborhood stating that you found a cat. If the cat looks dirty, thin and it seems to be afraid of humans, there is a good chance that this kitty might be homeless.