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Stray, feral - or a loved pet?

Stray, feral - or a loved pet?

by Danielle Thompson (November 2020)

IS the cat a stray, feral or someone’s beloved pet?

Cats are not like dogs and can often do their own thing! However, a cat in need of help or support, for whatever reason, is still an animals needing help – but depending on which category the cat falls into can determine the best way to help that cat.

The team at Woodlands Animal Sanctuary on Sandy Lane in Homeswood have offered up their advice on how to tell.

Sally McDerby from the team said: “A stray is a cat who has, at some point, been someone’s furbaby and possibly most importantly could be again! If you see a cat around your house or garden, who suddenly starts turning up and looks dirty or scruffy, it could be that they are a stray, i.e. a domestic cat, who has been abandoned or ‘strayed’ from their home and have become lost.

“In the first instance, if you are concerned about the cat, you can make enquiries around your house to see if the cat belongs to anyone. If they do, then problem solved - generally! However, if no-one claims the cat, then it is a good idea, if you are able to touch the cat, you can initially look to see if they have a collar on and if there is any information about their owners on it. If you use social media, there are numerous lost and found pet pages, and it is a good idea to share the information about the cat to as many of these as you can. If after 7 days, there has been no contact about the cat, then you can put them in a carrier and take them to your nearest vets, who can check them over and scan them for a microchip. This will tell you if they are owned, and where that home should be. If there is no microchip, or the owners are not able to be contacted – then it is advisable to ask a reputable cat rescue to take the cat in and rehome it.

“If you have a cat who likes to explore outside then a good idea can be to put a paper collar on them with your contact details on, so that if they are found, you can be contacted without your cat being taken to a vet to be scanned for a chip.

“A feral cat, is still a domestic cat, but it is one who has never been socialised with humans, or whose socialisation has significantly diminished over time and therefore they are unlikely to ever want to live in close proximity to humans again. Kittens who are born feral are often, up to around six months, able to become socialised with humans and potentially could be rehomed.

“However, a true feral, whatever the age, will be at their happiest living out doors with their feline family with little to no contact with people. This lifestyle is not often an issue, however, there is a big but! If all ferals, male and female were returned to their outdoor life, they will inevitably breed, uncontrollably (a sexually mature female cat could have up to three litters per year often with more than four kittens per litter – the more kittens she gives birth to the more chance there is of some survival!) and this will cause feral numbers to increase dramatically, which in turn means more competition for environment and food, which can also have negative effects for house cats in the area and people living in the area, not to mention the quality of life for the ferals themselves. To prevent this situation happening and to give the feral cats as good a quality of life as possible there is something called a Trap, Neuter, Return programme. This is as simple as it sounds, but is very effective. Because feral cats are not happy with human contact, they generally need to be trapped to catch them, this is a humane trap though and causes them no harm. They can then be taken to a vet, who will neuter them and tip their ear. (This simply means that the tip of one of their ears is cut off so that in the future, if the cat is seen or found, it is very easy to tell that it is a feral and has been neutered.) Again, tipping an ear causes no distress to them, as it is done under anaesthetic at the same time as the neutering and does not affect their hearing. They are then released again, back to where they came from, or into a safe area, if they were not before.

“Sometimes though, a loved pet cat, can wander the surrounding area of their home and often learn other places where they may also receive food or a loving fuss. This in itself may not be a problem, but, please bear in mind, if you do befriend someone else’s cat, that you do not know the cat, and therefore maybe unaware of issues they may have, such as food intolerances. This could mean they become poorly from the food you are giving them in good faith. Cats can also be led by their stomachs, and so if you are feeding someone else’s pet, you could cause them to spend less time in their home, which can cause stress and upset. If a cat is lured away from its home, it can also mean that the cat becomes no-one’s responsibility, which can then become a major problem if they become unwell or need more specific care.

“What we are aiming to do by providing this inform

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