Feral Cats

What is a feral cat?

A feral cat is typically the wild offspring of a domestic cat, or a domestic housecat who was abandoned and over time has become un-socialized and extremely fearful of humans.

Feral cats are present in every community, and it is almost impossible to rehabilitate and re-socialize them so they can become a part of a family, unless there is intervention at a young age.   Like wild animals, they should not be handled without following instructions from feral cat groups or shelters. Learn how to help a feral cat.

Can feral cats be adopted? 

A traditional shelter is not a good place for adult feral cats because they are extremely afraid of humans. Their instinct to escape at all costs can make them dangerous to handle and puts them at risk for injuring themselves.

PAWS is equipped to take in only potentially adoptable cats, and therefore, we do not accept feral cats at our shelter for adoption. Feral cats brought into PAWS are typically euthanized.

What about feral kittens?

Feral kittens can often eventually be adopted into homes, but they must be socialized at an early age. The first few weeks of their lives are critical, and if they aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable. Most feral kittens brought to PAWS are first placed in our foster care program to be socialized and assessed for adoptability.

Where do feral cats live?

These cats usually congregate near restaurants, shopping centers, parks, dumps, or in rural areas and often live in loose groups called colonies, but you’d be surprised where they will call home. Since they usually go out of their way to avoid human contact no one knows the exact feral cat population of the United States, but it is estimated that there are millions. It is estimated that thousands live in the greater Puget Sound region.

Who helps feral cats?

While some feral cats seem to fair well without human intervention, many of them may have short, painful lives and often die from disease, malnutrition, exposure, car accidents, or predation. People who regularly help feral cats are usually referred to as caregivers or humane trappers.

  • Caretakers typically provide the essentials for the cats in the form of clean and regular food and water. Some caregivers will create appropriate shelters for the cats depending on the environment and location.
  • Caregivers may also trap the feral cats or work with a humane trapper to get the cats safely trapped so they can be spayed or neutered and receive basic medical care. They may also try to relocate the cats if they are living in an unsafe setting.   

How can I help?

  • Contact a feral cat group. The most widely accepted system of assisting feral cats and controlling the population of feral cat colonies is called TNR which involves humane trapping, treatment, spay/neuter, and release of feral cats back into their colonies.  Contact one of these Western Washington organizations for resources and ideas.
  • Get your cat fixed. The only way to prevent accidental and unexpected litters is having your cat spayed or neutered.
  • Provide current identification. Make sure you cat always wears a collar and ID tags with your most up-to-date contact information.
  • Keep your cat safe at home. Do not let your cat roam freely unsupervised around your neighborhood and get lost. Learn how to keep your cat safe and happy at home.

Humane trap rentals

PAWS rents out humane cat traps if you want to do trap-neuter-release or need to trap an injured cat. Relocation of feral cats is not recommended unless their safety is in danger.