October 16 – National Feral Cat Day: Any Cat Can Be a Feral Cat… Even Yours

Editors Note: When I originally wrote this post in 2015 for *National Feral Cat Day it was more of a provocative hypothetical to inspire thought outside of the norm of everyday thinking on what a feral cat was. It was based on stories I had heard from people in the field and information I had gathered over the years. It was not something I had personally experienced, just something I knew could happen in a “what-if” kind of way. In 2017 the hypothetical has become decidedly real. Cat carriers that were once kept in the garage unless I needed them are at arm’s length in my bedroom closet. My pantry is over-stocked with cat food and we always have more litter than we need on hand.  Any complacency I might have felt since this post was first written is long gone and I feel compelled to always be ready for the worst.

Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and most recently, the horrific fires in California have shown Mother Nature to be unrelenting and cruel over the past several months, as she redefines the daily life many of us live, including the lives of our cats. An indoor cat, suddenly found outside, is entirely possible and is happening with frequency in disaster areas across the world. That’s why I decided to share this post once again for National Feral Cat Day. If you’ve already read it, read it again. If you haven’t read it and have a cat, please take it to heart. Any cat could be a feral cat…even yours.


This cat is from Flamingo Gardens – a South Florida tourist site. It was originally dumped by someone on the property and is now part of an outdoor community of a dozen or so cats that are taken care of by the employees of the business.

All of my seven cats come from different circumstances and each of them has a distinctly unique personality, but one thing is common to them all – I love them from the bottom of my heart and they are my life. They are indoor cats and if one of them ever accidentally got outside and was lost, I don’t know what I would do. Nor do I know what they would do. Could they manage on their own? It’s easy to say it will never happen – I’m neurotically careful – but even with the best of intentions, accidents can and do happen. With this being National Feral Cat Day, it makes the point even more relevant.

For many people, the word “feral” instantly conjures up an image of an outdoor cat that is dangerous, wild, filthy, rabies infested, un-socialized, and a general menace to society. What these people might not realize, is that the vast majority of the cats living on the streets started out as strays – meaning they were once cats that lived in a home, but found themselves dumped or abandoned for a plethora of reasons.

Some of these outdoor strays might also be unintentional – you hear about it all the time – a cat that goes missing for whatever unfortunate reason and can’t be found. Why is this startling? Because once a cat is found outside, especially in major cities, if it is caught and brought to an animal shelter or a pound, according to Alley Cat Allies, it has a 70% chance of being put down, and virtually a 100% chance if it is deemed feral.


This is Rose, a cat I found on the side of the road by my house. She had a microchip, so I was able to find her guardian and it turned out she lived close by.

The heart of the matter is that when a cat is put into a situation where it feels threatened or unsafe, many of them will instinctively exhibit feral characteristics. Why do I bring this up? Because I feel no cat deserves a death sentence, feral or otherwise. Just put yourself in that scenario – what if one of your beloved cats accidentally found themselves outside and homeless? How would your cat react if it was picked up by a stranger and brought to a shelter? Chances are pretty good your cat might act extremely unsocial.

That is why National Feral Cat Day is so important. Number one, it gives us an opportunity to thank all the people within communities that take it upon themselves to care for outdoor cats. Whether by providing them with food, shelter, or veterinary care for illnesses, or by trapping them for spay/neuter, or by helping to find homes for them if they are socialized, these people are saints and they deserve our recognition and appreciation. Number two, it gives us an opportunity to diffuse the myths about outdoor cats by sharing positive, helpful information so that these cats are not needlessly persecuted and it also gives us a platform to discuss ways to reduce cat overpopulation. Here are 10 of some the most important feral cat facts to share:

1. Even if you don’t have a cat, or don’t like cats, by virtue of living in a community it should be your civic duty to be responsible. Outdoor cats roaming the streets WILL procreate and cat overpopulation will continue to escalate unless TNRM (Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage) programs are instituted (the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that we have upward of 70 million stray and feral cats in the U.S. and the Stray Cat Alliance estimates that only 2% of stray cats dumped on the streets are previously sterilized).

2. Feral cats are not dangerous and do not attack people. While they may become familiar with a caretaker, these cats tend to avoid humans and usually only come out at night.

3. It is not cruel for a feral cat to live outdoors. Because they are not socialized to humans or indoor settings, they are typically unable to cope and do not adjust to the confinement or human contact. It can actually be detrimental to try to tame and socialize it. A feral cat may exhibit adverse behavioral problems in an indoor setting that are insurmountable to change, which often results in the cat being unfairly brought to a shelter where they are labeled “unadoptable” with an almost certain death sentence.

4. Feral cats are not responsible for the depletion of wildlife. In reality that is caused by urbanization, global warming, pollution, and construction. A managed feral colony is actually well fed and does not have a need to excessively hunt for food.

5. TNRM works and is the safest program available to both the feral cat and the community. The colony’s population decreases (and stabilizes) and the negative behaviors associated with cats, such as spraying and noises from mating and aggressive fighting, is significantly reduced (you can identify a cat that has already been part of a TNRM program by the universal practice of clipping the tip of the left ear of the cat).

6. Feral cats are not a filthy and disease ridden creature. In actuality, feral cats have a low rate of diseases and live a long and healthy life. This is particularly true because the feral cats that have been spayed or neutered are also vaccinated.

7. Cats can reproduce at an alarming rate when not managed. An unspayed/neutered cat pair leads up to 5,000 cats in 7 years. Most communities offer low cost or free spaying and neutering programs, especially in honor of National Feral Cat Day.

8. There is a distinct difference between stray and feral cats that can often be confusing. A feral cat that is not adoptable should be returned to its outdoor home after it has been altered. A stray cat found on the street at one point in its life had social contact with a human and can usually be adopted. A stray cat who is frightened might act like a feral cat when trapped and might mistakenly be brought to a kill shelter. The cats need several days of observation after being trapped to determine what type of cat they are.

9. Feral kittens can be socialized and adopted into a home if they are accustomed to people at an early age.

10. Feral cats are considered a domestic animal and are protected by anti-cruelty laws. Any crime against a cat should be reported to the proper officials.


My sweet babies are my pride and joy – I cannot even begin to imagine what life would be like for them if they had to fend for themselves outside.

All of this brings me to my last point – regardless of whether your cat goes outside or not, accidents can happen and your cat could become homeless. Be safe – make sure your cat is spayed or neutered – not only is it healthier for your cat in the long run, but it is the only way to guarantee no unplanned kittens will be born. Have your cat micro-chipped as well, and if you do know of outdoor cats in your community, maybe you might consider donating cat food, or money to help whoever is taking care of the cats.

*National Feral Cat Day was created by Alley Cat Allies in 2001 as a way to educate the public on the plight of feral cats. In 2017 the day has evolved to the more inclusive, Global Cat Day, where compassionate people around the world come together to stand up for policies that protect the cats in their communities. Please visit globalcatday.org for more information on what you can do to help the local cats in your community.

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  1. What a thorough enlightening post! You didn’ t miss any important fact. Thank you Deb for making a difference by enlightening the world about the myth vs. fact about feral cats.

    And that photo of your cats on the counter. How did you get all of them at same time ? A common treat they all love? Ok you have to do that next time I’m there. 🙂

    Here’s to continuing to raise awareness about Feral Cats and reversing the homeless pet population!

  2. Wonderful post ! It’s so important to raise awareness about what really is a feral cat, and how to help them. Purrs

  3. well said….mom worries about our feral girl Allie but we know that providing her food and shelter (she is already spayed) is the best we can do for her. we hope that more people will realize these cats are worthy of living their lives in peace (and mom says if any of us every got out and ended up in a shelter….well just thank heavens for microchips – MOL)

  4. My three (siblings) were raised by a feral momma, but were rescued just in the nick of time to be tamed. I’m so grateful that they are mine now! I think they are grateful too because they absolutely refuse to even think about outside, even if the door gets left open for a bit. Whew! I would freak if they got out! Lots of good information here, thank you!

  5. Rosemary says:

    Excellent piece! I have worked in TNR in Orlando for 15 years. I have three formerly outdoor cats who were strays and are now living in my house as contented lap cats. I also have fed a colony where all cats are TNR’d for years. The oldest is 13.

  6. Deb, I always look forward to your National Feral Cat Day post. Thanks for this year’s event and all the helpful information you share. I posted this to the Squeedunk Facebook page, I hope that is okay with you.
    Now that we are organized as a non profit, we are joining forces with the officials in our town to help the feral cat population. While we do promote TNR, we’ve focused more on rehabilitating and rehoming the cats we rescue. So far we’ve not found one who would prefer to be outside once they experience warmth and comfort, safety from dogs, cars and the elements, and food on a consistent basis.
    As you may know, my Bessie did not let me pet her for three years but she has always been happy to see me, talkative with a very soft voice, and full of play and personality. Now she not only lets me pet her but she sleeps next to me and will even lay on my pillow for extra pets.
    Appreciate meeting and connecting with other like minded humans here on your blog. Above all, I appreciate YOU!
    Purrs from Laura and all the Squeedunk Cats: Coco, Valentina, Manhattan, Bessie and Lulu

  7. Deziz World says:

    Gweat posty. Ifin not fur mommy sis Lexi and me wuld be feral or dead. Purrobably dead, but we do like to find da pawsitive in every situation. Weez glad yous saved yous ur babies and we know they awe glad too.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi

  8. I lived the first 9 months of my life as an outside cat and I was scared and wild. If it wasn’t for the big guy and the lady with the yellow hair, I wouldn’t be here today. They knew when they caught me if they took me to the shelter, I’d never survive, so they took me home instead. ~Zoey

  9. Ellen Pilch says:

    Great post. Many of mine were strays before I found them, but clearly not feral. I wish all kitties could have forever homes or at least safety.

  10. meowmeowmans says:

    Awesome post, Deb! Our Angel Sammy was found in a feral colony, but it quickly became clear that he was not feral. Luckily, he ended up at PAWS, where we adopted him from. 🙂

  11. I was so disgusted to find that most municipalities in the area have an “extermination” policy … kill, no questions asked. It actually made the news because one city partnered with a rescue and adopted TNR. Even worse? The comments on the story complained about “nuisance” cats – and supported killing all ferals. Completely disgusting. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to claim Bear was feral … but he saved my life and he was one of those homeless “nuisance” cats when we met – so this topic is close to my heart.

  12. terry davis says:

    I live in Hot Springs, AR, the animal services (kill shelter) will give you a warning about feeding strays and other animals, raccoons, etc, you can be fined, however there are people like Nikki who continue to do so, good for her. I now live in a gated community and feed any strays that wander in, plus raccoons

  13. Enlightening the world about feral cats is a long process, but we hope that one day, feral cats will be considered part of the community as much as owned cats are. Thanks for sharing these important facts!

  14. Thanks for sharing this important message again today.

  15. Wonderful post ! That’s great information ! We wish ferals could get more help. Purrs

  16. mariodacat says:

    Excellent post friends. Our community has adopted a couple of programs to help this situation and at the same time save the cats. One program places these kitties in businesses that want good mouse control and are willing to make sure they are neutered and sheltered. The other program encourages neighborhoods to leave feral kitties right in their community as they make excellent mousers and we seem to have a mouse problem around here. We hope more businesses will consider the program of hiring cats. Apparently the employees that work in the businesses love it too and watch over the kitties.

  17. jmuhj says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more re: treatment of ALL cats with compassion, kindness, respect, and personal responsibility (of course, I had amazing parents who taught me that from the start). Sharing to social media with hope, love and *PRAYERS* for ALL cats to have loving, forever homes, or safety in managed TNRd colonies. Truly, these cats perform valuable services to communities which treat them well and respect them. Our city has TNR as municipal policy 😉
    As I write, my formerly feral kitten sits on my lap. Now a glossy, prosperous, much-loved little lady of 12, she still has her feral tendencies, but she’s a loved part of our family and always will be!

  18. Sandra Mac says:

    GREAT post-and very informative – good to know so many people are thinking about feral cats today!

  19. Ellen Pilch says:

    Excellent and informative post.