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. Great to re-post. Mine was really different this year. Sorry, so little time to blog hop xoxo

  2. Chirpy Cats says:

    First time I’m reading your article and love it! My post today is about a cat that was abandoned and then turned feral. Thanks for re-posting, info like this cannot be repeated enough!

  3. Thank you for spreading the word about this important topic. It makes me so sad to see the large community cat population in NYC where in general there is a lack of understanding of their plight.

    • Deb says:

      That is sad Lola the Rescued Cat. There are so many amazing resources in the city and such passionate and dedicated people trying to spread the word. I hope one day it will be a mainstream subject that everyone understands.

  4. Great post ! We love your first and last points ! Purrs

  5. LOVE that you reposted this, thank you for all of the hard work you have done to help feral kitties!

  6. jmuhj says:

    Thank you so very much for advocating for and helping feral/community cats! Sharing to social media with hope and *PRAYERS*, and encouraging everyone who cares for cats to get involved in helping them. The hard work labor of love that so many put into helping cats is paying off, according to Animals 24/7! Visit their site to read about the amazing reduction in births and the very hopeful future these cats have.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you so much for sharing jmuhj and for pointing me to the Animals 24/7 site. It is refreshing and hopeful to hear some headway is being made to reduce cat overpopulation.

  7. Very well said, after Katrina a lot of beloved pets found themselves on the streets and some were never reunited with their people. Often the people came back from shelters (where pets were not allowed) to find their homes destroyed and their pets missing. With nowhere to stay in the area the people had limited time to look for their pets. Dogs were often captured and shipped North, even those that were micro-chipped because the phone lines were down and the residences were destroyed. But the cats for the most part evaded capture and formed colonies.

    The people that rescued Scylla & Charybdis believed their Mother to be a purebred Turkish Van that was lost during Katrina and that they were looking for, for the owner, who was forced to move away after Katrina but kept in touch with rescue groups in the area in hopes of finding her cat.

    Chimera even though we rescued her before her eyes and ears were open (so she had to be very young) behaves like a feral cat.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your firsthand knowledge of the pets after Katrina, Scylla, Fenris, Tuiren, YinYang & Chimera. You clearly understand the point of this post and it makes me so sad that our precious pets are suffering after events like this, not ever understanding why they are no longer with their beloved humans and caretakers.

  8. #GlobalCatDay is vital. Especially for us who will be fighting outside the USA to keep feral and community cats safe.

    • Deb says:

      It truly is a global effort, Miranda Kitten. We are quite heartened to know you have such a passionate and capable human heading the efforts your way.

  9. Great post. We hope more and more communities recognize the value of TNR and how helps feral cats.

  10. Ellen Pilch says:

    Very sad statistics. I wish every cat had a forever home, but I know this isn’t possible with true ferals.

  11. Johnny says:

    So glad to see this repost as I wasn’t here when it originally was 🙂