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How to Help Stray Cats

It is estimated that there are up to 100 million homeless cats in the United States. While it may be tempting to try to trap and re-home every stray cat you see living wild, that can actually be detrimental for feral cats. Today, our Westminster vets will explain what you can do to help a stray cat, and how you can tell the difference between a feral and stray cat.

The Difference is Socialization

Stray cats are cats that live outdoors but have been socialized with humans at some point in their lives. Whether they were once a pet that has lost their family, they escaped, or they were left behind, the cat has some familiarity with humans and will be receptive to food and touch.

Many strays can be re-socialized and become pets again, but it is possible for them to lose their socialization over time and become feral again if they continue without human interaction for too long.

Feral cats are not receptive to human interaction. Typically, they are kittens who were born and raised outdoors. They can be fearful or hostile towards humans and do not respond well to socialization. A feral kitten under four months old still has a chance to be socialized, but most vets will not recommend trying to socialize a cat that’s any older.

If you find a cat and it is sociable, you can try to find it a home by either by contacting your local shelter or veterinarian.

But what about its feral relatives?

While feral cats are fearful of humans, they are still domesticated and ill-equipped to survive on their own. Most feral cats do not die of old age the way housecats do. Many feral cats are poisoned, shot, hit by cars, attacked by other animals, or die of exposure.

The best way you can help feral cats is to provide them with food and shelter, while also partaking in local TNR programs.

What is TNR?

TNR stands for “trap, neuter, return”. In TNR, community members safely trap feral cats in humane traps and take them to veterinarians to be spayed or neutered.

Along with their spay or neuter, the cat receives a checkup and vaccinations before getting ear-tipped (a universal sign to show that they have already been neutered and vaccinated) and returned back to their home territory. By being spayed or neutered, the cat can live the rest of its life outdoors without contributing to the growing cat population.

Many shelters work with TNR programs to help manage local populations, and they may have a place for friendly stray cats who are good candidates for adoption. In return for keeping these cats happy and thriving, feral cats will keep your streets rodent-free.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.

Can shelters help?

While shelters are incredible organizations, they are not equipped to deal with an influx of unsociable cats. It is not recommended to drop feral cats off at your local shelter unannounced. Similarly, it is not recommended to call animal control community cat populations. As long as the feral cats are healthy and happy, the best and most humane option is to allow them to live wild with the population control that TNR provides. 

Have you caught a stray cat and need some advice? Contact our Westminster vets for advice and a possible referral to our partners at Northside Emergency Clinic for 24/7 help.

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Choice Veterinary Specialists is accepting new patients. Our experienced veterinary specialists are passionate about improving the health of Westminster animals with complex healthcare needs. Contact us today.

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