Should You Feed Stray or Feral Cats?

Should You Feed Stray or Feral Cats?

Cat eating from a bowl on white wooden planks.Cat eating from a bowl on white wooden planks.
Cat eating from a bowl on white wooden planks.Cat eating from a bowl on white wooden planks.

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Should you feed stray or feral cats? That’s a good question, but the answer is not always black and white. In some areas, there are laws and ordinances about feeding stray or feral cats – if you feed the cat, you own it. Some areas even impose fines or other punishments for feeding stray or feral cats.

Before deciding whether or not to feed the cat, it is important to note that there are differences between stray cats and feral cats. A stray cat is a cat that previously had a home. The cat has either moved out, gotten lost, or has been given up. Stray cats are familiar with humans and can be friendly. A feral cat, however, is one that has never had a home. A feral cat is more likely born and bred from a feral line or colony. Feral cats will not be familiar with people other than something to be wary of and as a potential source of food.

Stray cats may be friendly and approach you for food or attention, or they may be too scared to let you get close. However, if you put the food down for them they will usually eat immediately. You should always use caution since you don’t know how the cat is going to react.

Feral cats may approach you when they are extremely hungry, but they will only eat the food you’ve given them once you’ve walked away. If you’ve been feeding a cat for several days and can still not approach or touch the cat, it is probably feral. Don’t try to handle a feral cat. Most feral cats cannot be adopted because they are simply too frightened of people.

Feeding a stray cat has its pros and cons. If you decide to feed a stray cat, you have plenty of options. They would probably enjoy dry or canned cat food or some tasty tuna fish. Also, give the cat plenty of fresh water.

What to Do with a Stray Cat

If you’ve found a stray cat, you have many options.

  • You may decide to keep the cat, which will require that you take the cat for proper veterinary care.
  • You can Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) the cat. This will ensure that the cat cannot contribute to the ever-expanding stray and feral cat population.
  • You can find a suitable home for the cat. You may have better luck rehoming the cat once you’ve taken it for vaccines, deworming, flea treatment and spay or neutering.
  • You can take the cat to a shelter or Humane Society where it will be placed for adoption.

If you find a stray or feral cat, it is a good idea to contact local shelters in your area. If they cannot or will not respond to your situation, look for groups that handle feral cat populations. If none of these resources are available to you, you may decide that you want to manage your own feral colony.

If you decide to feed a stray or feral cat on your property, it may potentially upset your own cat. By feeding the stray cat you are essentially inviting an intruder into your cat’s territory and giving them good reason to keep coming back. You should consider the impact that feeding a stray will have on your own cat’s happiness before deciding to feed it. If your cat seems not to be bothered by the stray cat, it may not pose such a problem.

To learn more about stray cats, read the article Surprise Visitors: What to Do With a Stray Cat.

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