This Tuesday, October 16th, has been designated National Feral Cat Day. Created by Alley Cat Allies in 2001, this annual event is designed to help raise awareness about humane treatment for feral cats throughout the U.S. The aim is also to educate people regarding the importance of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), a humane way to allow feral cats to live out their lives in their own environment, rather than euthanizing these cats or placing them in a shelter where they are unlikely to be adopted.
What exactly is a feral cat? The ASPCA estimates that the number of feral cats in the U.S. is in the tens of millions. A feral cat is a domestic cat that has reverted to a wild state after becoming lost or abandoned, or a cat that was born outdoors to a feral mother and lives out his or her life like a wild animal. Unlike homeless or stray cats, truly feral cats are fearful of human contact, are generally unsocialized and avoid people. Because feral cats cannot be handled or petted, they are difficult to manage in a shelter environment, and the shelter environment is very stressful to a feral cat as well.
Feral cats lead difficult lives, dealing with hunger, weather extremes, disease and illness, and danger from cars and other animals. While single feral cats tend to have a very short lifespan, feral cats that live in a colony managed by a community caretaker fare much better. Caretakers typically provide food and shelter, run the Trap-Neuter-Return program, and ensure that the cats in the colony are vaccinated against disease. A TNR program helps stabilize and prevent the feral population from growing, and enhances the health and wellbeing of all the feral cats in the colony.
What can you do to celebrate National Feral Cat Day? Spread the word in your own community about the importance of TNR programs. If there is a feral cat organization in your community, volunteer to help or make a donation; if not, learn about Trap-Neuter-Return and consider establishing a group in your own neighborhood.
Most feral cats will never know the luxury of a warm, loving home but are just as deserving of our love and protection. Caring for feral cat colonies improves the lives of these cats and also improves our own neighborhoods. Visit Alley Cat Allies to learn more about National Feral Cat Day and TNR programs.