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Feral Cats & Kittens

A feral cat is unable to be handled and demonstrate an unsocial behavior. Feral cats include lost, abandoned, loosely owned, and are also considered stray cats. Feral cats are fearful of people so are considered unsuitable pets. Statistics: o Feral cats have an average of 1.4 litters per year, with an average 3.5 live births in each litter. That equals 4.9 kittens per year, per female feral cat. Indeed, a pair of breeding cats and their offspring can produce 420,000 kittens over a seven-year period. o Of the approximately 146 million cats in the United States, about half are feral/un-owned. o In California, more than $50 million per year is spent by animal control agencies and shelters for cat-related expenses. o Every day, 10,000 humans are born in the United States, while 70,000 kittens and puppies are born. As long as these birth rates exist, there will never be enough homes for all of the animals, resulting in the euthanization of many of them. o Each year, almost 9 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters in the U.S. because there are not enough homes. o Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is more cost-effective than trapping and killing feral cats. Altering a cat costs about $50, while euthanizing a cat costs more than $100. Feral cats must endure weather extremes such as cold and snow, heat and rain. They also face starvation, infection and attacks by other animals. Unfortunately, almost half of the kittens born outdoors die from disease, exposure or parasites before their first year. Feral cats also face eradication by humans—poison, trapping, gassing and steel leg-hold traps are all ways humans, including some animal control and government agencies, try to kill off feral cat populations. Feral cats who live in a managed colony—a colony with a dedicated caretaker who provides spay/neuter services, regular feedings and proper shelter—can live a quite content life. Ear-tipping is a widely accepted means of marking a feral cat who has been spayed or neutered. It also often identifies them as being part of a colony with a caretaker. Ear-tipping is the humane surgical removal of the top quarter-inch of the left ear. The procedure is performed, typically during the spay/neuter surgery. Ear-tipping is completely safe and rarely requires special aftercare. Ear-tipping is especially important as it prevents an already spayed or neutered cat the stress of re-trapping and an unnecessary surgery. Feral kittens are important to trap and, whenever possible, foster and socialize them until they are old enough to be adopted out. “Once born, they struggle to survive”. “Their mortality rate is very high because of all the challenges of life outside on the streets." Taming feral kittens: •Whenever possible, kittens should continue to nurse until four weeks old—this can be done in captivity. •Do not let feral kittens run loose—they can hide in tiny spaces and are exceptionally difficult to find and catch. •Confine the kittens in a dog crate, cat condo or cage with a small litter box, food, water and something snuggly to cuddle in. •Food is the key to socializing. Give the kittens a small amount of wet food by hand at least twice a day—eventually the kittens will associate your presence with food. For those who are more feral, start by offering baby food or wet food on a spoon through the cage. •Once the kittens no longer run away from you but instead come toward you seeking to be fed, held and petted, you can confine them to a small room. •Be sure to expose the kitten to a variety of people. Feral cats, after all, are the “offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats who are not spayed or neutered.” Targeting irresponsible humans may provide a different solution, although spay/neuter laws are controversial. By spaying or neutering it would decrease the population of these wild or stray cats and maybe someday get the unwanted pet population under control. As Bob Barker used to say, “Don’t forget to get your pet spayed or neutered.”