Common Feral and Stray Cat Problems

Common feral and stray cat problems include disease, fear of humans and continuous breeding. However, several organizations have tried to solve these problems and are always looking for volunteers to help reduce the problems.

Fear of Humans

Stray cats are cats who no longer have a home either because of escape or abandonment. In contrast, feral cats are the cats born to stray cats who have never lived in a home with humans. If kittens haven't been exposed to humans by the time they are 12 weeks old, they may never grow accustomed to human companionship, thus creating a fear that prevents them from being caught and finding a home.

Like dogs, cats have a socialization window during which they need to be exposed to all things of which you don't want them to be afraid. It is especially important to introduce them to many humans during this time so they never develop fear-related aggression later in life.

Feral cats have not had this opportunity. Depending on their age, you may be able to teach them to tolerate humans, but it is much harder with older cats.

When trying to capture a feral or stray cat, use extreme caution. They may carry diseases, which could be transmitted to you if they try to bite or scratch out of fear.

Feral Cat Diseases

Feral and stray cats often travel in small colonies, which makes it much easier for them to contract and spread disease. Since most of the cats haven't been vaccinated, it is easy for them to contract diseases such as feline HIV, feline leukemia and even rabies.

While rabies poses the greatest danger to humans because it can cause cats to be aggressive and spread it to humans, there are many other disease that can also cause death and disease through cat colonies. Parvovirus is easily spread as are several respiratory infections that cause a variety of symptoms such as eye and nasal discharge, coughing, vomiting and diarrhea.

Cat colonies can also contract fleas and ticks, which lead to several diseases such as different types of worms, some of which can be spread to humans or other animals. If these cats visit your yard looking for food, they may leave these diseases behind in their feces.

Continuous Breeding

The biggest problem caused by feral and stray cat colonies is the rate at which they are capable of breeding. In seven years, one breeding pair, which can breed twice a year, can have up to 420,000 offspring. Obviously, not all of these live, but the colonies can continue to grow.

Because food and resources are difficult to come by, many of these cats die painful deaths from diseases or starvation. Since some of the stray cats have been raised in homes, many of them don't have the hunting skills required to survive in the wild.

So far the most successful strategy for reducing this problem is capturing stray cats, spaying or neutering them, vaccinating them and re-releasing them. This prevents other less-healthy colonies from taking their place when one colony is killed and has shown to greatly reduce the population of stray and feral cats.