What Are Feral Cats?

Whether you're a cat owner or not, it's likely that you've heard the term feral cats thrown around. These cats are distinguished both from domesticated housecats and also from stray cats as well. However, you may find feral cats living alongside you or even interacting with your housecats, if they're allowed outside. Read on for a brief overview of what feral cats are and a bit of information about these animals that are closely related to your pet cats.

Definition of Feral Cats

A feral cat is, by definition, the offspring of a line of domesticated housecats that have been returned into the wild for one reason or another. In many cases, feral cats come to exist in an area because cat owners passed through that space at some point in time and their cats escaped or were left behind. When those cats breed, the offspring are considered to be feral cats.

Feral cats are also distinct from stray cats. Stray cats are also of domesticated stock, but a stray cat is one that previously had an owner and which has been lost or abandoned and forced to live in the wild. The offspring of a stray cat, if born in the wild, will be considered a feral cat.

Problems With Feral Cats

There are a number of reasons why you should be potentially concerned about feral cats, especially if you own pet cats of your own. First, feral cats are not spayed or neutered, except in a few rare instances when veterinary clinics and pounds collect feral and stray cats to provide these surgical operations for them before returning them to the wild. This means that, if your pet cat isn't spayed or neutered, it runs the risk of becoming pregnant or impregnating another cat as well. This can lead to overpopulation or unwanted kittens, some of which may not be cared for properly.

Another issue with feral cats is that they have not been vaccinated against diseases. Many of the most common diseases that cats face in the wild can be deadly to domestic cats. These include distemper and many others. By being in contact with your housecat, feral cats can put your pet at risk for developing this conditions.

Other Information

Because feral cats are, physiologically speaking, the same as domesticated cats, they suffer from many of the same problems that domesticated housecats do. Namely, domesticated cats have long been bread to not be as adept at hunting or surviving in the wild as their ancestors once were. The result for a cat that has human beings to care for it is that it will be fine; the result for a feral cat that is trying to survive on its own means that the feral cat may only live up to about five years. This is a small fraction of the expected lifespan of a cat that is in the care of humans.