Feral Cats

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Feral cats are a big problem in the Valley because of our mild climate enabling cats to breed all year long, found kittens added to an already over-surplus of homeless animals, particularly during the summer. That is why the TNR (trap neuter return) method is so much more effective as a way of controlling the population. It is also more humane than catching and killing and is better for the cat's health and quality of life.

Unless you are a feral cat "caretaker" you have probably never encountered a feral cat unless it was desperate for food or injured. You've probably seen homeless cats and maybe even adopted a few, but not every homeless cat is feral. Some strays are lost or recently abandoned house pets. "Feral" refers to a cat who is one or more generations removed from human contact and generally fears people. They are a direct result of human irresponsibility and deserve our help and compassion. What often happens is a pet cat reaches sexual maturity and the owners, instead of spaying or neutering the animal, put the cat out or abandon the animal when he or she becomes aggressive, howls, or sprays. When these cats have kittens, feral colonies are born.

TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) controls feral populations and saves lives!
With TNR, feral cats are humanely trapped and sterilized and tame cats and kittens young enough to be socialized are removed from the colony for adoption. After recovering from surgery, the feral cats are returned to their original environment under the care of a caretaker who feeds and otherwise tends to the colony. A "controlled" colony reduces the possibility of newcomers moving in, spraying, fighting, health problems and unwanted litters of kittens.

If you are in Maricopa County (AZ), are feeding ferals or have them in the neighborhood and need help, contact ADLA TNR Program, Altered Tails or the Spay/Neuter Hotline or one of the other groups listed under "Feral/Community Cat/TNR Help" on our Resource Page. Do not take feral cats or kittens to the County shelter or Arizona Humane Society (which is not a no-kill shelter)--they could be put down immediately. The shelters are already overcrowded with too many "adoptable" animals and do not have or want to make room for ferals whose behavior make them unadoptable.

Additional information and answers to questions about feral cats can be found on the following websites:

Spaying/neutering domestic cats and friendly strays. If you are able to catch the cats easily and have them spayed or neutered yourself, there are a number of clinics that offer low cost spay and neuter services (see Resources page).

Removal/Relocation is Not Advisable. Unfortunately, we realize not everyone is a fan of the ferals and don't want them on their property. Alley Cat Allies has some very helpful handouts/downloads that provide more information about living with cats in the neighborhood, including tips for deterring them from your yard at this link:
While some people email us saying they "just want them gone" and expect someone to waive a magic wand to make them disappear, removing and/or relocating feral cats, especially those that are established in an area, is not recommended or easy to do. Sometimes it's because they lost a caretaker (illness, death, financial difficulties) or a kind-hearted neighbor starts feeding strays but fails to get the cats fixed. First, it is unfair and stressful for the cats, and secondly, there are very few options for placing feral/unsocialized cats. Kind to Nature's Cat Sanctuary is one of the few in Arizona that take these cats, but like others, we don't always have space for new intakes. We always recommend finding a no-kill rescue who might take any that are friendly/adoptable. But for those that are not, we offer guidelines and instructions as does Alley Cat Allies (see links below). Please be compassionate about ferals, even if you don't like cats or want them around, they are there through no fault of their own and deserve to be humanely treated. Whatever you do, do not employ a business advertising themselves as "pest control" and claiming they find placement for cats they trap. Rather, they often use inhumane methods of killing them or dumping them in the desert, drowning while still in the trap, etc. No living creature deserves what they do. Please always contact a local humane/no-kill rescue organization for guidance.



Many people do not realize how many un-neutered stray and feral cats populate our area. Ferals are not that visible because generally only come out at night and they have a longer breeding season here due to our mild climate resulting in a flood of kittens being born and found through the spring and summer months. Thus, it is very possible that you could come upon a litter of recently born kittens somewhere in your yard or neighborhood during that time. What do you do? Who can you call for help?

If you find motherless kittens - First - DO NOT ASSUME THEY ARE ORPHANED AND SCOOP THEM UP just because you don't see a mother around at the time. If they are in a relatively safe place, leave them be and wait to see if the mother returns within an hour. Like all wild animals, she has to go out searching for food so she can feed her babies. Monitor the situation the best you can without interfering. Of course, if the kitten or kittens are not in a safe location, move them to a better spot as close to the original location that you can. If they are in danger, then you have to move them. Keep an eye out for the mother though. It is always best for them to stay with the mother as long as possible rather than taking them away and then trying to have a human take care of them as infants -- that's a last resort you must take. Also, mom must be able to find them.

If they are newborns or obviously very young and need nursing, and mom does not appear after an hour or two (or you know something has happened to her sadly), THEY NEED TO BE RESCUED RIGHT AWAY. BABY KITTENS WITHOUT THE PROPER CARE WILL DIE WITHIN HOURS. If you have rescued or need to rescue orphaned kittens under 6 weeks old, special care and feeding will be required (more than just bottle/syringe feeding is needed). Contact your vet right away for instructions and take it or them in to be examined. If you do not have a regular vet, contact an emergency clinic near you (see Resource Page). In addition, Kind to Nature has literature available with specific instructions on taking care of very young kittens and we can refer you to a vet. Email info@kindtonature.com for instructions. If mom does show up later, you should try to reunite them if at all possible. See instructions below. AAWL is often a good source for taking baby kittens but you can also contact other no-kill cat rescue groups for help.

DO NOT take the kittens or a feral mother into the County Shelter or AZ Humane Society (or an ER clinic where they will be transferred to AHS). If they are feral, they could be euthanized right away -- cute kittens or not! Even if they are not, they might still be euthanized due to overcrowding at the shelters, inexperienced staff, a shortage of fosters and rescue partners also being full (especially during spring and summer months). Adults are sometimes released to a "community cat" program in unfamiliar territory which goes against all standard TNR procedures. Please seek assistance from your vet or a reputable no-kill rescue (Arizona – see Resource Page).

Feral Family If you have found a mother and her kittens. Ideally, it is always best to leave the kittens under their mother's care until they are at least 6 to 8 weeks old. But if they are NOT in a safe place, if possible, bring the mother and the kittens inside, or other confined location protected from other cats, dogs and children and where the kittens cannot roam freely (once they get their legs). However, if the mother cat is a feral, this will be difficult, and you must be very cautious not to scare her off or she'll move the kittens somewhere you can't find them. If they ARE safe from the elements, cars, other people, and predators such as dogs, hawks, and male tom cats, and can be easily monitored where they are, then leave them be, but do keep a vigilant eye on them and the mother. You want to give them all the benefits of their mother's care and feeding, but not let them become "feral" (wild). If mom will allow, start handling and talking to the kittens after the kittens are about a week old. The earlier you begin getting them used to human touch and sound, the better chance they have of being normal and, therefore, adoptable. If the mother is not used to you or not being fed by you, and will not let you near the kittens, you should start providing her with food to earn her trust. Gradually, stay a little closer each time she eats and talk to her. When the kittens start moving about, be sure they can't get into harm's way in your yard. After 3-4 weeks, you can begin putting wet food or dry soaked with some milk out for the kittens by there "home." Once they are weaned and eating the food you put out, you should catch the kittens and take them inside in a confined area, again, safe from other pets and potentially dangerous items. Continue to talk to them and handle them as much as possible so they will be "adoptable" or maybe you'll just want to keep them for yourself. I always encourage trying to adopt mother and kittens in pairs whenever possible. They will adjust easier to new surroundings, be happier, calmer, and have a built-in playmate. This is especially helpful if the adopter already has an older cat in their household. Please contact us for more tips on catching, domesticating and adopting cats and kittens. Never, ever offer an animal for free unless you know the person well who is adopting them (a list can be found on our Resources page).

Next, you must try to catch the mother cat and get her spayed before she has a chance to breed again. If you have been feeding her, you might be able to catch her by getting her used to eating in a carrier, then closing her in there. If she is really feral, you may have to use a trap. If you have a difficult situation, you can call ADLA TNR Program (602-265-7729) or Altered Tails (480-563-4351) for help in trapping and spaying the cat. Remember, though, that she will be returned to you to be cared for. Either way, be sure to have a plan in place and make your appointment before catching the cat and advise the vet of the situation, because you might not be successful the first time.

In Tucson, contact Tucson Feral Cat/TNR (https://www.facebook.com/TucsonFeral) for help. If you live outside the Phoenix or Tucson areas, contact Alley Cat Allies (www.alleycat.org) to find someone or a group in your area who can help. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also provides a good source of information about feral cats at www.humanesociety.org.

If the kittens are not adoptable when caught for some reason, you can easily learn how to domesticate feral kittens and semi-feral adult cats (true ferals can be adapted to living inside but probably never able to be handled). Save kittens and semi-friendly cats from living dangerous and difficult life on the streets. We have had success in adapting many to living inside exclusively both in our sanctuary and in teaching others how to do it. Please read the attached instructions and contact us for questions and guidance with specific issues.

Taming Feral Kittens

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