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Feral cats are the 'wild' offspring of domestic cats and are primarily the result of pet owners' abandonment or failure to spay and neuter their animals, allowing them to breed uncontrolled. Feral cat 'colonies' can be found behind shopping areas or businesses, in alleys, parks, abandoned buildings, and rural areas. They are elusive and do not trust humans.
Feral cats. They sleep in our parks, alleys, farmyards, barns and abandoned buildings. Cast off by their families or lost during forays to seek mates, unsterilized housecats eventually band together in groups called colonies. Mothers teach kittens to be wary of humans, to defend themselves, and they become feral. They make their homes wherever they can find food: near dumpsters and behind restaurants. If only meager scraps can be found, the colony will grow. And that's the problem.
An estimated sixty million feral cats live in the United States today. Local animal control often try to eliminate them by trapping and killing. This does not work. Instead of reducing their numbers, killing makes room for new cats to move in and the breeding process begins all over again. So does the suffering. Half of all kittens born into these colonies die soon after birth. Their mothers spend most of their lives pregnant and hungry. Unneutered tom cats roam across busy roads seeking mates, getting in fights: untreated wounds can eventually kill them.
Many people assume their animals will survive when they move away and leave them behind. Contrary to popular belief, domestic animals do not automatically return to their "natural" instincts and cannot fend for themselves! Already, U.S. animal shelters are forced to kill an estimated 15 million homeless cats and dogs annually. The alternative to humane euthanasia for almost every stray is a violent end or slow, painful death. Many "throwaways" die mercilessly outdoors from starvation, disease, abuse --- or as food to a predator.
A pair of breeding cats, which can have two or more litters per year, can exponentially produce 420,000 offspring over a seven-year period, And the overpopulation problem carries a hefty price tag. Statewide, more than $50 million (largely from taxes) is spent by animal control agencies and shelters for cat-related expenses.
In response to this staggering problem, the Feral Cat Coalition was formed by Sally Mackler and Rochelle Brinton DVM. The FCC is an organization that traps and spays/neuters feral cats, then returns them to their caretakers. This service is provided to the San Diego community at no cost by licensed veterinarians and volunteers with one goal in mind: reducing the enormous number of homeless, unwanted cats.
Modeled after successful programs in the United Kingdom and parts of Africa and Europe, Alley Cat Allies (ACA) advocates a trap-neuter-release program that stabilizes populations, reduces birth rates and improves the overall health of the colony.
And it works. Cat populations stabilize and with the support of sympathetic neighborhood volunteers, the felines live safely and peacefully within their territory. Typical feral problems such as yowling females and spraying toms are practically eliminated. The incidence of disease and malnutrition are greatly reduced.
Thousands of caring individuals all over the U.S. have spontaneously stepped forward to feed, neuter and watch over feral cat colonies. And for the first time, a national organization has been established to provide resources and support to these individuals.
Alley Cat Allies operates a network that links individuals together and helps educate the public on the humane techniques available for feral cat control. Co-founders Louise Holton and Becky Robinson have succeeded in bringing national attention to one of the most neglected animal welfare issues in the U.S.
Studies have proven that trap-neuter-release is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least possible cost to local governments and residents, while providing the best life for the animals themselves.
Spaying/neutering homeless cats:
Stabilizes the population at manageable levels
Eliminates annoying behaviors associated with mating
Is humane to the animals and fosters compassion in the neighborhoods
Is more effective and less costly than repeated attempts at extermination --- costs for repeatedly trapping and killing feral colonies are far higher than promoting stable, non-breeding colonies in the same location. Vacated areas are soon filled by other cats who start the breeding process over again
Spay or neuter your own pet!
Become a volunteer and encourage your personal veterinarian to become involved!
Tell people about the FCC! If someone you know is caring for stray, unowned cats let them know about their services. Education is the key, so make others aware of the feral cat problem and tell them how they can help!
If you are interested in starting a program in your area, contact the Feral Cat Coalition. They have detailed information that will help you get up and running....plus, some of it is just interesting reading. Most of their printed information is available by following the links below. If, for some reason, you are unable to take advantage of this information in electronic form, or if your needs extend beyond the scope of topics covered here, feel free to contact them at
Feral Cat Coalition,9528 Miramar Road #160, San Diego, CA 92126
For more information, please call our message center at
(619) 497-1599 (local calls only please), or send us e-mail
Alley Cat Allies, P.O. Box 397, Mt. Rainier, MD 20712
...A note for our 'anti-cat' critics.
...An excellent report on Trap/Alter/Release Programs by Karen Johnson
...Instructions for trapping feral cats
...An article by Sara Pehrsson from Cats Magazine August 1995
...An article by Susan Easterly from Cat Fancy Magazine November 1994
...Raising Orphan Kittens ...a helpful summary of tips for dealing with abandoned kittens
...Taming Feral Kittens ...a guide to taming and socializing feral kittens
... Comments by Dr. W. Marvin Mackie regarding the 'need for speed' in veterinary practices. (Needs to be read carefuly from top to bottom)
... The oft quoted study by Dr. Karl Zaunbrecher addressing the link between altering and feral population stabilization. (A MUST READ)
... A great article by Dr. David Zanders dispelling some common myths about Spay/Neuter.
... The Race To Outpace Feral Cat Over-population, a symposium presentation by Linda Kelson, Feral Cat Coalition board member.
...Feral Colony Management and Control ...a Fact Sheet from Alley Cat Allies
...Health Care For Feral Cats ...a Fact Sheet from Alley Cat Allies
...Notes For Veterinarians Treating Feral Cats ...a Fact Sheet from Alley Cat Allies
...Rabies and Feral Cats ...a Fact Sheet from Alley Cat Allies
...Relocating Feral Cats ...a Fact Sheet from Alley Cat Allies
... Build An Inexpensive Feral Cat Shelter ...a Fact Sheet from Alley Cat Allies
... Do-It-Yourself Cat Fence ...a Fact Sheet from Alley Cat Allies
... Feral Cats, New Environmental Witch-Hunt...a press release from Alley Cat Allies
... Why Feral Eradication Won't Work ...an article pointing out the problems with eradication programs.
... The American Feral Cat Problem ...an older, but still valid article.
... The Unsociable Cat ...are cats really solitary creatures?
... Action Alert ...National Geographic recently produced an anti-feral TV program. Please let them know what you think.
... Cat Fancier's Association ...Trap, Alter, Release informational article