Our Feral Work

Feral Cat: A cat born in the wild and never handled, living solitarily or in a colony (Feral cat manual)

In this section:

  • What we do
  • Cats looking for employment opportunities!
  • Feral FAQ’s
  • Notes from a Trappers Diary

What we do

Our Feral work is time consuming but very rewarding! See our Feral FAQs below for more information, and a blog from our Feral Trapper about work she has been doing…

In brief, we aim to trap feral cats (as far as time, resources and money allows), take them to a vet for a check up, give them any necessary vaccinations and then neuter (males) or spay (females) the cats, then after their recovery period in our feral pen we either return them to where they were found (if it is safe for them) OR find an alternative home at a farm, rural house or stables, where someone will offer to put food out for them and provide shelter in an outbuilding, as well as keeping an eye on their general health.

Feral /  Working cats are rewarding. If you have stables, farm, small holding, safe factory or even a large garden they will take care of any rodent problem in return for somewhere dry and safe to sleep and regular feeding. Cats hunt best when they are fed and healthy. Feral cats are wonderful to watch interact with each other and eventually, if allowed, find out and enjoy home comforts. Once you have gained the trust of a feral cat, they are a friend for life.

Cats looking for employment opportunities!

Looking for a great mouser? We may have just the cat(s) for you!

If you are able to offer a home to feral cats (eg. in a smallholding, farm or stables) please contact us, as we currently have  a number of feral and semi-feral cats in our care who need a home . We will work with you in settling them into their new home and if you have any questions we are just at the end of a phone line for ongoing support. We would appreciate a donation towards our feral work but we do not ask for a ‘minimum donation’ as we do for domestic cats.

Email Homing Co-ordinator

Feral FAQs

What Is a Feral Cat? A cat born and raised in the wild, or who has been abandoned or lost and turned to wild ways in order to survive, is considered a free—roaming or feral cat. While some feral cats tolerate a bit of human contact, most are too fearful and wild to be handled. Ferals often live in groups, called colonies, and take refuge wherever they can find food—rodents and other small animals and garbage. They will also try to seek out abandoned buildings or deserted cars—or even dig holes in the ground—to keep warm in winter months and cool during the summer heat.

What’s Life Like for a Feral Cat?

Simply put, it’s not easy. 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 dangers to feral cats. That said, feral cats who live in a managed colony—a colony with a dedicated caretaker who provides regular feedings and proper shelter—can live happily together.

What Is the Average Lifespan of a Feral Cat?

If a feral cat survives kittenhood, his average lifespan is likely to be less than two years if living on his own. If a cat is lucky enough to be in a colony that has a caretaker, he may reach 10 years.

Is There a Difference Between a Stray Cat and a Feral Cat?

Yes. A feral cat is primarily wild-raised or has adapted to feral life, while we define a stray cat as someone’s pet who has become lost or has been abandoned. Stray cats are usually tame and comfortable around people. They will frequently rub against legs and exhibit behaviours such as purring and meowing. In contrast, feral cats are notably quiet and keep their distance. Stray cats will also often try to make a home near humans—in car garages, front porches or backyards. Most are completely reliant on humans as a food source and are not yet able to cope with life on the streets.

What Is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?

TNR is the method of humanely trapping feral cats, having them spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies, and then returning them to a safe place (farm, stables, rural home..) to live out their lives with someone who provides food and adequate shelter and monitors the cats’ health. TNR has been shown to be the least costly, as well as the most efficient and humane way of stabilizing feral cat populations and it is part of our work here at Coventry Cat Group. One thing to be aware of though is that if you remove the cats from a site, it is likely that new feral cats will move in and claim that territory, so a stable neutered colony will be not only healthier for the cats but provide a more effective working population.

How Does TNR Help Feral Cats?

Through TNR, feral cats can live out their lives without adding to the homeless cat population. Furthermore, by stabilising the population, cats will naturally have more space, shelter and food, and fewer risks of disease. After being spayed or neutered, cats living in colonies tend to gain weight and live healthier lives. Spayed cats are less likely to develop breast cancer and will not be at risk for ovarian or uterine cancer, while neutered males will not get testicular cancer. By neutering male cats, you also reduce the risk of injury and infection, since intact males have a natural instinct to fight with other cats. Spaying also means female cats do not go into heat. That means they attract fewer tom cats to the area, reducing fighting. If cats are sterilized and live in a colony that has a caretaker, they may live more than 10 years. TNR also helps the community by reducing the number of kittens that would end up in their already overfull rescue shelters.

Can I Tame a Feral Cat?

While a feral cat might look exactly the same as a pet cat, they’re actually very different. Feral cats survive by avoiding close human interaction. When properly cared for, feral cats are happier outdoors in their own territory—they have their own hierarchies and are able to exhibit their natural behaviours. However, older feral cats can sometimes become friendly with the feeders and if allowed in to a house, will become part of the household. They will always be nervous but can often form strong bonds with the feeder.

What about Feral Kittens?

The mortality rate of Feral Kittens born outdoors is sadly very high. We do have some success with trapping, fostering and socialising feral kittens who are young enough to be able to learn to trust and interact with humans, and then finding ‘forever homes’ for them. We have specialised foster carers who are experienced in this work, and we look for adopters who will have a lot of patience as their shy kitten grows in confidence.

Feral FAQs – adapted from www.aspca.org

Notes from a Feral Trappers diary

This year like last has been busy with calls to our helpline asking for help trapping stray and feral cats.

In January I was called to a garden of a care home where a timid Mummy cat & her 3 kittens had taken shelter. As is often the way along with trapping the little family I caught a big bruiser of a Tom cat that turned out to be a big softy! He bore many battle scars, was in poor condition and it was obvious to us that he had been straying for several years – so we had him tested for Felv/Fiv. He was Fiv positive so an indoor home was found for him.

The care home had a resident tabby boy called Harry who also needed relieving of his “Pom-Poms” and after a few months he went to live with one of the care staff.

The Mummy cat and her kittens were brought round by James our feral fosterer who fell in love with them and decided they could live with him. A happy ending for this trapping job!

At the beginning of February 3 cats from a colony trapped last summer at a former Brick Works were homed as working cats on a small holding near to our Adoption Centre. Bob, Princess and Misty soon ventured out of their barn loft after the initial 4 week spell in working cages whilst they acclimatised to their new environment. They soon started turning up at the back door of the farmer’s Mums property at 6.30 sharp for their supper! We have regular updates from the farm workers, we hear the trio had a great summer ‘rabbiting’!

At the end of February another two cats from the Brick Works went as working cats on a stables. Benny and Thomas had paired up in our care and are now working pets for Brian who adores them and I receive regular updates about his “Boys”. Benny trots along beside Brian and meets visitors. Another successful working home.

In March we were called out anonymously to help a female that was pregnant with her 5th litter. We trapped the mum and 3 older kittens (after 4 days of trying). ‘Sheila’ as we called the mummy cat had her litter in comfort at Judiths, and the cats went on to be fostered and eventually homed.

In June we had a call from a man who had discovered a Mummy cat & her 3 kittens living at the bottom of his garden. The lovely Mummy cat had been living on birds obtained after visiting a neighbours bird feeder – when I trapped there were feathers everywhere! As often seems the way there was one kitten that just wouldn’t go in the traps …. until a very wet morning when I was called out by the householder to discover a very wet and bedraggled kitten sitting forlornly in a trap. I quickly transferred her to a crush cage then put her on the passenger seat of my car with the heater on to blow dry her on the journey to the adoption centre.

During the hottest part of July we had a call from a Builders Suppliers about a colony of mums & kittens. The men working on site were fond of the kittens and regularly fed them but realised it was too dangerous an environment for them. Additionally the numbers were increasing with 3 females in the colony and 7 kittens. It took me a week to trap the 11 strong colony, the soaring temps didn’t help as the wet food in the traps attracted flies and obviously the cats wouldn’t touch the food as soon as it went off. I must have made an amusing sight to the men, limp from the heat & tiptoeing through towering stacks of bricks trying not to spook the kittens lolling in the shade. I was jubilant when the last kitten went in the trap!

The only adult male from the colony, “Denzel” has been homed as a working cat & companion with a resident mouser called “Purdie”. Denzel has been described as a “Gentleman” by his new owner!

The colony from the Builders Suppliers had been used to men around the yard all the time so were semi feral at worst. In our care in the TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) Pens they have made tremendous progress with quiet, gentle encouragement from myself, Lin & Niamh who feed & muck them out. We believe in not rushing them & letting them calm down in their own time, crowding them & invading their space is not our way. They are beautiful cats and will be found quiet domestic homes.

Evie & Gilly are a bonded Mum cat & kitten from the colony that we decided could be brought round by James (feral tamer extraordinaire!) as they were more nervous than some of the others. In the week they have been with James Evie purrs and he can now pick her up. Evie and Gilly will be homed as a pair.

At the end of august I trapped a tiny black Mummy cat and her 3 equally tiny kittens from an overgrown garden in the rain (it’s always harder to trap in the rain, cats are sensible and keep where it’s dry!) This little family have made good progress and the 3 kittens plus a slightly older kitten they had bonded with found their forever home recently with a smashing couple.

Sometimes we are called out to a straight forward trap/neuter/return where a stray or semi feral cat needs to be neutered, microchipped and returned to where it came from (provided that it will be given shelter and food or even a home). “Scruffy cat” is one of these. He lives near a group home for people with special needs and is fed by the staff and residents who keep an eye on him to ensure he is okay.

October has seen me re-trapping at a Waste Recycle site where Angie and I did a TNR job at the end of last year. We returned a colony of 13 cats to be fed by a caring lady called Maggie who feeds them daily. Working homes have been requested for seasoned mousers & we have set up working cages for a group of 3 females to live on a farm/stables near our adoption centre. They will live out their lives surrounded by fields rather than skip Lorries.

Sadly, the Waste Recycle site is what I call “the gift that keeps giving” as new stray/ferals continue to join the colony un-neutered. Our work continues…..

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