A feral cat is typically the wild offspring of a domestic cat, or a domestic housecat who was abandoned and over time has become un-socialized and extremely fearful of humans.
Feral cats are present in every community, and it is almost impossible to rehabilitate and re-socialize them so they can become a part of a family, unless there is intervention at a young age. Like wild animals, they should not be handled without following instructions from feral cat groups or shelters. Learn how to help a feral cat.
A traditional shelter is not a good place for adult feral cats because they are extremely afraid of humans. Their instinct to escape at all costs can make them dangerous to handle and puts them at risk for injuring themselves.
PAWS is equipped to take in only potentially adoptable cats, and therefore, we do not accept feral cats at our shelter for adoption. Feral cats brought into PAWS are typically euthanized.
Feral kittens can often eventually be adopted into homes, but they must be socialized at an early age. The first few weeks of their lives are critical, and if they aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable. Most feral kittens brought to PAWS are first placed in our foster care program to be socialized and assessed for adoptability.
These cats usually congregate near restaurants, shopping centers, parks, dumps, or in rural areas and often live in loose groups called colonies, but you’d be surprised where they will call home. Since they usually go out of their way to avoid human contact no one knows the exact feral cat population of the United States, but it is estimated that there are millions. It is estimated that thousands live in the greater Puget Sound region.
While some feral cats seem to fair well without human intervention, many of them may have short, painful lives and often die from disease, malnutrition, exposure, car accidents, or predation. People who regularly help feral cats are usually referred to as caregivers or humane trappers.
PAWS rents out humane cat traps if you want to do trap-neuter-release or need to trap an injured cat. Relocation of feral cats is not recommended unless their safety is in danger.