Wild, Feral and Stray Cat Problems
Feral cats can easily become a nuisance, and in some areas of the world are quite a major problem. The word “feral” means untamed or wild. Cats become feral, or wild, when they are bred outside the “normal” household setting and without human interaction and domestication. In most states, by definition, there are no feral cats, only stray cats let out by owners not obeying leash laws.
Australia in particular has a large feral cat problem, as well as states such as Wisconsin where you are allowed to utilize lethal methods, such as cat traps, to control them. Related concerns include rabies, fleas, ticks, lice, cat scratch fever and the damage they can do. Scratching posts for cats can be anything from the decorative pillars on your front porch, to your nice patio furniture. Their strong urine can easily destroy many metals and the smell will linger and also attract more cats too.
Most of the complaints we receive about feral cat problems are from people who had good intentions when they started feeding the one or two feral cats that showed up at their doorsteps. We typically get people wanting us to live trap and remove about one dozen cats when it gets cold outside and the cats, their kittens and all the skunks, raccoons, rats and opossums that also eat the cat food move under the crawlspace of their house.
There are many techniques to help control cat damage without using trapping or lethal methods. A motion sensing, infrared sprinkler can be utilized to break their habits as well as many other products on the market. Each specific situation can be very different. If cats are eating birds at your bird feeder, quit feeding the birds.
Feeding Cats Outdoors?
Feeding feral cats or house cats outdoors can quickly cause problems. In most cases, you can simply plan on changing the name “Fluffy” on the food bowl to “Bandito the Raccoon” or “Stinky the Skunk”, because that is who may end up at the outdoor buffet. Who else are you inviting to eat when you put cat food on the ground? That’s right – skunks, raccoons, opossum… rats, and mice will partake of the food, and that will invite snakes to pursue them. You just altered the eco-system because you wanted to do the right thing and feed the hungry cats.
If you must feed cats outdoors, place their food bowl on a pedestal table. The cats can jump onto the table, but because it is on a pedestal table, raccoons and many other wildlife species cannot access the food. Pedestal tables can be purchased at restaurant supply stores and many rummage sales.
Pedestal tables can also be inexpensively custom built by securing a threaded pipe floor flange to your deck or concrete and another floor flange on top of the threaded pipe to secure a board to. You can somewhat protect the food from the weather by affixing a box with a hole large enough for cats to enter and feed.
An electronic dog or cat door will certainly be of use when wildlife attempts to enter your home or garage floppy-style animal door. Prevention pays.
Trapping Cats – Dangers, Disadvantages and Cautions
If you have ever live trapped a cat, feral or not, you may know what can happen. Cats do not always appreciate traps and become frantic while in a trap. Bloodied faces, ripped out claws, cuts and scrapes will possibly occur. Our experience has forced us to not trap any cats unless it is absolutely necessary. We use thick leather gloves lined with Kevlar and they are reinforced with stainless steel bars – cats have, can and will bite right through these professional gloves. We would much rather handle an upset coyote or raccoon than a feral cat. Their erratic, unpredictable behavior, in our opinion, makes them more dangerous than any other animal we handle. If you do decide to trap nuisance feral cats, beware. You will also want to check local and state laws prior to trapping cats. It is not legal to do so in all areas. Just the same, even when it is legal – think twice. Besides the element of danger, the cat you trap may actually belong to somebody. You could also be sued for the value of that cat, or the cost of the associated veterinarian bills.
If you are trapping feral cats in order to have them taken to a feral cat colony or because you plan to have them “fixed” and released again (otherwise known as a “TNR program” Trap-Neuter-Return), place your traps on a pedestal table. When cat trapping, use a species specific lure such as Wild Cat. Placing this lure in the traps on tables will help you avoid “non-target” animals.
If you are in Oklahoma and in need of a cat rescue, dog rescue, TNR program information and other cat and dog rescue information, please check this list for possible cat and dog rescue contacts who may be able to assist you.
Animal control and feral cats
Animal control officers are underpaid, underequipped and underappreciated in most cases. The Skunk Whisperer®, Inc. says “Hats off” to Animal Control Officers all over the world for working with these unpredictable critters. Seeing cats going “crazy” in a trap – total self-destructive behavior – will make you think twice about trapping these animals, but many report never having a problem at all. It is a problem caused by humans. It is not the cat’s fault. Next time you see your local animal control officer truck drive by, be certain to wave, they’ve earned it.