Because feral cats are more active at night and eat the food put out for them only when people are not around, some regard them as pests, just like mice and rats. It’s no secret that pests can spread all sorts of health problems. Since feral cats are paying your property a visit regularly, you may be wondering if it’s safe for you and your family.
In general, not all feral cats are dangerous. Since they’re not tamed or socialized, feral cats will do everything to steer clear of humans. However, if anyone tries to pet them, feral cats may act aggressively because they feel the need to defend themselves or escape.
Feral cats are nothing like stray cats in the sense that they are not socialized and friendly toward humans. Still, they need food, and some will be more than willing to consume anything that people put out for them.
Continue reading if some feral cats are dropping by from time to time and you are offering them food and water.
Most especially if you’re a certified cat lover, you will learn that there is no need to see feral cats as massive threats.
How to Tell If a Cat is Feral
Just before knowing further why it’s unlikely for feral cats to put you in danger, it’s a must to know how to tell if the feral cat you are eyeing is indeed feral and not a stray or someone’s loving pet.
At first glance, you may have a difficult time figuring out whether a cat is feral or otherwise.
But by knowing some of the things to look for, you will find it easier to determine what sort of cat you’re looking at. It may be hard to tell apart feral cats from any other type of cats at first but, with practice, you will be able to spot a feral cat like a pro.
Here are some of the things that will help you know feral cats when you see them…
Feral cat does not meow at people
With the exception of kittens, cats do not meow at one another — they only meow at humans to communicate.
House cats and stray cats will meow at people when they want some food or wish to play. They will do the same if they are feeling extra friendly. On the other hand, stray cats will rarely meow at people.
Even if they are hungry, feral cats will refuse to meow at people to beg for food. However, it doesn’t mean that they do not appreciate people putting food out for them. Feral cats still need to eat, and food is food no matter where it’s from.
But it’s when you are no longer near or in sight only that feral cat will eat the food you gave them.
They have defensive body language
Also called “negative body language”, defensive body language makes it easier for cats to protect and defend themselves from potential threats, including humans.
Feral cats rarely walk like house cats or even stray cats, such as with their tails up, which is a telltale sign that they feel happy and confident.
What feral cats do most of the time is stay low to the ground — crouching and crawling keep them from being easily seen by anything they are trying to stay away from.
It’s also not unlikely for the tails of feral cats to be wrapped around their bodies as a form of a shield.
Feral cats more active when the sun goes down
Cats tend to spend 12 to 20 hours catching some shut-eye. Feral cats prefer to take a trip to dreamland during the day and go about their everyday tasks, such as mating and hunting for food, at night.
A couple of reasons exist why feral cats are more active in the nighttime.
First, many small animals that feral cats like to hunt and eat are nocturnal, such as mice and rats.
Second, there are fewer people around in the nighttime, which means that feral cats can worry less about potential threats and freely rummage through trash cans for food.
However, you may also encounter some feral cats in the middle of the day from time to time.
They often look cleaner and neater than stray cats
Refrain from assuming that feral cats look dirty and unkempt just because they are living outdoors. In fact, they are some of the cleaner and neater free-roaming cats that you can spot.
Feral cats are so accustomed to their lifestyle that they don’t have to spend a great deal of their time wondering where to look for food or where to sleep. Any free time these felines have, they devote to grooming themselves.
However, many feral cats tend to have lots of wounds, scars, and bald spots, especially alpha males and moms that get into fights always.
On the other hand, stray cats generally look more soiled and disheveled than feral cats.
They appear healthier, too
Besides looking neater and tidier than stray cats, feral cats also tend to appear healthier than stray cats.
That’s because they don’t have a hard time looking for food to eat — feral cats are phenomenal when it comes to hunting for food, whether the kind that has eyes and tails or edibles that people throw in trash cans and dumpsters.
In contrast, stray cats, especially those that have been lost or abandoned not too long ago, are not very good at hunting. Most of the time, stray cats will approach humans to ask for food.
Despite being excellent predators, feral cats may have a hard time searching for food, too, such as in winter.
Feral cats may live with their pack
One of the things that separate feral cats from stray cats is that they are not social creatures. Needless to say, feral cats do not like interacting with humans, although a few of them have friendlier personalities than the rest.
With the exception of lions, wild cats are generally solitary predators. And because feral cats are related to wild cats, they can live alone, too.
However, some of them prefer to live with their pack, consisting of family members and close friends. This is why you may, from time to time, come across a bunch of cats in an alley.
Most feral cats feel safer in their territory if they have other felines helping them to defend it.
They likely have the tip of their ears clipped
It’s very much likely for you to encounter feral cats with the tips of their ears missing.
No, it’s not because of fights with other feral cats or encounters with cat-killing dogs and other predatory animals. It’s what’s called ear-tipping, which is typically performed as a part of trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs by animal shelters.
Clipping the tip of the ears of spayed or neutered free-roaming cats makes it easy to tell that they are already fixed. Animal shelter workers can save a great deal of their time and energy by not having to capture and inspect them.
Stray cats’ ears are unlikely to be clipped even if they are fixed as their previous owners didn’t want them ear-tipped.
Are Feral Cats Dangerous to Humans?
Feral cats are hardly dangerous to humans. They are known to scratch and bite alright, but it’s rare for feral cats to attack humans unless really necessary, such as when threatened or cornered. Since they are aloof, it’s rare for the parasites and diseases they have (if any) to be passed to humans.
According to a review of cat-associated diseases that appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine back in 2002, cats, even feral ones, should not be considered vectors for transmitting diseases.
It’s true that some feral cats can carry bacteria, viruses, parasites and others that can affect their health and the health of those that can get them from infected feral cats, such as humans.
Problems that may stem from them include rabies, cat scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, salmonellosis, roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms.
However, since feral cats tend to stay away from people, it’s very rare for you to end up dealing with those health issues if there are feral cats visiting your property to enjoy the food that you put out for them.
But for your safety, ensure that you carry out some preventive measures.
For instance, after providing feral cats with their food and water or petting them (some friendly feral cats may allow people to pet them), wash your hands with soap and water before preparing your food and eating.
You may also put on a pair of gloves when tending to your garden.
It’s also a good idea to avoid touching, petting or carrying feral cats, especially those whose pupils dilate, tails puff up, ears flatten and growl when you come too close to them.
That’s because you may end up getting scratched and bitten by them, which can lead to an infection if you fail to cleanse and disinfect the problem areas.
Feral cats appreciate the food you put out for them. They also appreciate you not petting them.
When taking feral cats to the local animal shelter to have them spayed or neutered, ensure that you protect yourself while at the same time keeping the furry animals out of harm’s way. The goal is to keep their stress and anxiety levels to a minimum and also keep them from getting hurt or injured.
Sometimes, you may have to simply leave the job to the people at your local animal shelter.
Are Feral Cats Dangerous to Dogs?
Feral cats are rarely dangerous to dogs. That’s because dogs are generally bigger and more aggressive, too, especially if they don’t like felines, which will scare feral cats away. However, feral cats may also try to defend themselves by biting and scratching dogs, but usually only as a last resort.
Before anything else, let’s establish the fact that feral cats are highly territorial animals. Besides staying in their territory even when there’s little or no food available, they will protect it at all costs.
It’s because of this why feral cats may attack dogs if the canines involved have stepped foot inside their territory.
And since feral cats tend to live in packs, it’s very much likely for the members of the pack to spring into action, too, and drive away from the dogs that have wandered off into their territory, especially if there are helpless kittens around.
There’s strength in numbers, but feral cats can operate on their own.
For instance, once, a dog owner and his or her dog were attacked by a feral cat while taking a walk. There is a huge possibility that the two of them entered the territory of the feline perpetrator, and thus its territorial instinct kicked in and assailed the two of them.
Just in case the same thing happened to you and your dog incurred a scratch or bite, it’s a good idea to bring your canine companion to your trusted vet right away.
It’s because there are infections and diseases that feral cats can transmit to dogs by means of their scratches and bites.
Besides scratches and bites, dogs may also get fleas from feral cats.
The problem with cat fleas is that it’s not just feline blood that they can drink but canine blood, too.
So, in other words, if a feral cat that visits your property has fleas and you have a dog, your dog can get fleas from your frequent visitor, especially if you allow your dog to spend some time outside your home.
Are Feral Cats Dangerous to House Cats?
Feral cats are seldom dangerous to house cats. In fact, they may interact with one another. However, house cats may obtain fleas and other parasites and diseases from feral cats. This is when the presence of feral cats can become a serious problem. Similarly, feral cats may mate with house cats.
While feral cats and your pet cats may get along quite well, it’s not really a good idea to allow them to come into direct contact with each other.
That’s because there are many diseases that house cats can get from feral cats. Some of them include serious ones such as feline leukemia virus, panleukopenia and calicivirus.
The good news is that if your pet cats are vaccinated, you should not worry about them getting sick.
If you are planning on adopting feral kittens, which is very much possible, provided that you welcome them into your life at four to eight weeks of age, make sure that you take them to the vet right away. By getting them checked and vaccinated, your indoor cats can be kept out of harm’s way.
Besides your pet cats potentially catching an infection or a disease from feral cats that visit your property regularly, there is one more issue that you need to worry about: Your furballs might breed with the feral cats.
If your pet cats are not fixed and the feral cats that you put out food for do not have clipped ears, it’s very much possible for them to mate with one another and have kittens. Feral cats that have undergone trap-neuter-return programs provided by animal shelters have the tip of their ears clipped, a process called ear-tipping.
This is when the sheer importance of having your pet cats spayed or neutered comes in.
Similarly, it’s a good idea to get in touch with the local animal shelter to have the feral cats you feed undergo the TNR program.
Worry not — after they are captured and sterilized, the feral cats will be released again exactly right where they were trapped, which means that you will still be able to see and feed them.
Feral cats are hardly ever dangerous to humans.
Similarly, they are rarely dangerous to house cats and dogs.
Most of the time, feral cats will steer clear of people as well as animals, especially if they are well aware that they are not in their territories — feral cats feel safer and more confident when they are in their territories and with their pack, too.
It’s true that some feral cats may carry parasites and diseases, some of which can be passed on to humans. But since feral cats are terrified of humans, it’s very rare for you to get health-related problems from them.
Unfortunately, feral cats may interact with house cats, and some of them could be your four-legged pets. Because it is very much possible for feral cats to spread fleas, bacteria and communicable disease to stray cats and house cats, too, the health of your pet cats could be placed in peril if feral cats pay your property a visit.
Keeping your pawed pals indoors can help keep their risk of getting something from feral cats to a minimum. And even if there are no feral cats around, your pet cats may still get parasites and infections outdoors.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.