What Happens to Feral Cats After You Move?

Before moving to a new home, you will have to take care of many things. Similarly, there are many things that you will have to leave behind, including feral cats that pay you a visit to enjoy the food that you put out for them. It can be exciting and stressful to start a new life in a new place, but what happens to feral cats after you move?

In general, feral cats will survive after the people feeding them relocate. After all, they are used to looking after themselves outdoors. They will have less food to eat, but feral cats still got their hunting and surviving skills. Leaving behind feral cats is better than relocating them.

Unlike stray cats, feral cats are not warm and friendly. Still, it’s possible for people to get attached to them because, after all, it’s not their choice to come into this world unaccustomed to human interaction.

Continue reading if you are about to move to a different home and you are torn between leaving feral cats behind and taking them with you.

Taking a stray cat when you move

It’s less stressful for stray cats to be moved to a different location than feral cats because they are accustomed to being around people. However, stray cats may attempt to look for their old home and could die in the process. Turning stray cats into indoor cats can help keep this from happening.

feral cat and suitcase
Image credit: Canva

Stray cats are friendlier by several times than feral cats, which is why it can be easy for any cat lover to get attached to these purring creatures and find it hard to part ways with them, such as when moving to a new home.

Fortunately, it is very much possible for stray cats to be taken by people when moving to a different location, mainly due to the fact that they have socialization skills — they are not going to have a hard time adjusting to a new environment or set of people.

In many instances, taking stray cats when moving is beneficial for them.

But before you take a stray cat with you, make sure that it doesn’t have babies relying on its breast milk for sustenance.

Kittens younger than six to eight weeks cannot survive without their mommy cat. Some of the telltale signs that a stray cat is nursing include swollen breasts and less fur around the nipples.

Also, check many times that the cat is not someone’s pet whose heart you will break!

This doesn’t mean, however, that feral cats cannot be taken when you move to a different house.

Young feral cats, in particular, can be taken to a different location as they can be socialized and trained, thus making them easier to adjust to their new home and family.

However, there is a time perfect for taking feral kittens with you.

Feral kittens are best taken with you at four to eight weeks of age. It’s also the best time to adopt them.

Especially if they are socialized and trained the right way, it can be easy to turn little feral cats into loving and affectionate pets.

They are nothing like their older feral counterparts that can be extremely difficult, if not completely impossible, to train. Needless to say, you can take with you young feral cats when you move to a new home.

Don’t feel sad and guilty for taking the feral kittens away from their mommy cat.

Since a mother cat is instinctually programmed to leave its little ones alone when they are old enough to take care of themselves, it will not grieve for its relocated kittens as a human mom does. It may miss her babies for a while alright, but it will soon move on.

It can be tempting to take with you the mother of the feral kittens, too. However, this is not really a good idea as it will do the mommy cat more harm than good.

Let’s take a look at why, most of the time, it’s not a good idea to take feral cats with you…

Is it cruel to relocate a feral cat?

Relocating feral cats is cruel in the sense that it will cause them unnecessary stress and anxiety to be placed in a location that they are totally unfamiliar with. Since they might try to go back to their old home, relocated feral cats could die in the process, which has been the case for many.

Many cat owners and lovers are familiar with trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs offered by animal shelters.

feral cat
Image credit: Canva

The premise of such programs is simple: Spay and neuter free-roaming cats for population control.

As the name suggests, TNR programs involve releasing stray and feral cats after being fixed.

But when it comes to releasing felines after spaying or neutering, there is one very important matter that needs to be carried out. And it’s none other than releasing the stray and feral cats where they were trapped or captured.

Stray cats are accustomed to the presence of humans because some of them were once pets. Some stray cats went missing, while others were abandoned by their owners.

Either way, the fact remains that stray cats have socialization skills that they can use to their advantage when they are introduced into a new environment.

For instance, if there is no food to hunt, stray cats will approach people to beg for food. Some of those they approach may take pity on them and decide to adopt them, which is very much possible since stray cats can become pet cats.

It’s a completely different story for feral cats — they would rather rely on their hunting skills than count on people, which they find terrifying.

However, feral cats may still take advantage of the food that people put out for them, provided that they are nowhere near. Alas, some people are cruel and won’t think about the welfare of feral cats.

The reason why relocating feral cats is a terrible idea goes beyond just food and water.

Feral cats can get attached to their outdoor home, which is why many of them will die where they were born.

Feral cats that are moved to another place will try to look for their previous home, and this is what makes it dangerous for them to be relocated. In their attempt to find their way back, they could die.

There are many things that could kill stray cats looking for their previous outdoor home.

One is being struck by automobiles, which is one of the two most common causes of death of feral cats (the other one is getting a disease).

But it’s not just speeding cars and deadly diseases that stray cats may encounter while attempting to return to their old home and feline friends, too.

Some other things that could kill them along the way include predatory animals and ruthless people. Feral cats may also die of hunger and exposure to the elements.

However, in some instances, feral cats may be relocated. And this takes us to this matter…

When should feral cats be relocated?

Feral cats should be relocated only when they are in imminent danger. Especially in an urban setting, there are many things that can endanger the lives of the felines. When relocating feral cats, proper protocols should be followed, although things could still go wrong during and after relocation.

It’s true that feral cats are homeless.

And it’s unlikely for them to have homes, too, like stray cats, as it’s really difficult to turn them into pets. While homeless, feral cats consider the outdoors as their home.

Like indoor cats, feral cats can get attached to their home, which is why it can be highly stressful for them to be taken to another place.

Although relocating them because of threats such as speeding automobiles, cat-killing stray dogs and heartless people is a good thing for feral cats, it can be a bad thing for them, too.

Besides being stressed, relocating feral cats to places they are not familiar with can leave them disoriented and feeling vulnerable.

It’s because of this why the majority of relocated feral cats will try to search for their old home. It’s while looking for it when the lives of relocated feral cats are placed in jeopardy.

Cats, including feral ones, have a homing instinct — an ability to return home from a great distance.

The very first study about the homing instinct of cats, entitled “Homing Powers of the Cat”, was published back in 1922.

In the said study, it was revealed that cats could find their way home if they were one to four miles away from it.

Since the homing instinct of cats is related to their distance from home, relocated stray cats may fail to find the alleyways or abandoned buildings where they grew up if they are several miles away from them.

Unfortunately, stray cats do not know this. Many relocated ones will attempt to embark on an impossible journey, growing old or dying prematurely in the process.

But since, in some instances, stray cats need to be relocated for their own benefit, such as for the reasons mentioned earlier, it’s of utmost importance to consider where they will be transferred.

There are certain things that need to be taken into account to keep the soon-to-be relocated felines safe, such as:

  • Relocating feral cats to rural locations. Compared to urban settings, there’s more space and safety available for feral cats. There are also more small animals and insects for them to hunt and eat. However, while there are fewer cars that could kill feral cats in rural locations, there are also fewer potential shelters from the elements and more predatory animals such as wolves, coyotes, snakes, eagles, hawks and owls.
  • Bringing the family members of feral cats. Besides their outdoor homes, feral cats get attached to their feline family members, too. This is why it’s a great idea to relocate feral cats together with cats that they are associated with. Being with felines that they get along with, relocated feral cats will have the confidence that they will survive so much better in their new home, thus keeping them from wanting to go back to their old one.
  • Transferring feral cats the right way. Unlike stray cats, it can be challenging to trap feral cats so that they can be transported to their new location. It can be stressful not only to the people trying to catch them but also to the felines themselves. Safety precautions should be taken when attempting to catch and transport feral cats. In some instances, the assistance of experts at the local animal shelter should be sought.
  • Confining feral cats for six to eight weeks. To minimize the risk of feral cats searching for their old home and potentially dying in the process, they should be confined in pre-installed large cages for several weeks, preferably up to two months, to get them used to the new location very well. Besides large cages, feral cats may also be confined in large, unused structures such as barns, horse stables, granaries and equipment sheds.

To save them from unnecessary heartaches, some people stop putting out food for free-roaming cats several weeks before moving so that they could start looking for other providers of food in the neighborhood.

And this takes us to a very important question regarding stray cats that needs an answer…

Will a stray cat starve if you stop feeding it?

Usually, stray cats will not starve if people stop feeding them. It’s because they are natural hunters just like feral cats and can improve their hunting skills. Stray cats are likely to stay in the same area if no one puts out food for them anymore, although they will expand their search for food.

kitten and milk
Image credit: Canva

Because feral cats have been hunting for food since they were born, it’s unlikely for them to go hungry. However, they may still go hungry if there is a shortage of prey to hunt and eat, such as during the wintertime.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for stray cats, the majority of which used to get food two to three times a day when they were still pets.

The good news is that while stray cats may go hungry if you quit putting out food for them, their hunting instinct will kick in, enabling them to look for food.

Here’s a wonderful idea: Since stray cats can be easily turned into pets, consider taking them with you to your new home. This way, there is one less thing for you to worry about.

What’s more, seeing some familiar whiskered faces can make starting your life all over again in a different home or location less daunting.

If taking the stray cats with you is not an option, fret not.

There are certain things that you may do to make sure that your four-legged friends will remain just fine even though you are no longer around to provide them with food and water regularly.

Some of them include:

  • Asking your neighbors to continue the good deed. Some of your neighbors could be cat lovers like you. Ask around and see which of them are willing to put out food for the stray cats. Some of them may even fall in love with the homeless furry animals and decide to adopt them.
  • Looking for people looking for cats to adopt on the internet. Take snapshots of the stray cats and post them on Facebook support groups and forum sites about animal welfare. Some of the members could be looking for stray cats to welcome into their respective homes.
  • Getting in touch with the local animal shelter. Especially if the stray cats are not yet spayed or neutered, it’s a good idea to ask the local animal shelter to spring into action. After getting fixed, the stray cats may be adopted out or released again, as part of a TNR program.

Just Before You Move to a New Home

Moving and leaving feral cats behind can be heartbreaking for any cat lover. Especially if you have grown fond of the felines even though they’re not that friendly toward you, parting ways with them can be saddening.

If you are about to move to a different home and it pains you to leave behind feral cats that you have been feeding for a while now, it’s completely up to you to decide between leaving the four-legged creatures behind and taking them with you.

Either way, the life of feral cats will never be the same again.

Leaving behind feral cats is the lesser of two evils.

It’s because the animals are so accustomed to their current outdoor home that they will likely survive so much better than when relocated — the feral cats might try to go back to their previous location and, in the process, could die because of cars, predators, cruel people, starvation and the elements.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.

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