Magnificent Mutts Rescue has joined the movement of educating the Berkeley/Hillside community on feral cats, and helping others to care for those feral cats that are in their communities. With the help of private grants and partner veterinarians, we are hoping to assist in the care of at least 25 feral cats this year alone, with that number growing as we grow in the program each year.

Our first set of feral kittens come to us at the age 12 weeks with their mom approximately 1 year old. A homeowner notified us that there was a set of 4 kittens and a mother cat roaming the area. The homeowner was able to finally trap the family and brought them into Magnificent Mutts. Upon receiving the family, we knew they were feral (see below for more information on a feral cat is), and therefore determined it would be best to have them become a part of our TNR program. Where we will now test all for FIV/Fluek (feline diseases), administer all necessary vaccinations, spay and neuter, and release them back into the community. In addition to all the medical expenses being covered by us, we will also be helping to provide food subsidy to the homeowner for his continued care of the family.

We are hoping to share with the community the education on feral cats, and what it means to take care of a healthy cat colony. Below are some frequently asked questions regarding feral cats, the TNR program, and cat colonies in general, found from the Alley Cat Allies website. Alley Cat Allies was really the first of its kind in the TNR programs, therefore we have used them as a resource in addressing some of the FAQ we think you might have.

Any questions or comments or to see how to donate to our TNR program please contact us.

To see if you qualify for the assistance program in caring for your feral cat community please contact us.

What is a feral cat?

A feral cat is a cat who has either never had any contact with people or her contact with people has diminished over time. She is not socialized to people and survives on her own outdoors. Most feral cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors.

Outdoor cats have existed alongside humans for 10,000 years. They are not a new phenomenon. Feral cats are members of the same species as pet cats and are therefore protected under state animal anti-cruelty laws. The difference between feral cats and your pet cat is that they have had little or no contact with people, and so they are wary of us, and cannot be adopted. They have a home outdoors. They live and thrive in every landscape, from the inner city to rural farmland. Since feral cats are not adoptable, they should not be brought to animal pounds and shelters, because there they will likely be killed.

Where do feral cats come from?

Feral cats are not a new phenomenon. Outdoor cats are part of our rich history in this country and worldwide.

Cats have been living among us here in the U.S. for hundreds of years. Feral cats are domestic cats. Feral cats thrive in every type of environment, urban, suburban and rural. Some feral cats are offspring of house cats. Yet, not until the last two decades has there been accessible and affordable spay and neuter services for cats. And, until recent years, early-age (kitten) spay/neuter was not practiced (kittens go into heat between 4 and 6 months and traditional conventional-wisdom was to spay a cat at 6 month of age.)

Domestic cats came into existence about 10,000 years ago, when humans began farming. According to scientists, cats are one of the only animals who domesticated themselves choosing to live near humans to feed on the rodents attracted by stored grain. Evolutionary research shows that the natural habitat of cats is outdoors in close proximity to humans and that is how they have lived ever since. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1940s and the invention of cat litter that “indoors only” for cats was even a concept.

What is Trap-Neuter Release (TNR)?

Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane, effective approach for feral cats. Feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol of a neutered and vaccinated cat), and then returned to their outdoor home. Socialized cats and kittens are adopted into homes. The colony population stabilizes no more kittens! Trap-Neuter-Return improves their lives and their relations with the community: the behaviors and stresses associated with mating stop.

Isn’t it unsafe for feral cats to live outside?

The outdoors is the natural habitat for feral cats, and empirical evidence indicates they can live long and healthy lives: a 2006 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that of 103,643 stray and feral cats examined in spay/neuter clinics in six states from 1993 to 2004, less than 1% of those cats needed to be euthanized due to debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious diseases.

In addition, the lifespan of feral cats compares favorably with the lifespan of pet cats. A long-term study (published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2003) of a Trap-Neuter-Return program noted that 83% of the cats present at the end of the observation period had been there for more than six years—meaning that the cats’ lifespans were comparable to the mean lifespan of 7.1 years for pet cats.

Feral cat caregivers can take steps to make feral cats more comfortable, like neutering them, feeding them, and providing shelter. These steps promote the cats well-being, improve their relationships with neighbors, and assist the people who live nearby to understand and co-exist with the cats. But most feral cats don’t require intervention beyond Trap-Neuter-Return.

Why can’t feral cats be socialized and then adopted into homes?

A feral cat is a cat who has either never had any contact with people or her contact with people has diminished over time. They are not socialized to people and cannot be touched, except sometimes by a regular caregiver.

The ideal window for socializing feral kittens is 12 weeks of age or younger; beyond 12 weeks, feral cats may never socialize completely or at all. As a result, we do not recommend attempting to socialize feral cats older than 12 weeks it is dangerous and stressful for both you and the cat. Feral cats live healthy lives in their outdoors homes and the best thing you can do to help them is Trap-Neuter-Return. Outdoor cats that are friendly and socialized to people are called stray cats, and they can be re-homed.

Why doesn’t removing feral cats from an area work?

Animal control’s traditional approach for feral cats ”catching and killing”is endless and cruel, and it does not keep an area free of cats. Cats choose to reside in a location for two reasons: there is a food source (intended or not) and shelter. Because of a phenomenon called the vacuum effect, when cats are removed from a location, survivors of the catch and kill effort and new cats who have moved in breed to capacity. Cats have been living outside alongside people for 10,000 years a fact that cannot be changed.