I have recently received some questions about feral cats, what TNR is and why we do it so I thought I'd do a little FAQ post to try and explain. If you have any questions not addressed here, please ask in the comments or in an email!
Disclaimer: These answers are based on my experiences. Others might have different opinions and experiences.
Questions about Feral Cats
Q: What are feral cats?
A: There are some different definitions of feral cats, but for our purposes they include any cat who lives outside completely separate from humans. They do not trust humans and can usually fend for themselves pretty successfully. Feral cats can live long, happy lives and deserve to be treated with respect as a wild animal, rather than a pest. Cats are very interesting creatures because they remain so close to their wild selves. Some ferals could have been born in a house but turned feral after being dumped and no longer trust humans. Others were born outside and for some quirk of their personality decide they would rather be house cats! Kittens born to feral cats, if caught early enough (typically before 8 weeks), can be perfectly sweet and normal pets. Another name for this type of feral is "community cats".
Q: Why don't you try and find them homes?
A: While it is possible to turn an adult feral cat into a pet, it is not recommended unless the cat has made some clear signs it is friendly and could be trusting of humans. A truly feral cat will find being confined to a house and living in the company of people extremely stressful. Cats are very territorial and resistant to change. Socializing a feral adult is a long and trying process, and when there are so many pet cats in need of a home in shelters and rescues, it is not responsible to try and rehome ferals when they can be happy and healthy where they are. As I will try to make clear in the coming weeks with stories and pictures, these cats actually have it pretty good at Dove Pond.
Q: Don't they disturb the natural wildlife?
A: To an extent, but at Dove Pond the cats are very well fed by neighbors. If you keep them with tummies full of cat food, it's less likely they're going to be hunting for wildlife. The animals they might still kill would be mice and rats who cross their paths. For centuries cats have been used as pest control and living near a feral colony could be beneficial in that respect. Also, through vaccinating we are limiting their ability to spread disease, and neutering lessens their temptation to wander and disturb other areas and creatures.
Q: Do they spread disease?
A: Potentially, but TNR is aimed at reducing that possibility. Rabies shots are given to every trapped cat, and I also give mine vaccinations for panleukopenia (feline distemper), calivivirus, and feline viral rhinotracheitis, and sometimes FeLV. None of these diseases, besides rabies, is dangerous to humans.
Q: What do feral cats look like?
A: They look like regular cats. They don't usually look