National Feral Cat Day: What You Need To Know

(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

It’s National Feral Cat Week and Friday is National Feral Cat Day. Here’s what you need to know.

Whether you call them stray felines, outdoor cats, or community kitties, one thing is for sure — feral cats are still one of the most misunderstood animal groups in the United States.

Feral cats — independent cats who live and hunt outside, cats who are not socialized to humans — are nothing new. In fact, outdoor cats who hunt small game have been around for nearly 10,000 years. Misconceptions about feral cats wiping out entire populations of wildlife, such as songbirds, sometimes contribute to a kind of prejudice against feral felines.

These unsocialized kitties don’t fare well at shelters. When feral cats end up at the local pound, they are deemed unadoptable and are very often euthanized as a result.

Slowly but surely, however, there is a movement towards not only accepting the feral cat colonies that call our neighborhoods home, but towards caring for these outdoor cats, cats who provide a service by driving down the rodent population for the homes and businesses in communities all across the country.

“There’s a sea change in how our nation’s cities are approaching cats whose homes are the outdoors,” explains co-founder of U.S. feline advocate group Alley Cat Allies, Becky Robinson.

Founded in 1990, Alley Cat Allies has made caring for and reducing the population of feral felines their mission. That’s why, in 2001, they started National Feral Cat Day. National Feral Cat Day is a day of awareness aimed at educating the public about the outdoor cats in their communities.

The Alley Cat Allies are also responsible for introducing the concept of Trap-Neuter-Return (also called Trap-Neuter Release, or TNR for short) to shelters, rescues, and local government agencies.

“Hundreds of municipal and private shelters and animal control agencies have Trap-Neuter Return and abandoned the cruelty of ‘catch and kill.’ Communities are seeing firsthand that these innovative programs really work,” Robinson explains.

Dr. Gene Mueller, manager of the Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) in Kent, Washington, tells KING5.com urges the public not to forget about their communities feral cats this National Feral Cat Day.

“While the best place for a cat is indoors with a loving family, that’s not always possible for cats that aren’t used to living with people,” Dr. Mueller explains.

RASKC’s “Barn Cats R Us” program is turning the tides for the feral cats in their community, says Dr. Mueller. Volunteers humanely trap these outdoor felines, get them spayed or neutered, and then make efforts to rehome the cats where they can be cared for and where their talents for rodent hunting can be put to good use. The “Barn Cats R Us” program has placed working cats in barns, garages, and other local businesses, says Dr. Mueller.

“Outdoor cats provide totally natural, organic mouse and rat control,” he explains. “Barn cats tend to hide from humans, and except for the occasional dead rodent they leave behind, you’ll rarely see any evidence of them.”

Star of Animal Planet’s “ My Cat From Hell,”cat behavior expert Jackson Galaxy, recently recorded a Public Service Announcement (PSA) as part of the Alley Cat Allies mission to educate people about feral cats. Galaxy credits TNR programs for helping to keep the feral cat population in many areas under control.

“TNR helps reduce the number of cats being killed in our shelters each year,” Galaxy tells OregonLive.com, “and that’s something we all want.”

Robinson says while much progress has been made, there is still a long way to go in her organization’s mission to save feral cats.

“Although more than 330 local government have ended ‘catch and kill’ and embraced TNR, there is still much more work to be done to spread this positive change,” says Robinson.

For more information about National Feral Cat Day, or for tips on how you can help care for feral cats in need, check out the Alley Cat Allies website at AlleyCat.org.