Millions of cats spend their entire lives indoors without complaint. Feral, stray, and pet cats are all members of the same species; they are all domestic cats. But stray cats and feral cats are also different from each other in a very important way—in their relationship to and interactions with people.
Outdoor cats face more dangers than indoor cats, and this is why their lifespans tend to be shorter. They’re in danger of being hit by cars, ingesting something hazardous or encountering predators. You’re also more likely to notice health issues with your cat sooner if she’s living indoors. They’ve never been outside and have no desire to venture out. In fact, many become frightened if they accidentally wander out the door.
Although, Feral cats, are well-suited to living outdoors—usually in close proximity to humans—and can survive winter on their own. They are resilient and able to live and thrive in all varieties of locations, weather conditions, and climates. Feral cats can travel long distances. Scientists tracked a feral cat in the South Island high country that covered almost 6 km in one night.
Lifespan of an Indoor Feral Cat
Indoor feral cats can live to be 17 years or older. The average life expectancy for indoor cats, however, is closer to 14 years. If a feral cat survives kittenhood, his average lifespan is less than two years if living on his own. If a cat is lucky enough to be in a colony that has a caretaker, he may reach 10 years.
Preliminary data reveal that tom cats live the shortest, but neutering them increases their lifespan to that of a spayed female cat. Not all colony cats live to a ripe old age, but many live far longer than the urban myth projects.
The Life of an indoor feral cat
Before you bring a feral cat indoors, it’s important to have a room set up exclusively for the cat. You’ll want to include all the amenities the cat will need, including food, water, a litter box, scratching posts, and a few toys. Make sure you keep the food and litter box on opposite sides of the room from each other. While you want to keep this room quiet and just for the cat at first, you also want to spend time there every day to help the cat get used to your presence, even if you simply read out loud or talk on the phone.
Unlike pet cats which often don’t get on with other felines, feral colonies will often naturally develop. These are usually made up of groups of related females and the size of the colony is directly related to the availability of food, water and shelter.
A feral cat is “any cat who is too poorly socialized to be handled … and who cannot be placed into a typical pet home.” According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, there are between 60 million and 100 million feral cats in the U.S. They are usually the offspring of cats who were lost or abandoned by their owners, and they grow up not socialized to humans.
They should not be confused with stray cats which were raised as pets but have since been lost or abandoned. Although stray cats can be scared of people due to their experiences, they can often be rehabilitated and go on to live life as a pet again. Sometimes farm kittens will have been handled and treated well by farm workers and children – enabling them to adapt to life in the home. These kittens would also not generally be considered feral.
Why You Should Feral Cats Indoor
Here are some reasons to keep your cat inside:
- Be hit by vehicles
- Become injured from other cats, or attacked by other dogs or predators
- Contract deadly infectious diseases from other cats
- Get lost and/or picked up by Animal Control
- Poisoned by toxins, such as antifreeze or rat bait
- Contract parasites, such as fleas and ticks (and the diseases they can carry)
- Contact with environmental hazards, such as foxtails or other objects
- Hunt native wildlife, some of them species of conservation concern
- Unhappy neighbors may try to trap cats found littering their yards
- Theft, injury, or death from people with cruel intentions
Where do feral cats live Naturally?
Feral cats typically live in a colony – a group of related cats; and take refuge wherever they can find food—rodents and other small animals and garbage The colony occupies and defends a specific territory where food (restaurant dumpster or a person who feeds them) and shelter (beneath a porch, in an abandoned building) are available. Since feral cats typically fear strangers, it is very likely that people may not realize that feral cats are living nearby because the cats are rarely seen.
Feral cats often live in vacant lots, dodge cars, and eat from trash cans; face infection, disease, and an endless cycle of pregnancy; and suffer extremes in treatment and weather. The life of a feral, stray, or abandoned cat is often short, sometimes lasting for just two or three years. They will also try to seek out abandoned buildings, deserted cars, even dig holes in the ground to keep warm in winter months and cool during the summer heat.
How to Care for indoor feral cats
Some people view feral cats as pests. Thankfully, many more – particularly farmers, stable owners and smallholders – value them for their role as working mousers that protect grain and feed. A healthy feral colony can really help to keep the vermin levels down. Despite their wild nature, indoor feral cats still benefit from a certain level of care, including:
Neutering: This has major health benefits and keeps the colony size under control. Feral cats will need to be trapped in a humane cattrap before they are neutered because they are too wild to be handled. Once a feral cat is sedated or under anaesthetic, the vet can give it a health check and treat it for parasites. After neutering the cat is released back into its territory as quickly as possible – this is so the cat does not lose the communal scent and end up being rejected by other cats in the colony.
Regular feeding: Many feral cats are very resourceful and find adequate food, but it may be helpful to offer them extra help, especially in winter. Only offer food if the feral cats have been neutered. This is important because feeding unneutered cats increases the number of kittens that are born. It is also not in any cat’s interests to become fat and this is particularly true of feral cats as it affects their agility and chance of survival – so avoid overfeeding. Contrary to popular belief, regularly fed feral cats are better hunters than hungry ones.
Observation: It is helpful to observe colonies, so that any new unneutered, sick or injured cats can be promptly trapped and taken to the vet. Only minor ailments can be treated in feral cats and sometimes they have to be euthanased on welfare grounds if they have significant illness or injury.
Difference Between a Stray Cat and a Feral Cat
Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats that is the result of pet owners’ abandonment or failure to spay and neuter their animals, allowing them to breed uncontrolled. A feral cat is primarily wild-raised or has adapted to feral life, while we define a stray cat as someone’s pet who has become lost or has been abandoned.
Stray cats are usually tame and comfortable around people. A stray cat is a pet cat that is lost or abandoned. Stray cats are accustomed to contact with people and are tame. They will frequently rub against legs and exhibit behaviors such as purring and meowing. In contrast, feral cats are notably quiet and keep their distance. Stray cats will also often try to make a home near humans—in car garages, front porches or backyards. Most are completely reliant on humans as a food source and are not yet able to cope with life on the streets.