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Feral Cats: Assessing Solutions

Updated on January 18, 2018
Examining the Issues, Exploring the Options
Examining the Issues, Exploring the Options | Source

How to Keep Feral Cats Out of Our Gardens?

Questions about feral cats range from wondering what the definition of the term is to how we can best deal with their behaviors.

Examining the issues surrounding their needs and considering ideas for managing them for the good of all concerned is important, and not difficult.

On the lookout for feral cats that have stalked her in the past.
On the lookout for feral cats that have stalked her in the past. | Source

New Orleans has Largest Number of Feral Cats in the USA

What Options are There for Feral Cat Problems?

Feral cats are commonly called stray cats, alley cats, barn cats, and sometimes abandoned cats. There is a difference between an abandoned cat and a feral cat, but it does not take long for an abandoned cat to become a feral cat which is technically a true wild cat, even though they may live near people and look to them for food when they can.

A happy solution for a feral cat problem is to find it a home to live in, but that would require ideal conditions and life simply isn’t that convenient. Finding good homes for them would be wonderful, yet doing so is generally not possible.

Short term solutions are possible. If a feral cat comes close to people a spray bottle filled with water will chase them away and a water hose can help from a distance, but with both of these ideas homeowners have to be ready when the cat comes around and the result is not long-lasting.

Crumbling dried herbs like


• citronella

lemon balm

• mosquito plant


• peppers


throughout outdoor areas can be helpful, but the logistics of keeping any effort like that up every day speak for themselves. After a day or two and after a rain feral cats often return to check out any area they found to be safe in the past.

On porches and around gardens it is quite helpful to have those herbs growing in pots if you can afford to buy and maintain the amount needed to do the job, but that is not a year round solution. There are also electronic devices that supposedly help a homeowner out, but reports on how well they work vary considerably.

Rome has Largest Population of Feral Cats in the World

There are organizations in some communities like the one highlighted in my last video located just above the comments section that offer more aggressive options. Be sure to check those groups out with local authorities before contacting them. TTVAR, a trap, test, vaccinate, alter, and release strategy, is just one of the programs they use to help feral cats.

The most permanent solution too often comes through animal control. Because feral cats can carry various diseases that are dangerous to people and pets, animal control agencies have to be available. It is a serious matter that fleas and ticks from these cats have the potential to spread disease among other animals and people.

The facts about diseases like toxoplasmosis (a parasite with the ability to greatly harm or kill humans), infectious wounds from fighting and from vehicle injuries, Bartonellosis (or cat scratch disease which can make a person sick for a year or more), rabies (currently uncommon in cats), FIV and FeLV require a hard look at the reasons animal control could be required.

An effective solution for dealing with feral cats is critical for justifiable reasons. When they carry those diseases time will eventually take care of their problem, but much damage is done in the process, including the possibility of mutation of some of the diseases which will eventually make treatment more difficult for all cats.

The reproductive rate for cats is incredible and the suffering they can endure, including the cannibalization of the kittens by toms, is heartbreaking. As well, coyote populations are on the rise and they consider feral cats good prey. Feral cats feeding those growing packs has its own set of problems.

Patiently seek a good and kind solution. Do not react thoughtlessly when trying to help feral cats (or any other animal).

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This kitty does not like surprises!Nor does this kitty like being photographed!
This kitty does not like surprises!
This kitty does not like surprises! | Source
Nor does this kitty like being photographed!
Nor does this kitty like being photographed! | Source

Education means that we can be ready to offer or get appropriate help!

Considering Whether go Talk go Neighbors About Feral Cat Problems?

Attempting to talk to anyone responsible for feral cats being in your area requires careful consideration. It is important to determine their attitude by finding out whether they encourage the animals but are unwilling to spend the time and money to do what must be done to solve the problems.

These people may feed them so they won’t starve, but refuse to give them the care they need if they are going to roam freely. Being unwilling to pay vet bills and provide housing, some leave the cats at the mercy of the elements and their diseases, as well as their circumstances with other animals and even people who would hurt them, consequently doing more harm than good.

The question of whether to talk to neighbors might be easy if you know them well enough, but if not, it would be wise to think carefully about all of the possible responses they could have. Talking to them could create bigger problems for neighbors than the feral cats themselves.

They may respond with anger, and then they may respond in any number of other ways. We like to think better of people than this, but decent people have faced unfortunate responses when they’ve tried to reason with and even work with neighbors to deal with feral cats.

Need to Find Help for a Feral Cat Problem?

Start with finding out what the law about feral cats is in your community. Some animal control agencies and humane societies can put citizens in touch with organizations that will take in feral cats. There are even some individuals who take donations so they can care for cat populations in their home and on their own property.

Keep in mind that some of those groups require you to pay for a cat’s treatment by a vet or humane society before they can take it in. When you consider the number of feral cats a colony can have, it’s not hard to understand why people cannot always go that route. As well, the organizations may provide some help, but even they cannot care for all of the feral cats.

Problems with animals don’t always have the most desired solutions, but taking a frank look at the options helps us decide what the wisest course of action is for the people and animals concerned. Calling animal control is never an easy decision, but many problems in life require firm resolve in order to figure out the best action to take.

A realistic look at the consequences of refusing to take action helps us do what needs to be done. One conservative report is that the USA stray cat population now approaches 350,000. They and their offspring can produce 420,00 more cats in 7 short years since kittens can begin reproducing at age 5 months. Other reports indicate that these numbers are much higher.

There are two sides to the main issue, but we have a responsibility to look beyond our feelings and embrace the best course of action after considering all aspects of the concerns regarding feral cats. Obviously, patiently seeking a good and kind solution for the need rather than reacting thoughtlessly is what will be most helpful.

However, it is important to ask how long anyone should run the risks involved with having even one unattended feral cat roam a neighborhood. We can be ready to get appropriate help by setting initial feelings about the cats aside, getting educated about the issues involved, unpacking and sorting out the complicated feelings that can result from facing the issues, and becoming familiar with the kind of help that is available where we live.

Have you ever dealt with a feral cat's behaviors?

See results

Fox After Cat

Learn More About Shelters Before Using Them

Begin with information that provides a bigger picture so you can know what questions to ask. What about the so-called no-kill shelters?

Make a Vet Appointment Before Trapping a Feral Cat

Want More Information on Keeping Feral Cats Out of Your Yard?

The first 4 links offer important information on organizations and the last 4 include reports on different aspects of the issues related to keeping feral cats out of your yard:

Humane Society

Feral Cat Coalition

Operation Catnip

A Feral Cat Analysis

National Geographic

Feral Cat Blog!

One City's Plight

An Entire Colony of Feral Cats can be Trapped and Treated

Cats at Home:

• Make sure you know how to care for your cat.

• A tea leaf planter for growing herbs above stray cats.

Barn cats are part of what draws this character's heart home.

Do You Know of Other Organizations that Offer Help to Feral Cats? Add Their Link to the Dialogue Below:

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey


      You are most likely right, since the cat is not very friendly. In trying to find food and shelter it may have run into some unfriendly humans at some point.

      I did not hear about that Oklahoma incident, but it is very interesting. That a Tom protected the kitten is very telling. He must have sensed the coming danger and self-preservation/protective instincts took over. The shock must have made the workers' job very difficult. I hope they both found homes considering how they struggled to survive. Thanks much for sharing that!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 3 years ago from America

      We have a feral cat here. He has been here at least two years. I have tried to talk to him and get close to him but he won’t come near me. My husband said he must belong to someone but I don't think so if he had a family he would be friendlier I believe.

      Did you hear about the feral cat in the Moore, Oklahoma tornado? They dug it out from debris. Poor cat was in shock covered in wood splinters. They took it to the Human Society. They noticed the cat’s chest looked funny when a tiny head popped out. It was a tiny kitten. It must be mom and baby. They had a terrible time getting them apart they were clinging to each other. They bathed them both and found out the big cat was a Tomcat he had protected the baby by wrapping his body around him.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey


      Thank you very much for adding your input here and thank you for the way you care for the animals in your area! We are to be good stewards of all that this earth offers, but the problems to face are not always simple to solve. Wrapping our efforts in "just do no harm" is a pretty good summation of how to handle them.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Sadly, feral cats are often the result of cats who have been lost or dumped by owners who no longer care about them, and they unfortunately must fend for themselves. They can breed out of control if not spayed or neutered. I feed and care for a small colony of them and have done so for 12 years. Additionally, any stray cat who comes into my yard gets free spay/neuter, shots, testing -- no questions asked. It's my labor of love, the way I give back to these critters who are just trying to survive like the rest of us. I would just ask that people do no harm if they do not like them. It would be marvelous if they could spay/neuter them, but just do no harm. We are all suffering creatures on this life path.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Victoria Stephens:

      I'm so glad the cats in your area were given homes! Too often, that is not the case. If you are consistent with the herbs, they will do the job. On top of that, the smell of herbs underfoot is delightful. You might like to plant creeping thymes along walkways and around porches, as well as in pots among flowers.

      Thanks for letting me know this was helpful to you!

    • Victoria Stephens profile image

      Victoria Stephens 5 years ago from London

      We started off with one or two cats near where I live and it wasn't long before there was 20 or 30 of them! Thankfully they have now been removed and re-homed. Just the one cat roaming around here again now, I shall try some of the hurbs. Thanks for a useful hub.x

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      Thank you for letting me know this hub is helpful to you!

    • tonyab profile image

      tonyab 5 years ago from Oregon, U.S.

      Feral cats are an issue in my neighborhood - this info is so helpful, thanks!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      So glad you found this helpful--I appreciate that you checked out this info on how to deal with feral cats. Just don't plant catnip!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Very interesting and informative Hub. I am sure this will be useful. Ferrell cats are every where. The herb ideas is a new one on me!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      It's a wonderful thing when a community pulls to together to help feral cats. Thanks for stopping in with your input!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      My cousin had a problem with stray cats. She got a trap from the pound in her town and caught the cat and they picked it up. They try to put them up for adoption. I don't know if it was a no kill pound. If she knows a rescue they may come and trap the cat for her.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      CR Rookwood:

      Bravo! Proof that feral cats can enjoy people homes is helpful to this dialogue. Thanks very much for sharing your experience here!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      Sometimes it takes a community to determine whether the cats are feral and if they can be helped, but you are right, owners should be taking responsibility to attend to their cats properly.

      Thanks very much for checking this out and for your input.

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      I took in a feral cat once. I took her to the vet and got her shots and spayed and so forth. Kept her two years and she got every health problem on the books, but she was a sweet little cat otherwise.

      It was really expensive though. I can see why people don't take cats in, but it's a shame. Letting the breed uncontrolled outdoors is bad for everyone, especially the cats.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      We have quite a number of cats running around where we live.

      Whether they are feral is hard to determine.

      I think owners should be more responsible, considering the breeding potential.

      The idea that they could be harboring these terrible diseases is concerning.

      Toxoplasmosis is a terrible thing to suffer from.

      Great hub and very interesting. Votes and sharing.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Alastar Packer:

      Thanks kindly for your input on this feral cat hub. It's important to take a look at every angle and I appreciate your helping to highlight the topic.

      So glad you were able to tame the tom and have made a friend out of him. With care he may get to enjoy living in your house for a long time. There can indeed be happy ending with feral cats, and thanks to people like you there often are!

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Agree,sadly, with everything you've written here RT; you've got some good info on here as well. A big handsome feral Tom started showing up for the scraps I'd throw out for the starving strays that came through. Well, he stood up to them and won me over. Now he's a happy neutered house cat who unfortunately contracted feline ads. only a year old so hopefully he'll have relatively long life. So, there can be happy endings with the feral cats.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      Thank you for sharing your experience of seeing the animals being cared for in NJ. Having a group of people work together in the effort would make the care much more manageable than if just one or two people were trying to figure out what to do about the feral cats. They are a special group of people!

    • NotTooTall profile image

      NotTooTall 5 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi RTalloni,

      While on vacation to Atlantic City, NJ, we saw a dedicated group of locals who tend to the feral kitties that live under the Boardwalk there.

      The cats have grown used the these kind folks and accept their food, water and attention.

      It is sad to think that these cats don't have loving homes. Thank goodness that there are caring groups who try to do what they can, rain or shine.

      God Bless them!

      N T T

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Dancing Water :

      Thank you for your kind comments on this hub about dealing with feral cats, as well as for sharing the success story. Recounting how people have helped feral cat situations makes for helpful comments. So appreciate your visit!

    • Dancing Water profile image

      Dancing Water 5 years ago

      Thank you for an excellent article that brilliantly delineates the issue of feral cats. I so appreciate people who care deeply for all creatures great and small, as you clearly do. I have friends who catch feral felines, have them treated, vaccinated, "fixed" by veterinarians, and try to find them homes. One of these selfless individuals has a "caterie" attached to her home to accommodate 39 plus feral kitties for whom no home could be found. They do this out of the love and dedication they have for animals, and do it voluntarily. If we all pitch in and do what we can to help these poor babies, I believe that we can do them justice. Thank you so much for "pitching in" with your wonderful essay.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Rusti Mccollum:

      Thank you for checking out this info on feral cats, and for adding your input to this dialogue. Unattended animals in neighborhoods and cities don't know how to help themselves and problems are created. They need people who will properly attend to their needs or the problems will only escalate, as you experienced.

    • Rusti Mccollum profile image

      Ruth McCollum 5 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

      We have so many no kill shelters,then they try to get them good homes. This was well written and very informative. Be careful of your neighbors tho. Someone here killed cats and leaving their bodies for us to find. Merlin my oldest cat came home with bee bee guns under his skin. He chewed one out himself. My cats none of them now leave the backyard. I think he moved too.Because the cat across the street always goes everywhere. This cat is named beast. I m telling you that cat scared me and I ran.He is really mean,he chased me .I told my husband how funny I must have looked running down the street with a cat chasing me. Anyway I loved this hub.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      I have a friend in a nearby state who is having to watch her cats carefully right now because the coyotes are taking cats from yards. Animal populations wax and wane naturally, but both feral cats and coyotes present dangers for people, especially children.

      Thanks for sharing your situation here so others can be aware of the need to be careful. So appreciate your visit to this hub about feral cats and that you added to this dialogue.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for all the suggestions for dealing with feral cats, RTalloni, and for sharing the photos of your cat too! I don't have a feral cat problem where I live, but I'm afraid that's probably because coyotes visit the neighborhood. Most of my neighbors keep their cats indoors to protect them, and my three cats are indoor cats as well, although they do go outside on a leash.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      Your comment makes me wish HP had a button to push so that when someone read this hub your input would start flashing with maybe even a few bells going off!

      All I can say is "Thank you!" for responding to this hub on feral cats with your success story!

      So appreciate that you shared your comment!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Dolores Monet:

      So happy that this info on dealing with feral cats will be helpful to you. Rosemary plants can definitely be helpful, especially if you can plant them throughout your property, but from what you describe it sounds like you might need the help of one of the organizations that can help you move the cat away. Usually a feral cat means other feral cats are not far behind. I don't have a bird feeder because our cat has become an outdoor cat--doesn't seem quite fair to draw the birds to our area!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      I'm so glad this was helpful to you. Be sure to thank ThePracticalMommy for posting the question! When feral cats use a yard that little ones play in it as their bathroom is time to take action. I hope you can find a local organization that will be of help to you!

      Thanks much for your visit and comment!

    • nightbear profile image

      Susan Kaul 5 years ago from Michiagn, USA

      We used to have quite a feral cat problem in our neighborhood. We set up a feral cat rescue among about 5 cat loving neighbors and we trapped, neutered and released. Now we have some very pleasant although skittish cats in the neighborhood and no mice. At least we don't have hoards of kittens anymore. It took quite awhile, but it's great now. It really requires dedication and a little sacrifice. We all chipped in to finance the neutering and the Humane society gave us a deal when we told them what we were doing. It can be dealt with. Great hub and I hope everyone will get help dealing with their feral cat problems.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi, RT - well thank you for this one. There's been a feral cat wandering around lately and I do not want it around. I have a bird feeder and love the birds - do not want a feral cat eating the birds. Feral cats, in some areas, have decimated the American song bird population. Also, I have a cat that goes outside with us for brief periods each day and I don't want him to pick up any diseases.

      You say that rosemary helps! I love rosemary plants and have one by the back porch. Maybe I should plant them all over the yard!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey


      Thanks kindly--so appreciate that you visited this hub on feral cats and that you let me hear from you on it!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Artsy Edie:

      Mothballs would chase them away, yes indeed, for they do smell horrible. There may be other problems associated with using them to deter cats. They are a pesticide and toddlers could pick them up, and small pets might dig around them. Perhaps they could be used short term if they were contained and out of reach of children.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 5 years ago

      I did not know of the term "feral" cats. I have many, many of those due to two ladies who harbor about 20 cats each, and that was last year's count. It seems they have taken a liking to my yard which is blocks away to mate and poo. Springtime is especially horrible for this, I love the natural remedies to deter them, and have wondered about a more permanent way. As an animal lover I can not stand to think of any animal not being taken care of, and having a little one playing outside I am even more ambitions to remedy a solution. Great suggestions here! Thanks.

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 5 years ago from Mason City

      Great information on feral cats.

    • Artsy Edie profile image

      Artsy Edie 5 years ago from California

      Mothballs are a simple answer. Spread them in your flower beds and anywhere the cats like to spend time. They don't like the smell and just go away.