Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats which are not sterilized. Females can reproduce up to three times a year and their kittens – if they survive in the harsh environment as starvation and disease are big problems – will become feral without any contact with people. Cats can become pregnant as early as 4 to 5 months of age, and the number of cats rapidly increases without intervention by caring people. Feral cats typically live in a group of related cats as a colony and defends a specific territory where food (such as a dumpster) and shelter (such as beneath a roof or abandoned building) are available. Since feral cats typically fear strangers, it is likely that people may not realize that feral cats are living nearby, because the cats are rarely seen.
Firstly, it is absolutely essential for any institution or complex to maintain a colony of feral cats in order to keep the rodent population under control and to keep cats not belonging to the colony out. It serves NO purpose to try and remove such colony, since new cats will simply be drawn back, causing a vicious and cruel cycle. Studies have proven that TNR (trap, neuter & release) is the single most successful method of stabilizing and maintaining healthy feral cat colonies with the least possible cost to residents or management, while providing the best life for the animals themselves. This allows the number of cats in the colony to diminish over time through natural attrition, as cats get old and/or die from natural causes.
The colony should be maintained wisely in the following ways:
As many of the cats as possible should be sterilized and returned to prevent future expansion. A colony of unneutered/unsprayed feral cats can produce a number of problems, including: a growing population, frequent and loud noise from fighting/mating behaviour, strong foul odours from unneutered males spraying their territory, visible suffering from dying kittens and injured animals. The cats are “ear tipped” so that sterilized individuals can be easily recognized and spared the stress of retrapping. Humane trapping & sterilization is key.
The ferals of the colony should be fed regularly in order to provide at least a percentage (around 70%, ideally) of their nutritional needs. This ensures that they are healthy enough to keep rodents and strange cats at bay.
If the cats are NOT fed, they won’t go somewhere else but will become a greater problem by trying to encroach closer to human areas as they grow hungrier and more desperate. Their condition will also deteriorate, eventually resulting in their inability to keep rodents at bay or to resist disease. A well fed cat is the best hunter!
Also note that humans cannot contract feline diseases and that cats cannot cause health problems in humans, except ringworm which is only spread through close contact – which with ferals is highly unlikely.