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Thank you for your care and concern for feral cats. They are fortunate to having you caring for them and it’s admirable that you are making plans for their future care.

Unfortunately, as you probably know, there are not many places for these cats to go. Very few no-kill shelters or sanctuaries actually take in ferals, and those that do are very limited in the numbers they can take in.

We have a population of feral cats in our Feral House, but because these cats do not get adopted, space rarely becomes available for us to take in more. When a vacancy does occur, it is usually promptly filled by a special needs feral cat - one with a health problem or disability that makes him or her unable to survive in an outdoor colony setting.

An important consideration with feral cats is their quality of life. Feral cats are much like wild animals - the great outdoors is home to them. We rob them of their home if we place them somewhere where they will be contained. Unfortunately, allowing them their freedom means sacrificing a certain degree of safety. However, we must consider that a feral cat may prefer life on its own turf rather than life in a home, shelter, or sanctuary. After all, the feral cat may be safe if he is contained, but if his quality of life suffers then we’ve done him a disservice.

Since true feral cats are fearful of people and are not usually happy in a household situation, we recommend trap/neuter/return (TNR) as the best, most humane solution. By trapping, neutering, and then returning feral cats to their natural environment, the colony is stabilized. TNR allows the cats to keep their freedom, while dramatically improving their quality of life and increasing their long-term survival. General information about how to care for feral cats is available on the Best Friends website at: http://www.bestfriends.org/nomorehomelesspets/pdf/feralcats.pdf.

Removing and euthanizing the cats is an ineffective way of controlling the feral cat population. It often results in what is known as "the vacuum effect" – more cats show up within a few months and start breeding. This effect is documented by pest-removal company records and through several studies on feral cats and wildlife.

Alley Cat Allies has an excellent resource section on its website that includes fact sheets on topics such as Five FAQs About Stray and Feral Cats and How to Talk to Absolutely Anyone About TNR. You can find these resources on the Alley Cat Allies website at www.alleycat.org/resources.html, or we can send them out to you. Alley Cat Allies also has an excellent video on successful community TNR programs that can help when you’re trying to convince public officials of the efficacy of TNR.

If no neighbors are willing to provide care but do not object to the cats staying in the neighborhood, you could ask others in the community to help maintain the feeding station and to serve as cat caregivers.

A final option, which should be considered only as a last resort, is to find a safe relocation site. Relocation is very stressful for cats, so please consider carefully before pursuing. To get a better understanding what is involved in relocating feral cats, please read the information on safely relocating ferals at this link: http://www.alleycat.org/pdf/relocate.pdf.

If any of the cats are tame and friendly, they could be adopted out to homes. Feral kittens can usually be tamed if they are less than 10 weeks of age.

Thank you to Best Friends for allowing us to use these help sheets.