Did you know Oct. 17 was National Feral Cat Day?
During a recent trip to the on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard, I noticed four beautiful cats eating cat food near the front entrance. Two customers from the store were watching the cats and quickly informed me that they were feral.
A feral cat is a cat who has lived its whole life with little or no human contact, or a stray cat who was lost or abandoned and has lived away from human contact long enough to become wild. Feral cats avoid human contact and should not be touched by strangers.
“You should never try to pick up a feral cat," said Sherry Silk, executive director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. “Cat bites can be very, very serious. When a feral cat is approached by a human, the cat reverts to wild state.”
She cautions anyone who feeds feral cats, to be alert and not to assume they will react similar to your pet.
According to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, there are over 50 million feral and stray cats in the United States. Understanding this complex and emotional issue is essential to combating cat overpopulation.
Feral cats live in groups called colonies and live near food sources. These colonies can be managed through a non-lethal method called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), in which cats are humanely (and painlessly) trapped, spayed or neutered, and returned to their colony site. Volunteer caretakers then provide the cats with food, water and shelter for the duration of their lives. TNR is the only method that has been proven effective in managing colonies of feral cats and reducing their population.
TNR is the only chance feral cats have of living safe, healthy lives without reproducing. However, TNR is a hands-on project requiring commitment from one or more volunteer caretakers.
Every Monday the Humane Society of Tampa Bay spays and neuters dozens of feral cats at its low-cost clinic. In 2010, 4,999 feral cats were sterilized.
“Currently we are offering spay and neuter surgeries for feral cats for $15.00,” said Silk.
The fee includes surgery, rabies and distemper vaccines, and an ear-tip. The ear tip is the universal sign that the cat has already been sterilized if trapped again.
A feral cat should always be returned to its colony after the surgery, vaccines, and ear-tip. No matter how adorable they may appear, they are still wild animals. Only kittens who are younger than 8-9 weeks old can be properly socialized and later put into adoption programs.
For more information about how to combat a feral cat problem in your neighborhood, contact Mary Ann O’ Donnell, Feral "Community" Cat Manager at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay at 813-625-0910 or email@example.com.
has also developed a "self-help" program, where humane cat traps and transfer cages are offered to residents experiencing feral cat problems. Residents are encouraged to call 813-929-1212 in advance to be sure equipment is available.