You’ve probably noticed at one time or another, a stray cat in your yard or neighborhood, or along a walking path. Perhaps you wondered if the cat had a home, if it was hungry, or where it slept. A cat-savvy person might have wondered if the cat was altered. Kind-hearted folks might speculate whether the cat needs rescuing. But then you went on with your life, because after all, stray cats are common.
In fact, there are several categories of “stray” cats. You might have seen someone’s pet who is simply taking a stroll. Or a lost pet. Or it might have been a feral cat. You can’t always tell by behavior, because an owned or lost pet might act just as frightened by a strange human as a feral cat. A feral cat may or may not have a caretaker. And not all free-roaming cats, be they tame or feral, require rescue.
A feral cat is an animal that was born in the wild with no human contact. If kittens are not handled and socialized at a young age, they become feral or wild. The kittens’ mother may have been feral herself, or a lost pet who became impregnated and gave birth away from humans.
One of the ways you can usually tell a feral from a domesticated cat: tame cats are much more likely to vocalize than ferals. If you have a cat who is persistently hanging around your yard and crying, it is mostly likely a lost pet, especially if it approaches you and seems to want to interact with you. You might want to consider taking a photo and posting on Next Door, or one of the lost/found Internet groups such as PawBoost.
A feral cat can show varying degrees of trust toward a person. Most feral cats avoid physical contact with people — even the person who feeds them. Tame strays may behave similarly to a feral cat until they begin to trust their feeder. You might see a behavioral change as they become friendlier over time.
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Compassionate people may want to reach out a helping hand and feed a hungry cat but know that feeding alone can create new problems: spaying and neutering is crucial. If you put food out for a single cat, she may then bring you her litter of kittens, also hungry, who will then grow up and breed!
Like virtually every town in the United States, Calistoga has its share of outdoor cats. But, thanks to Calistoga Cat Action Team (CCAT), there are fewer breeding outdoor cats. CCAT is a nonprofit dedicated to assisting with the spaying and neutering of feral cats of Napa and Sonoma, as well as bringing fixed “barn cats” – feral cats who hunt in return for food and shelter – to country properties. CCAT rehomes cats to wineries, farms, ranches, and country residences. The property owner agrees to daily feed, both during the acclimation period in the cage, and after the release.
CCAT can help Calistoga residents with trapping for spay/neuter purposes, contingent on trapper availability. CCAT will loan traps and cages and ask only a small donation in return. But CCAT’s biggest contribution to the community is to find rural homes for cats that cannot remain where they are. Please note: CCAT does NOT provide cat removal.
For more information on feral cat trapping, spay/neuter, or barn cats, please contact Connie at Calistoga Cat Action Team, (707) 302-8236 or firstname.lastname@example.org