Feral Cats

What are feral cats?

Feral cats are the same species as the ordinary, domestic cat. The difference is that they don’t live with humans and have become wild animals. Some are born into feral groups (called colonies), others become ‘feral’ after getting lost or abandoned. Colonies can form just about anywhere – on building sites, in hospital grounds and even in factories. Estimates of the UK feral cat population vary widely, but it is likely to be over one million.

The RSPCA and Feral Cats

The RSPCA believes that feral cat colonies should be allowed to exist where the following prerequisites safeguarding the welfare of the cats can be met.

  1. A concerned individual or group takes responsibility for making regular welfare checks on the animals in a colony. Feral cats are more likely to get sick and injured than domestic cats and so need someone to care for them.
  2. The owner of the feral colony site agrees to the presence of the animals. This will help to ensure a stable existance for the colony.
  3. If the conditions are met, the Society then recommends the following action plan.
  • All cats should be humanely trapped and taken for veterinary examination.
  • Attempts should be made to find new homes for young kittens or other cats which are not totally feral – they deserve the chance to have their own caring owner.
  • Any animal which is too sick or injured to be returned to the feral colony must be put to sleep to save it from further suffering or to prevent the spread of disease to other cats.
  • All other cats in the colony which are too wild to be rehomed should be neutered to limit further expansion of the colony.

The RSPCA believes that when neutered, each animal should have its left ear ‘tipped’ to allow for future identification of neutered animals.

The RSPCA recommends the removal of part of the left ear by a straight cut, 6mm (1/4″) from the tip. These cats can then be returned to the site.

Welfare Problems

There are some occasions where feral cats are considered to be a nuisance. Or, it may be that nobody is willing to look out for the welfare of these animals.

Once it has been established that owners will not under any circumstances accept the presence of feral cats, and that nobody is willing to care for the animals, the RSPCA recommends this action plan:

  • All cats must be humanely trapped.
  • New homes should be sought for young kittens and cats which are not totally feral.
  • Unfortunately, there is no alternative but to put to sleep those animals which are not suitable for rehoming or relocation to sites where their welfare can be guaranteed.

Legal Considerations

There are some places where feral colonies are not allowed for legal reasons (please consult your local environmental health officer). If the feral colony has to be removed, it cannot be guaranteed that animals trapped by pest control firms are humanely destroyed.

Kitten Welfare

Kittens can become separated from their mothers during the trapping process.

If a lactating female is trapped and her kittens cannot be located, she should be spayed, ear-tipped and returned to the site so that she may rear her kittens, provided that such a course of action does not place her at risk.

Talk to the RSPCA

Please contact the RSPCA before taking any action which will affect a feral colony. The Society will offer advice on what to do and will provide approproiate literature. Contact your local branch on 01422 365628 or call the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999. 


For more information about caring for cats and kittens visit:https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/cats 

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