Adopting a Feral Cat–Or Stupid Advice to Give People

I was doing Google research for a blog idea when I came across  a horrible , misinformed article about feral cats on eHow.com,  a website that offers articles giving tips on how to do just about anything you might want to know how to do.  It can be a really useful site. You have to make sure that your author knows what he is talking about. Clearly, in this case the author has no idea what he or she is talking about. My  only consolation is that it was buried so  deep in the Google results that hopefully no one will ever find it. It was buried so deep in fact that when I went to try and find it again, I couldn’t.

When I found “How to Adopt a Ferral Cat”(yes, that is how feral is spelled), I had to read it, just to see how awful it was. It was awful beyond my wildest imagination. I knew I was in for a doozy of an article when the first step says to “Locate a feral cat population in your area. Feral cats can often be found near a food source such as garbage bins and dumpsters, so check your neighborhood for wild cats.” Really? Encouraging people to not only adopt a feral cat, but adopt just ANY feral cat off the street? At this point the article became like a watching a car accident…you don’t want to but you just can’t help yourself.  Other brilliant ideas include using a regular cat carrier, putting a pillow inside of it, and leaving it unattended (check on it every few days).

The actual trapping process? ” Decide which feral cat you want to adopt, and wait until he is inside the carrier before moving in to close it. Walk up to the carrier quietly from the back, so the cat cannot see you. Close the door quickly, securing your cat inside. The cat will be frightened and angry, so be prepared for a lot of hissing, meowing and crying.” Seriously? This doesn’t even work on my indoor cats, how the hell are you supposed to sneak up on one particular feral cat and trap them in the carrier without getting your hands torn off? Clearly this person has never actually trapped a feral cat in a trap either, or he would know that its not that easy to get a feral cat to go inside a trap so good luck with a carrier.

TNR Ferals (156)

Does this cat look like he wants to be handled by a vet?

The next best part is to just take the cat to the vet.  “Inform your vet that he has been feral, and your vet will administer the proper vaccinations to keep him healthy. Attach the collar to your cat at this time to allow you to easily identify him in case he gets loose.” Having worked at both a vet’s office and a low cost spay/neuter clinic with lots of feral cats. I laughed hysterically at this one.  Most vets offices will not just let you walk in with a feral cat. In my experience most feral cats have to be sedated to be handled and giving a proper examination, though I have read of some vets offices that do not sedate feral cats. Good luck trying to get a feral cat out of a carrier too. Stick your hand in there the cat will shred it. Once cat finally does come out good luck getting her down the the highest point or out of the tightest corner.

There is also no talk of the socialization process. Sure the author tells readers to put the cat in a small, quite room; that it will take time for the cat to adjust to the human.  But the author also suggests that by just sitting in the room with the cat and quietly letting the cat get adjusted to you, you will soon be able to pet the cat and this will change everything! As most of you know it takes months to be able to touch a feral cat. It took me the better part of a month to touch my feral kittens without them completely freaking out on me. And they were kittens. Babies. The easy ones to socialize!

There are very few situations under which you should adopt a feral cat. And certainly never a feral cat that you are not even familiar with. The only feral cats whom I know have been successfully adopted had already bonded with their care givers, had shown some interest in going inside, or had been injured and  taken in by a very, very patient and loving person who helped the cat heal. I worked at a shelter with a number of resident cats who were feral or very, very shy. These cats were miserable. Completely unhappy indoors and having to live around people. Even though these cats were lucky enough to live in a cage free environment and had lots of kitty companions they were terrified of humans. Even after years of constant human interaction they would scatter at the slightest sound of a human. That is no way for a cat to live. If for some reason you do take in a feral cat you must realize that this cat may never become fond of getting pets and being handled. You will need to be prepared for a long, slow socialization process. You can find tips on socializing feral cats at Best Friends Animal Society’s website.

In most cases though, the best option is simply to Trap-Neuter-Return. You may find the occasional friendly house cat living amongst a colony of feral cats, or be able to pull some kittens and socialize them for adoption. But 9 out of 10 cats you trap are going to be happiest back outside. Read Alley Cat Allies article on Why It’s Trap-Neuter-Return Not Trap-Neuter-Adopt.

As I said at the start of this post, the article on eHow is buried deep in the Google results. It only has two “Likes” on Facebook. Hopefully it will not get much traffic. The fact remains that it still exists there to give people false information. I plan on leaving a comment correcting their information. I am undetermined how much other action to take though. Just leave this little nugget of misinformation buried in the depths of the internet? Contact eHow to inform them how harmful their information is? Encourage them to include information about TNR? Contact a TNR advocacy organization? Not sure yet. Leaving false information is harmful, but sometimes it is best not to poke the bees nest.

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