A Beginners Guide to Feral Cats

How much do you know about feral cats — or how much do you think you know?

Feral cats may look like the cats on your couch, but they have different needs than the cuddly cats and kittens hoping to find homes here on Petfinder.


Check out these quick facts on feral cats and the approach that best meets their unique needs.

  1. Adoption is not an option. Feral cats have lived outdoors alongside people for 10,000 years in every landscape from urban cities to rural barnyards. They are not “homeless” — their home is outdoors!

  2. Feral cats are the same felis catus species as pet cats.

  3. Unlike pet cats or stray cats, feral cats are not socialized to people and will run from you when you try to approach.

  4. Feral cats live outdoors in social groups called colonies.

  5. Scientific studies have confirmed that feral cats are just as healthy as outdoor pet cats. Since feral cats can’t be adopted into new homes, calling animal control is the wrong move for themnearly 100% of feral cats entering shelters are killed.

Trap-Neuter-Return is the best way to help feral cats.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a population-control technique in which cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to their outdoor homes. TNR improves the cat's health and stabilizes the colony while allowing them to live out their lives outdoors.


Trap-Neuter-Return takes into account what is in the best interest of each cat, depending on his or her needs and level of socialization to people. Socialized cats and kittens are neutered, vaccinated and adopted into homes, while feral cats are re-released.


Through this technique, no new kittens are born and the cats no longer experience the stresses of mating and pregnancy. Behaviors associated with mating, such as yowling or fighting, stop contributing to the cat's overall improved health and make them better neighbors.

Someone you know supports Trap-Neuter-Return


From individuals to big companies to even whole cities, all kinds of people practice and support TNR across the United States and around the world!


Trap-Neuter-Return is the official feral cat policy of major cities including Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Colleges and universities including Stanford, Texas A&M, North Carolina State and the University of Florida all boast Cats on Campus TNR programs.

Some of your favorite celebrities support TNR: Portia de Rossi, Angela Kinsey of The Office and comedian Paula Poundstone have all declared themselves Alley Cat Allies. Even Disneyland finds harmony with its feral cat population through TNR.