Sitting out on the deck enjoying a warm summer evening, I spy a cat trotting through our yard. Is that cat a stray, feral, or free-roaming owned pet?
First let’s define those terms. I overhear a lot of cat lovers erroneously use the term “feral” to describe a friendly stray or scared cat at a shelter so I know there is confusion.
For the best definitions I asked the Feral Cat Coalition: a true feral cat, is an untamed domestic cat. Generally they fear and avoid humans, and have little/ contact with them. Adult ferals cannot be tamed. A stray cat, on the other hand, is an unowned (or lost) domestic cat who may be friendly toward people. Strays are less frightened and can be socialized and re-homed. A free-roaming cat is any cat who is not confined at home. Often these are pets.
With fully two-thirds of an estimated 90 million pet cats in the US allowed outdoors, according to the Humane Society of the US and others, chances are good the cat in my yard is a neighbor’s pet out for a romp. Because many pet owners still won’t collar their pet cats, it’s a good idea to walk around the neighborhood to determine who has cats. Meeting my neighbors revealed that the tabby and the black cat who amble through from time to time are indeed pet cats.
Just a quick reminder that cats and wildlife live longer if pet cats birdwatch from the windowsill, inside. In today’s world, a pet cat needn’t go outside to get exercise or keep up on hunting skills.
Do you know your feline visitors?
Once you determine the birdwatching cat in your yard is not owned, what do you do? If you go down the path of trying to trap and re-home the cat, you will need to commit to the task 100 percent. Take time to gain the cat’s trust, learn how to properly set up a humane trap, and have a plan in place to make sure the cat is not an owned cat after you trap him/her or to have the cat fixed.
Shelters in Portland are bursting at the seams with cats in spring and summer and may not be able to take the cat from you. However, there are re-homing tips at CatAdoptionTeam.org/surrender or OregonHumane.org.
Step-by-step instructions on humane traps can be found at CatsintheBag.org (scroll to “humane trap”). This site also has great tips on how to find a lost cat.
With the cat in the humane trap, now what? How about a trip to your vet to have the cat scanned for a microchip. Hopefully there is a chip and you can return the cat to his/her family. If not, are you going to keep the cat as your own? Re-home? Are you willing to pay for the cat to be fixed?
A lot to think about as you watch that cat roll on your grass or grooming itself atop your fence.