Stray or Feral

Question: Is the cat a stray or feral cat?

A feral cat is primarily wild-raised or has adapted to feral life, while a stray cat is often someones pet that has become lost or has been abandoned.

Stray cats are usually tame and comfortable around people. They will frequently rub against legs and exhibit behaviors such as purring and meowing. In contrast, feral cats are notably quiet and keep their distance. Stray cats will also often try to make a home near humans—in garages, front porches or backyards. Most are completely reliant on humans as a food source and are not yet able to cope with life on the streets.

Before you try to place an unowned stray cat, you should confirm that the cat is indeed a stray and not someone’s pet. You can place “Found Cat” signs around the neighborhood, and at local veterinarians and groomers; advertise the cat in the Pennysavers and local newspapers. Go to the closest municipal shelters and put up pictures of your found cat.  Check the LOST cat postings at the shelters as well. Check the website Lost and Found Pets of Long Island. They will post your found cat free of charge in hopes of finding its family. You can also post a listing with a photo on Facebook and as well as Craig’s List.  Also be sure to go to all surrounding shelters as well as cats have been know to wander.

If no one claims the cat, you should begin the process of trying to find it a home if you do not want to keep it. You should list the cat on the waiting lists of all No Kill Shelters identified previously. In addition, you can make up adoption flyers for this cat and place them in supermarkets, pet food stores, groomers and veterinarian offices. Advertisements on Petfinder and in local newspapers are also helpful. Spread the word, too, by asking relatives and friends to let people know you have a lovely cat for adoption.

**We do advise that if your finances allow it that you ascertain the cat is spayed or neutered and have the cat seen by your veterinarian for appropriate vaccines.

What to do if the cat or kitten(s) is FERAL or you have a litter of kittens in your yard:

Let’s face facts. On Long Island, feral cats are a part of our suburban sprawl. They are behind supermarkets, restaurants, gas stations and in practically everyone’s yard. There is no one person or group that can handle and fix the problem out there. You can turn your back and say it is not your problem, or you can become a part of the ever-growing contingent of caring individuals nationwide,  trying to make life better for feral cats.  LAST HOPE will not come and remove them. We will not trap them and bring them to the woods somewhere or to another feeding location. If you want to become a part of the solution, we will try to help you to the best of our abilities, but you must do your part as well. So get ready.

You will need:

  1. A humane trap
  2. A cage to hold any kittens and the adult cats, postoperatively
  3. A place to put the cage –a shed, garage, basement will all do.
  4. Litter pan(s), litter, food and water bowls, cat food (both dry & wet)
  5. Instructions from Alley Cat Allies on how to domesticate and socialize kittens. Go to and download the instructions.

If there are kittens, you must remove them from the mother at about 5-6 weeks. Waiting too long will only hinder making the kittens adoptable. There are special kitten traps. You cannot take the kittens directly from the traps to a shelter because they need to socialized and used to humans. Confining them in a cage makes it easier for you to handle them. The more handling: the tamer they will become, especially if less than 8 weeks old. Letting them loose in a room is not recommended as they will hide and become difficult to grab.

All feral cats in the colony need to be trapped and neutered – click here for more information about our FIX-A-FERAL program. If you choose not to socialize or capture the kittens when they are young enough, you will need to trap them for spaying and neutering at 4 months of age as well. Two towns on Long Island now offer free spay-neuter for its residents and feral cats-Oyster Bay and Hempstead. Please contact the Animal Shelters in these respective towns for information.

Once you feel the kittens are ready for adoption, using the litter pan and eating by themselves, you need to start the process of trying to place them. This can be done by you with extreme care or by placing them in one of Long Island’s No Kill shelters.  These shelters all work on a waiting list (the names were provided previously). You cannot just show up at the shelter and expect the kittens and/or cats to be taken in.  Every shelter has an intake protocol. The municipal shelters on Long Island are trying to become No Kill so that means that they too have a waiting list for intake. If you just show up at your local shelter with a litter of kittens, they may take them from you, but they may also euthanize them. If a cat gets sick in a municipal shelter, it may be euthanized; in a No Kill shelter, it will be treated (unless the cat is critically ill).

Normally cats dropped at a No Kill shelter are brought to the municipal shelter so you are not gaining anything by doing this cruel and inhumane, illegal deed.

We hope that this information answers many of the questions you may have about cats and kittens whether they are owned, stray or feral. Bottom line: the choice is up to you—you do or don’t have to give up your pet; you will or won’t help that stray /feral cat or kittens in your back yard or behind the local deli. Last Hope can support you, advise you and guide you through the process. In the end, you will feel very good about what you did and the animals’ lives you helped.  Together we can all make a difference, but you must be a part of the solution.



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