During the spring and summer, a number of Morris residents contact the Humane Society to report that stray cats seem to be living in their garage or under their shed. These stray cats may actually be feral, or wild. Wild cats often lived in a home until their owners abandoned them. While they may once have been very tame, feral cats become wild over time, often because people chase them, shout at them or throw things at them to get them away from garbage, bird feeders or flower beds. Usually, these abandoned cats are not spayed or neutered, and often produce three or four litters of kittens each year. If even two kittens out of each of these litters survive to sexual maturity, the population of wild cats will grow exponentially.
While the lives of feral animals may be romanticized in movies such as “Lady and the Tramp,” the reality is wild cats lead tough lives. Kind people may put out food for them, but when those people go on vacation or move the cats are left to starve or find new food sources. In warm weather, the puddles from which they drink are full of parasites, and in the winter, they often are unable to find water at all. Wild cats are frequently hit by cars, and when they become ill or injured, they are mauled by dogs. They often die of respiratory infections, or infected bite wounds.
The humane society works to help feral cats by assisting community members in trapping them, spaying them and re-releasing them after people have agreed to feed them on a regular basis. Releasing feral cats after spaying or neutering is most effective when community members manage the colony of cats by providing for their ongoing needs.
Many people trap cats and release them in remote areas, or on farms. People think they are being kind to the cats, but they are mistaken. Re-locating wild cats rarely works because cats become so frightened in unfamiliar places that they run away. By the time they stop running, they are far away from food and water sources, may not have any shelter and are too exhausted to hunt. Contrary to popular opinion, wild cats usually can’t hunt enough to feed themselves, and they will not instinctively move into barns or out buildings. As a matter of fact, if there is a dog or other cats on a farm place, wild cats often purposely stay away. Often, these cats die of starvation or dehydration.
Controlling the feral cat population is important not just because it will improve the lives of the cats themselves, but because feral cats can spread disease to tame cats. Feral cats are at risk for contracting Feline Leukemia, a fatal immune system disorder. Cats spread this disease through body fluids—particularly saliva. If an infected cat bites another cat, it is likely to spread the disease. Vaccinations are imperative for cats whose owners choose to let their cats outdoors. However, the best way to keep cats safe from the disease is to keep them indoors as well as keep vaccinations current.
If you would like to manage a feral cat colony or learn more about TNR (trap-neuter-release), contact us.
Can I take care of wild animals? NO! It is illegal to possess a wild animal without a permit, nor can the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (WRC) give you information on wildlife. Further you risk exposing yourself, your family and your pets to dangerous diseases and parasites through prolonged contact with the animal. Finally, it is unfair to a wild animal to keep it when you don’t know what you are doing.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, MN:
- WRC website (They have an excellent fact sheet)
- Call 651-486-9453
If a wild animal is found in the Stevens County area:
- Call USFWS 320-589-1001
For specific questions regarding the Department of Natural Resources:
- DNR website
- Call 1-888-MINN-DNR
Department of Natural Resources Rehabilitation Coordinator:
- Nancy Huonder: 651-297-8040 or firstname.lastname@example.org (they have a list of people licensed to do wildlife rehabilitation.)