You’ll find outdoor cats in most neighborhoods across the country. They may be: strays (lost or abandoned pets), ferals (fearful of people and not suitable as pets), or pets allowed outside by their owners (which we do not recommend – indoor cars are safer). Many times people “rescue” outdoor cats who actually belong to someone. It is important not to rescue a cat unless you are certain they are a stray or if they are in danger. Understanding the complex issues related to outdoor cats will help us to reduce their overpopulation and keep cats and wildlife safer.
The term “feral” is sometimes used to refer to an animal that does not appear friendly when approached by humans, but the term can apply to any domesticated animal without human contact. Hissing and growling are self-defense behaviors.
If you find a feral cat, it’s possible that they belong to a colony. A colony is a group of feral cats that may be fed and cared for by kind people. In that case, the feral cat may not need to be rescued. After spaying/neutering, vets typically tip (clip) the ear of a feral cat before they are re-released.