Kitten season occurs between April and October every year. During this time, intact stray and feral cats give birth to litters of 3-5 kittens as early as 5 months of age. Shelters can be overrun and rescue organizations can be strained to their limits. Brookfield answers all your questions related to stray cat populations in our area.
What’s the Difference Between a Stray and a Feral Cat?
A stray cat is one that has been socialized with humans. It was either interacted with as a kitten, previously owned, or is currently owned and allowed to wander. Stray cats will often allow you to approach or pet them. When trapped, they are less likely to cower, may rub their faces against the bars of the cage, and hold their tails upright, a sign of contentedness. They will also accept food. Feral cats have never been socialized. They are born into the wild by other feral cats or raised wholly outside in the absence of human by other strays. Feral cats crouch when they are approached by humans. In cages, they cower in the back and are very aggressive when handled. They are almost exclusively nocturnal.
Where do Feral and Stray Cats Come From?
Feral cats are the offspring of other feral cats or stray cats that have not been spayed or neutered. A surprising fact, 25% of all cats owned by individuals are not spayed or neutered. When these cats are allowed to slip into the community at large, they reproduce and contribute to quick growing populations.
Why Are Feral Cats Put Back Released Back Into Communities?
Feral cats usually defend and live in colonies in areas where there is an abundance of food and shelter. If feral cats are removed from this area, they are usually replaced by additional stray cats in the community eager to take advantage of the same resources. Because of the decrease in competition, the new resident cats have higher breeding rates with higher survivability of the offspring and the cat population soon returns to previous levels.
After years of research, rescue organizations like the ASPCA and the Humane Society have found that trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, vaccinating them, and then returning them to the colony in which they are found, reduces the cat population over time. Additionally, trap, neuter, and release programs:
- Keep shelter populations down and increases cage space for adoptable cats
- Decrease the euthanasia rates of both feral and stray cats that would otherwise be killed because of shelter overpopulation
- Decrease the fighting and noise of feral cat colonies
- Decrease feral cat movement within the community since neutering male cats limits wandering behavior
- Decrease suffering associated with diseases like feline distemper and rabies
- Decrease the odor associated with male cat urine.
Cats that are trapped, neutered, and released also have surgical procedure done to one of their ears called ‘tipping’ where a small notch is cut into the tip of the ear. This allows rescue workers to quickly identify if a trapped cat has been previously trapped and how many additional members of a feral cat colony are in need of veterinary care and control.
With All The Rescue Work, Why Are There Still So Many Stray and Feral Cats?
Feral cat populations grow because of the vacuum affect, that is that intact feral cats respond to the absence of competition for food and shelter by reproducing more kittens that have a higher survival rate. Irresponsible pet ownership is another reason. Cat owners do not get their pets spayed or neutered and then allow them to wander outside or abandon them to the outdoors where they reproduce and add to the feral population.
Brookfield discourages cat owners from allowing their cats to roam outside. Such cats are at risk for diseases like feline leukemia, intestinal and external parasites, and hit-by-car accidents. They also kill baby birds and other wildlife. If you allow your pet to wander outside, it’s very important that you microchip your cat. Microchips are permanent, safe ways to identify your cat in case he or she is ever lost.
What Does Connecticut Do To Control Feral Cat Populations?
Connecticut has several robust trap, neuter, and release programs. In 2019, the Greater New Haven Cat Project treated and aided nearly 600 cats across Connecticut. The Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments also has a very strong trap, neuter, release program and in 2020, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture provided funding for 25 not-for-profit rescue organizations.
I Know Of A Feral Cat Colony In My Area. What Should I Do?
Connecticut state law allows municipalities to require that any person caring for a feral cat population register with the municipality’s animal control officer. In some cases, you may be asked to take responsibility for the feral cats that are under your care. Specifically:
(a) A municipality may adopt an ordinance requiring the registration, within one year of the adoption of such ordinance, of keepers of feral cats in residential or commercial areas. Such ordinance shall require that any such keeper shall register with the animal control officer for such municipality who shall provide information to the registrant regarding the proper care and management of feral cats. For purposes of this section, “feral cat” means a free-roaming domestic cat which is not owned and “keeper” means any person or organization, harboring, regularly feeding or having in his or its possession any feral cat. Refusal to permit any animal control officer to impound a feral cat shall be deemed evidence of keeping. Such ordinance shall require that such keepers shall provide for the vaccination of such cats against rabies and the sterilization of such cats. Such keeper shall be considered an eligible owner for purposes of the animal population control program established under sections 22-380e to 22-380m, inclusive, provided such cats are adopted from a municipal pound.
(b) A municipality may adopt an ordinance providing that no person owning or keeping any cat shall permit such animal to (1) substantially damage property other than the property of the owner or keeper or (2) cause an unsanitary, dangerous or unreasonably offensive condition. Violation of such provision shall be an infraction. Animallaw.com
Here is a list of animal welfare organizations that have received funding from Connecticut to assist in their rescue efforts. Please keep in mind that despite any grant money, these organizations are usually spread thin during kitten season and that most of their labor is comprised of volunteers. Please be considerate if you’re not able to immediately speak with someone.
Can I Adopt A Stray Cat?
Yes! If you want to adopt a cat, you should check with one of the local shelters that we list on our resources page below. Stray cats, or cats that have been socialized and that can cohabitate well with humans, are taken in by rescue organizations, examined by veterinarians, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated. They make affordable, loving companions. We also provide any person that rescues a pet an adoption certificate worth 50% off your first examination with us.
Feral cats are usually not adopted out, but trapped, neutered, and released back into their environment since confinement for these ‘wild’ creatures is often very stressful. Kittens from feral cat mothers can be trapped at 5 to 6 weeks, socialized, spayed or neutered, and then given loving, caring homes; otherwise they are trapped at 12 weeks, vaccinated, sterilized, ear tipped, and returned to their environment.
50% Off First Exam For All Adopted Pets!
Whether you are a new or existing client, Brookfield offers 50% off the cost of your pet’s first physical examination.