Feral cats and stray cats are not one and the same. Feral cats are those born and raised in the wild, or those cats that have been abandoned or lost and turned to a feral lifestyle in order to survive. Feral cats are often too wild to be handled, and many live in groups known as colonies, taking refuge wherever they can find food. While this may sound similar to stray cats, pet adoption professionals make a distinction between feral and stray cats. Unlike feral cats, the ASPCA defines stray cats as those that have been abandoned or become lost, tend to be tame and can be comfortable around people. Such cats may purr, meow and rub against legs of humans who come into contact with them. Stray cats often rely on humans for food, whereas colonies of feral cats will typically feed on garbage, rodents and other small animals. The life expectancy of a stray cat depends on when it was lost or abandoned and how effective it is at find a reliable food source, while many feral cats do not survive kittenhood. The average lifespan for those feral cats that do is less than two years outside of a colony but can be as long as 10 years when living in a colony with an established caretaker. Such caretakers may be an individual or a group of individuals who provide feral cats with their basic needs, such as food, shelter and even emergency medical care.

Here is Siskiyou county, there is the Siskiyou Trap, Alter, & Release Program (also known as the STAR Program). The STAR Program is a volunteer, non-profit (501-C3) group whose main purpose is to practice TNR on feral cats. TNR stands for Trap, Neuter and Release and a feral cat is one who has never had human contact. Feral cats can be found living behind restaurants and fast food places across the United States.

STAR also provides shelters for these cats to live in and currently maintains eight colonies, consisting of approximately forty cats who are fed daily. While practicing TNR, we noticed some little eyes staring at us from the bushes and realized we wanted to offer these kittens more in their life than to follow in Mom’s footsteps; never knowing human companionship and love.

In the STAR Adoption Program all kittens and “teenagers” come from feral parents, but behave as though they had domestic parents! When you adopt a kitten from STAR, they have been tamed and lived in a loving Foster Home before being placed for adoption. Once they have been tamed, they are never placed back in a colony. This is why some of STAR’s kittens are now “teenagers”!

If you have a feral cat problem or have found kittens and would like to receive help; for more information, please visit starcatprogram.org.