The word “feral” has to be one of the most over-use words around. It’s an accurate description only for a small percentage of the country’s homeless cats. Feral’s are that small percentage that somehow survive to adulthood without ever knowing humans. They are domestic cats that are unsocialized, and very fearful. Their life is one of survival LIKE a “wild” animal.
Domestic animals are born in the environment of humans. The babies learn an amount of trust, or at least some confidence, in our presence. Kittens born to lost of abandoned pet cats, learn fear instead. Survival instinct MUST be strong, or there’s no chance for them. An estimated 90-95% of kits born in homeless/abandonment situations do not live to 6 months of age.
When cats were domesticated as companions in/around the home, they had value, as in the controlling of rodents. Today their population is massive and we have modern methods of rat control. The poor cat is of no obvious “use” today and is treated with as little respect as the vermin they still do control (without the chemicals that harm us too..I should add)
Millions of kittens are born soon learning to fear humans, still existing among us for the available food and again, the rodent supply around us. Generations of this, produces kittens that are, for all intent “wild”, and beyond a certain young age, cannot be truly tamed. They’re feral cats.
When used inaccurately, words promote further misunderstanding of the cat. Unfortunately, that word has become a description for any frightened feline. Since they don’t have an extensive vocabulary as we do, and cannot speak, ways to express themselves are limited to a few sounds/actions. Hissing, spitting, growling, wide eyes, ears down, are all reactions to fear. Scratching, biting are self-defensive, and only occurs when it cannot escape. Flight is the much preferred way of the cat. Felines are very timid creations. The fact that there are millions in the “street” (barely seen) attests to that. They don’t attack people, but prefer always to hide or run away, coming out at night to find food. That fearful behavior adds to the “sneaky” misconception. It’s FEAR.
ICC has rescued thousands of cats over 30 years, from all types of environments and situations. Only about 5% of them, if that, could be accurately called “ferals”.
It is so sad that we punish the victims. We execute them for their fear of us. It’s so wrong. We MUST do better. The cats outside are the same animals that’s love and coddled as America’s number 1 pet, inside the home. They just weren’t so lucky. Words matter. F-E-R-A-L can promote misunderstanding, and slow movement forward…frightened is accurate, or fearful.
(c) 2004 Rise Chontos - Not to be republished elsewhere without permission