Feral cat colonies

Feral cat colonies are simply feline families that happen to live outside. Born in the wild, ferals are the offspring of unaltered domestic cats and are generally not adoptable if not handled before 3 months of age.

Colony ferals share strong social bonds with each other, eventually forming family units. They reside where they do because there is a food source and shelter. Previously, across the country ferals have been routinely trapped and euthanized. But this cruel practice does not keep an area free of cats for long. It may temporarily reduce the number of ferals in a given area, but it creates a ‘vacuum effect’ (documented worldwide) where upon other cats quickly move in to take advantage of the now-available territory. Most likely these new cats will not be sterilized so breeding continues and new colonies form.

Trapping to kill is costly, ineffective and inhumane. The only proven successful method to end this cycle is through TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return). Eventually over time, the colony stabilizes and declines through natural attrition.

Though cats have been living outdoors on their own for thousands of years, it’s beneficial for everyone concerned that feral cats be taken care of in order to promote their well-being and make them good neighbors.

Marin Friends of Ferals (MFF) follows the principles of Alley Cat Allies (a national feral cat organization) in providing continued humane care and management of feral colonies within their own environment.

Alley Cat Allies logo

MFF works closely with the Marin Humane Society and local veterinarians in providing spay/neuter services, including all vaccinations, so the cats may live decent, healthy lives.

Marin Humane Society logo

Some benefits feral cats provide include the following:

Feral cats can minimize rodent problems while being the “green” alternative to pest control. While they cannot hunt rats and mice into extinction, cats keep their populations in check and discourage new rodents from moving into the area.

While some people feel that cats (feral or domestic) attract rodents because of uneaten cat food, the opposite is true. Rodents prefer to stay clear of cats and other predators. Rats and mice generally gravitate to fields containing smaller rodents, reptiles and insects, as well as dumpster areas with access to discarded food. Cat food is not the culprit in attracting rodents.

In fact, many Marin restaurants and businesses where dumpsters and other rodent food sources are available, are accommodating managed feral colonies simply for rodent control.

An established, vaccinated, and sterilized colony of feral cats will deter other stray and feral cats from moving into the area. This actually decreases the chances that people will encounter an unvaccinated cat, and will virtually eliminate problem behaviors like fighting, yowling, spraying and roaming.

Colonies of feral cats are no different from domestic outdoor cats which are dependent on humans for their survival. Attempting to discontinue feeding would not only be cruel, but inhumane. Most ferals can’t survive for long by hunting. Without added assistance from caretakers, their lifespan is roughly two years. They eventually succumb to starvation, disease, or as food for predators.

For the caregivers and neighbors who feed feral cats, knowing they make a difference – that they appease suffering simply by offering daily food and water – is emotionally fulfilling and rewarding.

Because feral cats can’t be held or taken indoors doesn’t make them any less worthy of a place in our animal society. To eliminate them simply because some find them inconvenient is, in our opinion, absurd. Blame is misguided; ferals are where they are today because irresponsible humans neglected to sterilize their pet cats.

Marin Friends of Ferals is committed to fostering compassionate coexistence with these often forgotten felines by providing daily managed care for the colonies and by educating the public about feral cats and their place in our society. We work to humanely reduce Marin’s feral cat population, while maintaining the quality of life for these victims of human neglect.