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Domestic Cat

Feral Cat Evidence of Intrusion

Feral cat Evidence of Intrusion is mainly linked to the cats territorial instinct. Marking their territory is priority number two (2), after finding food of course, and your yard and garden my show on or more of the following signs of intrusion.

Feral Cat Evidence of Intrusion-Foul smelling plants and objects
All cats spray urine to mark their territory or if they are stressed. The smell is much stronger than human urine and if you smell it once, you will most likely never forget it! Spraying is particularly common in un-neutered males and with most feral cats not neutered, this can be a big problem!

Feral Cat Evidence of Intrusion-Holes dug in gardens and flower pots

Cats will dig in your garden for a couple of reasons. The first being territorial. This is perhaps the most detrimental and unsanitary for you because they will defecate to let any other cats in the neighborhood know that your yard is their territory. Secondly, and much less unsanitary, Feral cats will dig in your gardens to sleep. This is done either to keep cool in the summer or to keep warm in the winter when the air temperature is much cooler than the earth's temperature.


Feral Cat Evidence of Intrusion-Smaller Population of Rabbits

While not a territorial action, a sure sign that feral cats are visiting your yard, or worse have taken up residency in your yard, is the sudden absence of smaller rodents. Rabbits, chipmunks, etc. are often breakfast, lunch or dinner for Feral cats (or your neighbors well feed domestic cat, too!).

Feral Cat Evidence of Intrusion-Scat

Feral cat scat is left not only as a consequence of digestion, but to mark territory as well. Unfortunately, it may end up in your potted plants and vegetable gardens. Cat scat are tubular with blunt ends and look like the photo below:

Feral Cat Evidence of Intrusion-Tracks

Cats are light footed, but they will leave evidence of intrusion in your gardens. Look for these tracks in the soft dirt of your garden beds:

Feral Cat Evidence of Intrusion-Fence and Post Scratches

Cats will reach up and scratch trees and posts in order to show to other cats their size and strength. These are much easier to locate in your home, normally resulting in a scolding towards your pet, but they can also be found outdoors as well. Look for these scratches 18-24" above the base of the tree.

It is clear to see that territorial marking is the culprit for the majority of the many types of Feral cat evidence of the intrusion.

Feral Cat Interesting Facts

  • In 2005 it was estimated that the United States had 6 million house cats and 6 million feral cats.
  • In 2005 it was estimated that Britain had 7 million house cats and 1 million feral cats.
  • In 2005 it was estimated that Australia had 18 million Feral cats.
  • Cats were introduced to Australia in the 18th century with deliberate release into the wild in 19th century to control rodent populations.
  • According to a 2007–2008 National Pet Owners survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association cats have passed dogs as the most popular pet in the United States.
  • Lost or abandoned house cats can be considered feral after only several months on their own.
  • Cats have excellent sight. This can be attributed to a reflective layer in the retina that allows for excelling night vision.
  • Cats can hear sounds up to about 65 kHz, well above the limit of human hearing.
  • They are fast and agile, can jump many times their body length and are excellent climbers. 
  • The claws of Feral cats are retractable keeping them very sharp since they are not always out to dull by being walked on.
  • While house cats are usually solitary, Feral cats will form small to large colonies in areas where food sources are clustered, such as garbage dumps and highly populated urban areas. 
  • In areas with concentrations of free-ranging domestic cats a sort of hierarchy is formed. Newcomers must go through a series of fights with resident animals before their position in the hierarchy is established.
  • Female wild cats may teach their young how to capture prey by bringing them injured animals on which to practice.
  • In unrestrained domestic cat populations, female cats typically stay in their area of birth while males leave their area of birth and attempt to establish a home range elsewhere.
  • Feral cats may carry a number of diseases that have the potential to be transmitted to humans, including rabies, cat-scratch fever, and several parasitic infections.
  • Feral cats are responsible for population declines and extinctions of many species of birds and mammals, particularly those restricted to islands.
  • Efforts to control populations of domestic cats that have been introduced to islands cost many thousands of dollars to those governments, and cost us all valuable parts of global biodiversity.
  • Most wild cats are preyed upon as young cats by larger predators, such as foxes, wolves, other cats, and large birds of prey, such as owls and hawks.
  • The first national Feral cat organization, Alley Cat Allies, was formed 1990.
  • Several control methods have been introduced, however, the most humane is the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method and is gaining popularity among municipalities and governments.

Feral Cat Diet

Feral cat diet requirements includes mainly meat sources.  They are most strictly carnivores, however, they have been know to feast on a blade of grass or two (2).  While the diet of the Feral cat does not directly translate to the reasons why they are garden pests, it can help in understanding how to deal with the cats if they are venturing into your yard.

Feral Cat Diet-Food

Feral cats will diet on most small rodents.  This includes, mice, voles, and rabbits as well as birds.  To supplement their diet they will scavenge food from garbage cans and dumpsters if necessary.  Some feral cats will eat food provided for them from tender hearted humans.  Occasionally you may see a cat eating grass blades.  This practice is done to help with digestion of hard to digest bones, fur and feathers of their prey.

Feral Cat Diet-Physical Attributes

Cats are designed to hunt. They kill their prey with a bite to the back of the neck.  They hunt by sneaking up and pouncing on their prey, Most people who have cats in their neighborhood or homes recognize this familiar pounce stance. There are many physical attributes of the Felis domesticus that allow for the animals ability to take to the wild so easily.  These include enhanced eyesight, exceptional hearing, sheathed claws and their fifth toe.

Feral cats have excellent night vision. As a mainly nocturnal animal this plays an essential role in their diet.  It has been determined that cats can see up to 10 % more in the dark than humans.  This allows for the felines to find prey in the darkness.  Their vision is what is considered stereoscopic.  Despite the fact that they cannot focus well on objects in the distance, they are able to measure the distance most precisely.  And for those felines who hunt in the daytime, they area assisted by their ability to see 25 shades of gray; not surprisingly their favorite foods tend to be gray in color (mice, voles, rabbits, etc.).

An excellent sense of hearing is essential for the feline hunter and the Feral cat's hearing is superior to humans in that they can hear sounds at both the lower ranges of Hz (as sound is measured) and ranges higher than humans can detect.  The design of their ear canals most definitely assists in their excellent hearing in that they draw the sound into the ear canal allowing them to hear sounds from further away.

Cats have sheathed, or retractable claws.  This allows for the claws to remain sharp when not in use.  Their fifth two is quite helpful as well by helping to grip prey.


Feral Cat Diet-Seasonal Variances

In colder climates, Feral cats may be more apt to scavenging food from dumpsters and garbage cans during the winter months.

Feral Cat Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

Many consider cats as beneficial in keep populations of unwanted pests from residential and commercial establishments.  However, Feral cats have had an adverse effect on the populations of marine birds in island communities in the north Atlantic ocean and many hypothesize they are affecting the song bird populations in the United States as well.

In Australia, where the Feral Cat population is estimated at 18 million, they are having a serious impact on the native fauna.  They are even blamed in helping in the extinction of several native birds and small mammals.

While cats are often used to control rodent populations, due to the large populations of Feral cats there are many not only that benefit but many detriments to the Feral Cat diet.

Feral Cat Habitat

Feral cat habitat is closely matched with human habitat. Cats have been revered for centuries with evidence of domestication as far back as the Egyptian civilizations.  This long time admiration for Feral cats has lead to cats being found across the globe including island nations and states.

Feral cat habitat is far from those plush cat beds you see at pet specialty stores.  Because they do not have a house to call home they are found living in a variety of unexpected places.  Feral cats can be found to live in abandoned buildings and cars; culverts and brushy areas; barns and haystacks and most any area that provides shelter from rain, snow and sun; provides warmth or cooler temperatures, and is protected from predators.

Feral Cats Habitat-Range

The overall range of the Feral cat includes all areas of the earth inhabited by humans. Closer to home, however, Feral cats have specific limits on how far they will travel during their lifetime.  While not set in stone, these felines will maintain a territory perimeter of up to nearly 1.5 miles in more rural areas, but may be as small as the back lot of an apartment building where there are several colonies of Feral cats.  The Feral cat habitat range is marked in several ways including spraying urine and leaving scat, scratching trees and posts and rubbing their faces on objects.

Feral Cat Habitat Climate

While Feral cat populations are found on nearly every continent, their numbers tend to be higher in warmer climates.

Feral Cat Habitat - Nesting Habits

Feral cats who have not found an abandoned building to spend the night in may use the temperature of the earth to their advantage.  During cooler periods these cats will dig holes into the ground and lay in them to stay warm.  During warmer periods those cats that do not have another sleeping alternative will dig holes to lay in to stay cool. 

Feral Cat Habitat - Colonies

Feral cats tend to group together in colonies ranging from 2 to upwards of 50 animals. According to experts, related female cats and their offspring make up the base of the colony with only a few older male Feral cats part of the group.

Much of the size of the colony depends on the available food sources. You are more likely to find a larger colony in areas where food is prevalent such as highly populated urban areas and landfills.  Smaller colonies will be found in more rural areas where much of the food source for the Feral cats must be hunted and killed. Also the more dense the food source, i.e. landfills, highly populated urban areas, the more colonies there may be. In areas where many colonies exist there are neutral territories in between and while the female cats rarely leave the colony, males will travel through these neutral territories to find food, mate, etc.

It is common behavior for female Feral cats to cooperatively raise their young including nursing, nesting, protection, etc. The male cats will also participate in cleaning and feeding older kittens.

From woodlot edges to abandoned sheds; from the extreme temperatures of Australia to the near frigid temperatures of North America, all habitats suitable for humans are suitable as Feral cat habitat.

Feral cats also put pressure on native animals and birds in particular in island nations.

One could argue that the exploding population of Feral cats are a product of human negligence.  As such, they may benefit us in allowing us to realize that we do have a responsibility to recognize that our actions, in this case abandoning and/or neglecting to spay or neuter domestic cats, can have serious implications on the environments in which we live.  For more information on trap-neuter-return programs including how to begin one in your community please visit the ASPCA website at www.aspca.org and search Feral Cats or visit the Humane Society of the United States

Feral Cat Benefits & Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

The detriments to humans are more of cost and inconvenience than anything else.  Feral cats put pressure on local government budgets for control and cause strong disagreements between those who believe in eradication of the animals rather than the non-harmful trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. 

According the Humane Society of the United States the following list includes many of the problems associated with Feral Cat Colonies:

  • frequent and loud noise from fighting and mating behavior
  • strong foul odors from un-neutered male cats spraying to mark their territory
  • flea infestations
  • visible suffering from dying kittens and injured adults.


The pressure on animal shelters is high as well and can include:

  • higher intake rates of cats into shelters due to the rescue of feral kittens and the capture of feral adults
  • higher euthanasia rates for all cats due to the unadoptability of feral adults and the necessity to euthanize adoptable animals due to limited cage space
  • higher animal control costs due to trapping efforts and/or costs associated with caring for and euthanizing feral cats
  • a constant rate of nuisance complaints about feral cats.


In addition, according to experts, Feral cats may carry and spread many human and wildlife diseases.  These included cat scratch fever, distemper, histoplasmosis, leptospirosis, mumps, plague, rabies, ringworm, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, tularemia, and various endo- and ectoparasites.

Feral Cat Behavior

Most wild cats will live together in colonies to aid in survival.  They will try to find refuge in abandoned buildings and cars and may dig holes in the ground to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Much of their life is spent fending off other animals, disease and humans so they are not likely to cuddle up with you on your porch. 

While not uncommon for both female and male cats, spraying of a urine mist is most common for un-neutered males.  According to experts cats do this for many reasons. The main reason a cat sprays urine is to communicate with other cats.  The urine has chemical substances called pheromones that aid in this communication.  So, what are the cats saying?  Being that the most common time to witness this behavior is during mating season, it could be reasonably concluded that the cats are articulating their availability to accept a mate. Spray also marks territory boundaries and is often witnessed in cats that are experiencing stress.

Feral Cat Physical Appearance

Due to large number of Feral cats in the US their coloring and size varies almost infinitely, just as the cats that are kept in homes by humans.  Unlike your neighbors tabby, however, wild cats tend to be thinner and longer haired varieties may present with matted clumpy hair. Cats range from three (3) to eight (8) pounds, stand about 8 to 12 inches high at the shoulder, and 14 to 24 inches long. With their tail adding another 8 to 12 inches.

Feral Cat Natural History

Feral cats are cats that are born in the wild or that have been abandoned or lost and have returned to their wild instincts.  Cats can and do live anywhere humans do.  The populations of feral cats can be explosive if they've found a safe location.  It is estimated that female feral cats can spend the majority of their lives pregnant.  This could mean one female could have as many as 420,000 offspring in a seven (7) year lifespan.  It is rare, however, that feral cats will live beyond five (5) years and more common that they make it only two (2) years.

Feral Cat

Scientific Name: Felis domesticus
Phylum:  Chordata
Class:  Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae Felis

"Wild" for a feral cat could mean living behind shopping malls and alleyways as well as wooded areas and vacant lots. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) the estimated  number of Feral Cats in the US is in the tens of millions.  While cats are meat eaters and won't be feasting on your vegetables, flowers or trees, their natural instincts may lead them to choose your soft garden and planter soil as their own personal bathroom which will leave you with a smelly mess to deal with.