Unowned Cat Terminology

Feral Cat – This is a domestic cat that has reverted to the “wild” state after being lost, abandoned, or born in the wild without ever having human contact. Feral cats live in family groups called colonies and can be found anywhere there is food. Feral cats can survive almost anywhere and are found all over the world.

Colony Cat Caretaker – An individual who has taken on the responsibility for the health and well being of a colony of cats. The caretaker feeds and waters the cats, provides shelter, and is responsible for humanely trapping and taking the cats to a veterinarian for vaccination and sterilization.

Managed Colony – A group of cats where all have been sterilized, vaccinated, provided food, water and shelter from inclement weather. The colony cats are healthier and no longer breed. The caretaker regularly monitors the colony and individual cats. Feral cats are dependent on the caretaker to enact this plan and provide long-term support. A properly managed colony is a healthy and stable colony in which no kittens are born.

Stray Cat – A domestic cat that has been abandoned or has strayed from home and become lost. Once a companion animal, a stray cat can usually be successfully placed back into a home.

Vacuum Effect – A situation arising when homeless or unowned cats are removed from an environment. More cats will move in to take advantage of whatever meager food source is available and quickly fill this void. These new unaltered cats will breed to the capacity of the site.

There are three classifications of unowned cats:

Total Feral – a wild cat with no previous human contact whatsoever or only negative contact
Unowned – a shy or fearful cat that has had some positive human contact
Converted Unowned– an abandoned domestic cat that has reverted to semi-wild behavior
Community Cat – a tame, stray cat that is being cared for by a neighborhood or individual Good Samaritan(s)

Unowned cats often are the offspring of abandoned, unaltered domesticated cats. They may form colonies near a source of food. They will breed and overpopulate very quickly if their numbers are not controlled by spaying and neutering. In many cases these cats perform a welcome service in the form of natural rodent control, and are often appreciated by rural property owners and farmers. However, it is imperative to keep the population under control and prevent unwanted litters of kittens. Even if the kittens are caught and tamed and rehomed, there are always many, many more cats in our county shelters waiting to be adopted, therefore the first choice should be to prevent more babies from being born.

What services does Forgotten Felines offer to assist the public with unowned cats?

We hold twice weekly spay/neuter clinics for homeless and community cats. We loan traps when needed (as available) for people using our clinics. With 30+ years’ experience, we consider ourselves to be cat experts. We can offer guidance, information, and support for people trying to control a cat population. Our staff and volunteers have a wealth of knowledge to share regarding taming kittens, deterrence of unwanted behavior, feeding guidelines, and, of course, trapping. We are standing by to help get you started with managing your colony. Call us to sign up for a clinic or get help with a problem. (707) 576-7999.

What is a colony?

A colony is a group of cats that congregate in a specific location. This usually occurs due to a consistent source of food, such as a dumpster behind a restaurant, a barn/field full of mice, a natural body of water, etc. A “colony” can consist of one or more cats.

What is a colony caretaker?

The caretaker is the person who takes responsibility for the daily feeding, providing clean water, monitoring the cats for health problems and making certain that any newcomers to the colony are altered promptly so the colony doesn’t grow in size due to reproduction.

Is there a difference between a colony in my backyard and a colony in a commercial or public area?

No, but where the colony is located could make a different as to how you manage the colony..
Whether the colony of cats is in a residential neighborhood, on rural property, or near a business, the same basic guidelines apply. If you want to trap/neuter/release (TNR) cats to prevent overpopulation, you should either trap exclusively on your own property, or with the property owner’s permission. If it’s your backyard, ranch, or business, there is no problem. However if the colony is residing on someone else’s property it is best to get their participation and/or agreement with your trapping arrangements. Keep in mind that the smaller the property, the more chance that the cats will roam outside the property boundary – and have an effect on neighboring residences or businesses. The more cats there are, the more “above the radar” they will be to the neighborhood. Controlling the population by spaying and neutering makes for good neighbor relations!

Will you remove a homeless cat from my back yard if I don’t want it to stay there?

In most cases, no.
Forgotten Felines is not a rescue, shelter, or sanctuary.  Removing a cat from its established territory is only done as a last resort and only if a safe relocation site is available. Once that relocation site is found, the feline must be caged for 3-4 weeks at the new site so it can become accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells of its new home. In addition, a regular feeding pattern is established. This is the only motivating factor we have to encourage the cat to stay at its new home. Please contact us for more information regarding relocation. (707) 576-7999. Ultimately, if at all possible, the better choice is to leave the cat where it is, after altering the cat to prevent the undesirable behavior.

If you only take care of unowned cats then why do you have an adoption program?

A true “feral” cat is NOT adoptable. Its only option is to be an outdoor cat. However, sometimes there are tame unowned, homeless, or stray cats who have been abandoned or lost and find their way into established colonies. These tame cats or community cats which would otherwise be forgotten are removed from the colonies when possible, and placed into our adoption program. Sometimes females from the colonies where we are trapping have kittens before we can capture and alter them. The kittens are then removed from the colony and transferred to trained foster parents who will care, feed, and socialize them until they are medically sound and deemed suitable for adoption to a forever home.

Will you take other previously owned cats into your adoption program?

We are not a shelter. rescue or sanctuary. We do not take surrendered pets. If you can no longer take care of your own cat, please rehome him/her with friends, family members as a first option. If you are still unsuccessful, then contact the animal shelter that serves your jurisdiction or the Sonoma Humane Society for assistance.

How do I get started getting my cats altered?

Email or Call (707) 576-7999 and speak to one of our staff, Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00. If you call after hours please leave your name and phone number and someone will call you back. We can answer all your questions about TNR and spay/neuter, and will mail you additional information and literature regarding trapping, caretaking, and the protocols for using our services.

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All donations go to providing needed care for Sonoma County’s unowned cats. There are multiple ways to give. Learn more