Life in Davis is anything but difficult for feral cats. Even so, some feel that somebody needs to help improve their lives!

Davis' nice climate provides little challenge for some introduced species. While not nearly as problematic as quackgrass or the notorious zebra mussel, a thriving introduced species in Davis is the feral cat. A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; however, the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.

Life for feral cats can be not-so-nice. Dangers include: contracting viruses, attacks by other cats or other animals, and injuries caused by cars.

Controlling the Feral Cat Population: Spaying and Neutering

An important way for you to help control the feral cat population (and help both cats and native wildlife) is to have your own cat spayed or neutered. Low income pet owners can take advantage of the annual free Spay Day at UC Davis, or seek financial aid through the Sacramento Area Animal Coalition. The rest of you can see your vet.

The Feral Feline Organization is also dedicated to helping improve the lives of feral cats in Davis. They conduct a TNR program to keep the colonies from multiplying out of control. If you are aware of feral cats in your neighborhood (or apartment complex) that have not been spayed or neutered, contact the FFO or the SPCA.

Generally, feral cats that have been spayed or neutered get their ears marked (so it doesn't happen a second time). The markings can take the form of a snipped ear, a triangular notch, or even a hole-punch. A female would typically have her right ear marked, and a male would have his left ear marked.

" Rodents in the Arboretum attract many feral cats.

The snipped right ear marks this feral as a spayed female.

This photo of a silhouetted cat shows the ear-punch method.

For more info on other local "wild" animals see Town Wildlife, Cats or Lost Pets.

Please share your stories of feral cats in your neighborhood.

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2005-08-29 14:22:49   One vomited in my yard last weekend. Last year, one left a dead bird in my garden! —AlphaDog

2006-12-06 06:39:38   A year ago a frightened 6 month old abandoned, and thus semi-feral kitten showed up in my yard. My cats took him in and treated him with kindness, as I did. It's taken over a year, but I can finally pet himand pick him up. Granted, he takes me for a Bed and Breakfast: shows up for dinner, sleeps inside, has breakfast and leaves. But he is now family, and has been neutered, vaccinated, and will soon get a chip put in him. He keeps loosing collars, but I'd rather them be a little loose than too tight. Give these guys a chance. Their almost all abandoned or runaways. You'll be surprised how grateful they are if you show them a little bit of respect and tenderness. —MonicaBallyurban

2007-08-23 12:05:45   there are some feral cats at parkside —StevenDaubert

2010-10-20 11:22:54   Not only are there feral cats in my neighborhood, but also stray cats with collars. Given that cats in the United States kill approximately 1,000,000 birds PER DAY, owners letting their cats run wild seems flagrantly inappopriate. Additionally, the owner is reponsible if their cat kills any non-invasive bird species, and is subject to prosecution under both state and federal laws. KEEP YOUR CATS INSIDE. —701Davis

    Um, what?!? Cats deserve freedom too! What cats and birds do together is their own business. My family had 2 outdoor cats at our old house for almost 20 years and they would only kill about 1 bird a year. Why should I believe 1000000 birds a day is very many? Do you have any sort of per capita statistics that would put it in context? Anyway, there doesn't seem to be any particular reason why birds are better to have around than cats in general, although I like seeing both out of doors very often. -NickSchmalenberger

    • Cats and rodents

      Toxoplasmosis. This is roughly where that old saying about "pregnant women should stay away from cats/litter boxes" comes from. Cats are a primary host, and they typically get it from rodents they catch (see transmission). I also think that what 701Davis is saying is that if the cats are killing that many birds, it's messing with the natural food chain and the local ecosystem. Those birds go on to eat other things (bugs, seeds, whatever) and ultimately are responsible for something or many things, right? Everything has it's place. More humans -> more outdoor cats -> throws off the balance, which I think is his/her summary. And to respond to your below post, urban/feral cats seem to go hand in hand with human overpopulation. More people, more outdoor cats, more cats breeding, and then too many wild cats. Pretty much anyway you slice it, the natural balance is off. -ES

2010-10-20 12:14:25   As this article says, habitat destruction is the largest cause of bird population decline and cats, power poles and car traffic are secondary causes associated with the habitat destruction because they come with the people moving in. As with so many environmental problems, human overpopulation is the underlying cause. Without confronting that directly, not much will happen except sad impositions like keeping cats indoors. —NickSchmalenberger

2010-11-06 11:08:50   I recently went trapping with the Yolo County SPCA at Sudwerk. We didn't get any cats, because most of them had already been spayed. But it was a great experience, anyone interested should definitely look into it!! —Churro615

2011-04-02 13:21:57   The habitat destruction argument as an excuse not to do something about feral cats is a complete red herring. Combined land use in the US for urban and rural residential lands is 8%. Feral cats live only in a fraction of that 8% while habitat destruction occurs widely over the remaining 92%. The impact on the bird may not be as great sources, but the impact BY the cat is enormous in small areas. TNR programs are not effective at removing the impact cats have. They do not reduce population sizes (the "vacuum effect" operates whether cats are trapped and removed or die naturally) and thus do not reduce the impact cats have. I'm all about animal welfare, I'm just not about the biased feral-centric view of what that means. We are fortunate to have a low incidence of Feline leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus in Davis, but it's becoming a major problem in the foothills. It won't be long before pets are catching it from ferals. —oob

2011-05-14 08:52:09   Hi, Oob, I think most people would agree that "something should be done about feral (I prefer to call them community) cats." The question is WHAT should be done? There are a couple of choices. 1. Do nothing. 2, We can trap and kill through the shelter. 3. We can shoot/drown/poison them. 4. Or we can trap and return them. I prefer the latter and I'll tell you why. TNR is more humane, more cost effective, doesn't cost taxpayers dollars (unlike trap and kill). It's also more effective because hundreds (thousands?) of people will volunteer their Saturday nights to trap cats that they know will survive after a spay surgery whereas very few people will spend their evenings trapping cats to take them to a shelter to get them killed. Budget strapped animal control agencies are no longer going out and "rounding up cats". Trapped cats that are brought to AC are killed at taxpayer expense at approximately $50.00 to $100.00 per cat. Property owners and volunteers who choose TNR spend $10.00-$20.00 per cat to get them spayed and vaccinated. Trap and Kill has not worked; indicated by the increasing number of cats at the shelters that we pay for. Finally, every year our cities consider whether they are going to contract with Animal Control, and it's quite likely that some day soon, certain cities will NOT. The option to bring unowned/stray/homeless/found cats (and dogs) to the "pound" will not be an option. That limits your options to 1. do nothing, 2. Poison/shoot/drown or 3. TNR.

Davis has a comparatively small number of community cats. Estimates of cat numbers are that, nation-wide, there is 1 community cat for every 6 humans. Davis is well below that number. And yes, while human populations have introduced cats, I believe increased numbers of free roaming cats are more a result of economics/demographics than population: more affluent communities tend to have fewer unowned cats. The rural and less affluent areas around Davis (Woodland farms/West Sac mobile home parks) have many more cats.

A managed colony has less impact on environment than a nonmanaged colony. I've seen community cats catch rodents, never a bird (not saying it doesn't happen because I'm sure it does). I have seen the birds eat the cat food :). TNR'd cats who test positive for Felv/FIV are almost always euthanized. All others are vaccinated for both rabies and FVRCP. Spayed/neutered cats tend not to spread FIV because the two primary modes of transmission, fighting and sex, are reduced or eliminated. And all pet cat owners can and should vaccinate their cats to significantly reduce the chances of their cats getting these diseases. Better yet, keep them inside only.

If someone wants to "do something" about community cats, they can spend their free nights finding community cats, renting traps, setting them, sitting out in their car for hours, loading the cat into their car, holding it overnight at their house until animal control opens, loading it back into their car, calling in late for work, taking it to the shelter, loading the trap (which now has significant amounts of pee/poop in it) back into their car and doing again another night (as long as AC continues to take them). Or they can donate $15.00 and let other people do all that, understanding, of course, that those people probably love the cats and will spay, vaccinate, and return them.

Lastly, AC is considering more cost effective, humane methods of community cat control. Please support them when they consider these options. I think most of us would rather have our tax dollars spent supporting police/fire/schools/wildlife habitat preservation than killing cats.

2013-12-22 08:16:55   Something paradoxical about the relationship between humans and feral cats in America(I say America because I have been to countries were feral cats are not much of an issue). Cats were domesticated for or as a byproduct of them behaving in a way we would today in this country regard as a feral cat. They roamed freely around farms, silos, barns, etc eating pests that would eat crops and stored food. They were part of the pest management and would probably be given a treat now and then to reward their efforts and keep them around. Regarding the cat as a helpless creature to be babied was usually something done only by upper classes. There are still places on the world, especially those highly dependent on agriculture(I know because I visited one) were feral cats are a normal part of the town's landscape and pets cats are sometimes indistinguishable. Thinking back on this I think there are exaggerated and legitimate reasons for controlling feral cat populations. The more concerning things about feral cats would be disease spreading and competing with native wildlife, however many TNR activists(including the author of a popular cat site) vehemently deny cats kill millions of native wildlife. At the same time however a lot of important questions are not being asked. Such questions include what portion of the local bird or small animal population is being killed by cats, is this number concerning enough, how would one compare this to native predators, and what about feral cats in places full of non-native wildlife anyway?(starlings, house sparrows, street rats, and pigeons(rock doves) are not native to America and among the most abundant urban wildlife). I think there are a lot of gaps in understanding the full nature of this problem that is only muddied by people who vehemently see feral cats to be babied and protected by being fed and see them all like poor homeless orphans who will be all better once their gonads are removed or bird maniacs that see feral cats as the worst enemy and need to be killed. When this politics occurs the right questions never get asked and instead implied to be assumed in one concrete way or another. One of these is comparing the effectiveness of TNR vs. THR(Trap-Hysterectomy-Release), THR is meant to address unaltered feral cats moving into places were altered feral cats are, by instead of spaying and neutering to remove the uteruses of the females in a colony so the colony can resume defending their territory. On the other hand it still poses a risk to pet cats that are let outdoors or run away. On the other hand cats need to be handled more like dogs. Most dog owners would never let their dogs roam the neighborhood! Cats are seen as too aloof and independent to be trained but this is not true and cats can be leash trained and can benefit from cat-proof fencing. I understand that keeping a car indoors can be a challenge but we seem to have a too-laid back approach to how pet cats are treated and disciplined in the first place. Another thing: some people claim that feral cats have no natural predators and thus flourish in numbers, obviously they ever heard of the threat coyotes pose to pet cats, or vehicles and what about those "short miserable lives" feral cats supposedly lead?(short and miserable compared to pet cats, but keep in mind that the exact same thing can be said when you compare the lifespan of a wild animal vs. the same wild animal in captivity. Also if they are so miserable and starving what about those millions of birds killed?). —KatherineLiu

2013-12-22 08:23:31   I know there are typos there I am using a mobile device. —KatherineLiu

2013-12-22 08:44:03   Another thing I'd like to add: feral cats first came to America as early as the first ships from Europe landed. Feral cats on Australia are beginning to evolve and adapt to the climate the way dingoes have. Makes me wonder if there are some feral cats that have been wild for many generations, much like feral horses and perhaps even become part of the ecosystem in some places. Also a lot about the benefits of spaying and neutering is propaganda because nobody seems to talk about the bad side effects of them, or even the risk anesthesia poses especially done at a large and mass scale in spay-neuter clinics. Nobody mentions the cardiac, bone, and urinary issues that "fixing" increases. Nobody mentions all the pets that don't survive their surgeries or don't wake up quite the same. Nobody also mentions alternate methods of behavior and birth control on animals. —KatherineLiu