Safe to Return Feral Cats to the Wild?

by Diana
(Mexico)

Hi there. I live in Mexico and I moved here from the US about a year ago with my 2 domesticated older cats. Where we lived, we came across 2 feral kittens that we started to feed as their mother abandoned them.

We moved to another town and we decided to bring them with us. It's been about 3-4 months now and they are lukewarm. Only when they are hungry do they let me touch them although sometimes they do seek affection. I went home (US) for about a month and when I came back, they were afraid of me. Meanwhile, my two older cats have never taken a liking to them.

I'm thinking of getting them fixed and then returning them to the wild (their original home). I wanted to see what your thoughts are. They would have to fend for themselves to find food and they are going on a year old now.

People here don't like cats very much and I've tried to find homes for them and have reached out to other cities but to no avail. Also, because of their personalities, they probably wouldn't be adoptable.

Please let me know what you think. I kindly thank you.

RESPONSE:

You have a difficult situation. There are a number of humane groups that take feral cats, spay them and return them to the wild area they came from because they still belong to a feral cat colony but it sounds like you didn’t get them from a colony. Making the problem more complicated, you moved to a new area where they may no longer be familiar with the old territory that they were struggling in even if you did return them to that spot. Please see my page on Cat Colonies

Have you brought them into the house or have you continued to feed them outside…even at your new location? If you have brought them inside where they were safer and didn’t have to be wary of wildlife like coyotes, raccoons etc. they will be less able to adapt to being on their own. Feral cats take time and commitment to be integrated into a household but it is possible. My cat Chanel is now 3 years old and she was so feral she had to be isolated for months while we bonded with her and she still runs under the sofa and doesn’t come out for almost a full day after we’ve been absent on vacation. A friend arrives to feed the cats and clean the litter etc. but Chanel will sneak out for her food when the house has just her feline friends inside while we are gone. We have accepted this is her personality and it isn’t going to change. With us, she is affectionate and loving but a quick movement and she’s under the sofa…even with the love she gets. We know that if she goes outside she won’t survive. Please read Feral Cats.

I know that you care for them or you wouldn’t have tried to find them homes. And, it’s not unusual for your older cats that have been with you longer to dislike the kitties. Cats in our house seem to have a “pecking order” and when a newcomer threatens the status quo, there is resentment.

My suggestion is that if you have brought them into the house, give them more time. They may never be loving and affectionate but you have saved them from a pretty bad fate. If you have a space where they can remain aloof from the other two cats, let them utilize that space and over time their natural curiosity will have them snooping to see what happens in the areas they don’t go. If they aren’t inside the house or you don’t have the extra room for them to call home, then perhaps you have a shed or garage where they can have food left for them while they learn to roam.

Yes, get them neutered because life will be easier for both females and males without the additional traumas. Unfortunately, Mexico (I lived there for a year back in the 70’s) isn’t a country where they have all the Humane Society groups that we have in the U.S. Otherwise, I’d say to take them to a non-kill shelter and give them an opportunity to find a home. There are persons like myself that will invest the time and commitment needed to rehabilitate a feral cat. Mine just happen to arrive on my property in rather bad shape and my heart breaks for them. Those that I can’t take inside because I now have six cats, I take to a shelter where they will be cared for until they are adopted and that have “no kill” as their mantra.

There is no easy answer and each situation is different. I wish you well in deciding what to do. I hope you make a choice that will be the least harmful to the two waifs that you have rescued.

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