Feral Cat

Feral Cats: (Felis catus)

Feral cats (felis catus) are in the felidae or cat family. They are small sized cats averaging 5 to 10 inches long, 5 to 20 pounds, standing about 17 to 22 inches tall. 

Feral cats have a variety of colors and markings, their fur covers the entire body. Their head and eyes are small; ears are slightly tufted. The tail is long. They have razor sharp claws. Feral cats under-parts are usually white and may have some color and markings.

Feral cats are found throughout North American including Florida. This has allowed them to adapt to several environments. They can survive in wooded areas, highly populated cities, farms, neighborhoods and rural areas.

Feral cats are scavengers and will eat just about anything. Their primary diet consists of rats, mice, small birds and some small reptiles such as lizards. They also feed on pet food that has been left outside as well as garbage.

Feral cats, at one time were domesticated cats that have been returned to the wild, or they were born in the wild; only having an average life span of 2 to 8 years. They are not to be confused with stray or lost cats. Feral cats exist in the wild entirely on their own. Although most feral cats are members of cat colonies, which receive some aid from humans. Feral cats that live in colonies are usually trapped by people and are neuter/spaded and then released back into the wild. They are usually timid of humans and when provoked or concerned they become very aggressive, by hissing, growling, spitting and even striking you with their claws, especially when they are protecting their young and or territory.  

Female feral cats can breed as early as 4 months old. Its gestation period lasts approximately 63 to 65 days. The average litter size varies depending on certain factors related to the mother, but they can have up to 10 kittens or more. The kittens are born with their eyes closed, after 9 to 14 days they open their eyes and their sense of smell starts to develop. They are also born almost deaf; only hearing very muffled sounds, after 3 weeks their ear canals completely open giving them full hearing. Until then they communicate with their mother by using high pitched squealing noises. The kittens can not regulate their body temperatures, totally depending on the mother to keep them warm and care for them. In the first few weeks of their life they double in weight and size; ready to explore and play. The mother begins to wean her kittens around 6 to 8 weeks old, teaching them their keen hunting skills.

There are several infectious diseases and parasites documented in feral cats. These diseases include rabies, feline distemper and feline leukemia. They also carry parasites that include, tape-worms, round-worms hook-worms and other common parasites that are associated with their prey. These parasites can be transmitted to humans by coming in contact with its feces. If a feral cats becomes infected with rabies its usually the furious type, as they are less susceptible to rabies than other animals. Feral cats are at a higher risk of contracting feline leukemia virus (feline cancer); which can be transmitted between other cats through their saliva, nasal secretions or by any close contact including biting.       

Feral cats that are introduced in areas often cause harm to the environment by preying on local species such as birds; causing significant declining populations. They also dig up yards, gardens, flower beds and crops after defecating, only to cover up its feces.

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