Do feral kittens make good pets?

Do feral kittens make good pets? - Cat World article
A survey tracked a group of rescued kittens for a year and came up with some surprising results

Believe it or not, rescued feral kittens can actually turn out to be more loving and affectionate than your average rescued domestic moggie.Work emerging from the charity Cats Protection is showing that if feral kittens are socialised from an early enough age, they can generally become calm and content enough to be relocated successfully to a normal home environment.When 70 rescued feral kittens were studied during their first year of life, the surprising result was that, at one-year-old, they were mostly happy to be handled, purred more and were generally quieter than their domestic counterparts.
Rewarding pets
The study showing rescued ferals can make rewarding pets was conducted by Dr John Bradshaw, director of the Anthrozoology Institute (Azi) at Southampton University and Sarah Lowe, Azi manager. They looked at an affluent area of Southampton and found less than four per cent of cats there able to reproduce - evidence neutering was being increasingly accepted as the best way to prevent unwanted kittens. A survey of Cats Protection branches and shelters by the Azi team indicated, however, that rescuing feral kittens is still an important area of work for the charity. In fact between 22 and 45 per cent of Cats Protection's rescued kittens were feral and Dr Bradshaw thought it likely the demand for kittens in areas where there were less domestic ones was being met increasingly by kittens of feral origin, after rescue and socialisation. Little or nothing was known about the suitability of feral kittens as pets long-term, so Dr Bradshaw's team set out to see how such a kitten's environment affects its adult behaviour towards its owner.
Ease of handling
A hundred feral kittens rescued by Cats Protection shelters and branches and other animal rescue organisations were tested for ease of handling and readiness to play during the fostering period of seven to 13 weeks. Seventy of these, all from Cats Protection, were tested again at six and 12 months old, after rehoming. Thirty-five kittens of domestic origin, rescued by the same Cats Protection branches and shelters as the feral kittens, were also tested for comparison.
The results were:·
During fostering, feral kittens rescued after six weeks of age were unlikely to purr when handled. Many rescued at eight weeks plus were difficult to handle at all, except when they had been in contact with people before rescue.
  • By 12 months, feral kittens difficult to handle and/or reluctant to play with a toy tended to be the ones rescued after seven weeks old. Those socialised intermittently during fostering, perhaps in an outdoor pen, were more reluctant to play with an object presented by an unfamiliar person, compared with those socialised continuously, in a cage in the fosterer's kitchen for example.
  • There was an immediate improvement in ease of handling and readiness to play, following socialisation by more than one person during fostering. By six or 12 months, this effect was no longer apparent.
  • At 12 months old, 18 per cent of the feral kittens were still difficult to handle and were rated as less than 'very satisfactory' by their owners. The owners of the remaining 82 per cent, the friendly feral kittens, found them equally satisfactory as pets as did the owners of the rescued domestic kittens, at one year old.
  • The friendly feral kittens gave some indications they were more attached to their owners at one year of age than the rescued domestic kittens. When handled they were more likely to purr, made fewer escape attempts and were generally less active than the domestic kittens.
  • Undesirable behaviour at one-year-old, like scratching furniture, aggression towards other cats and fearfulness, was unaffected by whether a kitten had originally been feral or domestic, though toileting problems were slightly more common in ferals.

Good socialisation
The study concluded that feral kittens, if rescued before seven weeks of age, are very likely to become satisfactory pets. It recommended continuous socialisation by more then one person to become 'best practice', if possible, for fostering, both for the kitten's welfare and to ensure it satisfies its new owner's expectations.
Results also showed it was important to consider whether rescue and rehoming into a domestic environment is likely to be in the best interests of feral kittens aged seven weeks or more. So far as adult feral cats are concerned, Cats Protection recommends they are trapped, neutered and returned to their natural habitat, because it is recognised they cannot easily be rehomed in a domestic environment. In order to alleviate the unnecessary destruction of feral cats and to enable them to remain feral, several Cats Protection shelters and branches have successfully rehomed some ferals to farms and stables. This initiative aims to allow feral cats to thrive in the right environment, as well as keep the rodent population under control.

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Ibiza trip Nov 2005

What do you think of when you hear somebody's going to Ibiza for a fortnight? They're off for a relaxing holiday with sun, sea, and endless partying? Well, for a small but dedicated band of volunteers it means something very different...

SNIP's trapper, Tan Ahmet, has been on several trips to Ibiza organised and funded by Angela Collins of the charity Care 4 Cats.

In cooperation with local charities they aim to neuter as many cats as possible during the 1 or 2 weeks of their stay. As you can see from the photos, there are large colonies of feral and stray cats in Ibiza and the other Balearic islands, and left unneutered the population quickly gets out of control.

Their visits do involve a lot of late nights, but they are spent setting traps, waiting patiently for the cats to go in then taking them to the vets to be neutered. They always try to get every cat in the colony, and often there will be that elusive one that takes days to catch.



The latest trip was in November 2005, a 2-week stay during which an amazing 570 cats were trapped and neutered. This is a selection of pictures taken during this trip.


If you want them to go into the trap,

don't leave a bag of

food lying around!




That's better...





The cats are given a few hours to recuperate (longer for females), then returned to their site.

As Care 4 Cats becomes more widely known on the island, more and more people contact them asking for help with colonies they are feeding.

For more information, see this report on a previous trip in 2004 on the website of the Worldwide Veterinary Service - a WVS nurse helped Care 4 Cats on that trip



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PATSY - looking for a (Fabulous) new home HOMED

Absolutely Fabulous Cat!!

This stylish feline, seen here relaxing in her former pied-a-terre, is 9 years old.

Sadly, her owner has become too ill to care for her any more, so she urgently needs somewhere new to call home.

A lady of a certain age, she is by no means old but is so over all those silly kitten antics, dahlings, and far better behaved than her Ab Fab namesake!

Ideally she"d like a garden, but would consider a large indoor home.

Would you like her to adorn your sofa, sweetie?

Give SNIP a call on 0700 594 7647 ("adopt a cat" option) or email
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Harry & Toby - looking for a home HOMED

Meet Harry (the ginger one) amd Toby (the tabby). They are both about 5 years old, strays that were put together as SNIP had no room to keep them separate, and now they adore each other!

Toby is a big, solid muscley cat with a tattered ear, who is very shy at first so needs time to get to know you. Harry is braver, and the sweetest cat you could wish to meet.

They must be homed together as they are so devoted to each other. They have been waiting a long time for the right person to love them, as Toby in particular won't show his face if anyone comes to see them.

They have been used to going outside so need a garden. Could you give these lovely lads a second chance? Give SNIP a call on 0700 594 7647 or email your details to and someone will contact you.
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Cloudy & Shelley - looking for a home HOMED

Cloudy (a black and white male, seen here about to phone a friend) and Shelley (a tortie and white female) are a brother and sister pair 3 and a half years old.

They have been in SNIP's care for ages, as they are wary of strangers and won't come out of hiding when anyone new comes to see them!

Shelley will take about a week to settle in a new place and Cloudy a lot longer, but they are both very affectionate when they get to know you - and, as you can see below, very fond of each other.

They had to be reluctantly given up from their previous home as a new child was allergic to them. They have always been indoors, so could go to a large indoor home or a home with a garden.

If you have a fairly quiet home and are willing to take the time to get to know them this pair will make loving companions.

Call SNIP on 0700 594 7647, and select the 'Adopt a Cat' option, or email your details to and someone will contact you.
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TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return)

What is TNR?
Trap/neuter/return, commonly referred to as "TNR", is the only method proven to be humane and effective at controlling feral cat population growth. Using this technique, all the feral cats in a colony are trapped, neutered and then returned to their territory, assuming it is a safe area and there is sufficient food available (ideally provided by a regular feeder). Kittens who are still young enough to be socialised, as well as friendly adults, are placed in foster care and eventually adopted out to good homes.
Those that are returned are marked, in the UK usually by ear-tipping (cutting off the tip of one ear while under the anaesthetic), so it can be easily seen that they have been neutered, and they will not have to be subjected to the stress of being caught (and possibly operated on in the case of females) for a second time. As they can no longer reproduce, the numbers in the colony gradually decline. The colony should be regularly monitored for any newcomers, so they can be neutered as soon as possible.

Why use it?
TNR has many advantages. It immediately stabilizes the size of the colony by eliminating new litters. The nuisance behaviour often associated with feral cats is dramatically reduced, including the yowling and fighting that come with mating activity and the odour of unneutered males spraying to mark their territory. The returned colony also guards its territory, preventing unneutered cats from moving in and beginning the cycle of overpopulation and problem behaviour anew. Particularly in urban areas, the cats continue to provide natural rodent control.

Another significant advantage to TNR is that, when practiced on a large scale, it lessens the number of kittens and cats flowing into local shelters. This results in lower euthanasia rates and the increased adoption of cats already in the shelters.

It also often improves the general health of the cat colony: the females are relieved of the burden of constant breeding and the males fight significantly less, so reducing wounds and the transmission of disease, such as FIV (feline AIDS) or FeLV (leukaemia) both within the colony and to pet cats.

Isn't it a lot of effort?
Well, yes, in the short term. But in the long term TNR is not just the best and most humane alternative to controlling feral cat populations - it is the only one that works.
Doing nothing results in populations growing so large they cause a nuisance, especially in urban areas with ready availability of food eg. around markets and restaurants, and in poor health for the cats.
Trying to find homes for all the cats is a practical impossibilty due to the numbers involved, and the fact that most of the adults will be impossible to tame.
Trapping and killing, apart from any moral or sentimental objections, is simply ineffective. If all the cats are not caught, then the ones left behind continue to breed until the former population level is reached. Even if all the cats are removed, new unneutered cats tend to move in to take advantage of whatever food source there was, and the cycle starts again.

Recognising this, many community, local government and animal welfare groups (including SNIP) throught the UK and worldwide are using the TNR method to control feral cats.

More information :

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Contact SNIP

For more information, or to offer help:

PO Box 45042
London N4 2WQ

0700 594 SNIP (0700 594 7647)

We receive a small fee per cat that we help in the borough of Islington, given by the Council, but the majority of the cost of vet bills, equipment, food & litter has to be met from membership fees and donations. Funds are always short, so whatever you can spare would be greatly appreciated. SNIP is run exclusively by volunteers so any donation goes directly towards the care of free-living cats.

No-cost donations
Shop online through this link with any of the dozens of well-known retailers featured in our webshop and SNIP earns commission, at no extra cost to you.

Other help
We always need new volunteers - if you are in North London (near Islington) and could help out, even for a few hours, with fundraising, transport or general organisation please give us a call. At the moment we are especially looking for someone to help organise social events.

We also need items we can sell, at charity bazaars or on eBay; if you're having a clear-out why not drop a few things in to us?

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