Feral cats are the offspring of domesticated cats that were born in the wild. They’ve never socialized with humans or have been wild so long they are no longer socialized. Feral cats are different from strays because stray cats can adapt to a domestic setting. Feral cats are no longer socialized for human interaction (www.alleycat.org). Feral cats generally avoid human contact. They avoid humans rather than attack or allow themselves to be handled by a human. Avoidance of human contact is a trait that has come to characterize feral cats.
Feral cats, despite their innocuous appearance, pose several threats to their surroundings. For one, feral cats are notorious predators of wildlife. These cats prey on birds and small rodents. Wild cats kill billions of birds and tens of billions of mammals annually in the United States alone. As the feral cat population grows at faster rates it is likely that the carnage will multiply. There is concern that feral cats may wipe out certain other species in time.
Feral cats often contribute to the spreading of disease, both to other animals and to humans. According to the U.S Center for Disease Control, rabid cats are the leading source of human rabies infections in recent years. About 300 cases of rabies a year, or about 16% of all rabies cases annually in the US, are from exposure to rabid cats. The next step to stop the transmission of this often fatal virus is to control the feral cat population. Feral cats are also known to oftentimes carry intestinal parasites. These parasites are, in turn, transmitted to other animals and, sometimes, humans as well. Feral cats increase the potential to spread diseases.
In other places in the world feral cats are perceived to be intrinsically problematic regardless of the threat they pose to the surrounding habitat. In some cultures, such as Israel, feral cats are considered undesirable pests. Their steep birth rates make the population virtually impossible to control. Some cultures consider these cats a nuisance. In these places there is a need to manage the overpopulation of feral cats.
Despite their similar appearance, feral cats cause a wider range of problems than strays. The overpopulation of feral cats presents real dangers to the host environment. The problems range in severity. There is increasing dirtiness which is not severe. There is the threat to the existence of the species on which they prey. Most immediate, there is the risk of spreading deadly diseases among animals and humans.