Group of feral cats sitting by the roadside.

Any animal lover’s heart will ache when they see an animal in need of some help. This can be especially true when you notice an outdoor cat in your community, and wonder if they are being cared for. While some cats are family pets with outdoor access, others might be in need of a little extra help if they don’t belong to anyone. 

It’s always important to approach any unfamiliar cat with caution, as you never know how they might react. The team at Shiloh Veterinary Hospital is passionate about helping all animals, and has put together these tips to help stray or feral cats in the Southern California community. 

Stray Cat or a Feral Cat? How to Tell 

Stray cats are felines that are socialized to humans, and can be adopted into a loving home. Or, they may belong to a family already. Feral cats, however, are not friendly or socialized to humans, and may prefer living outdoors. You can usually tell if a cat is a stray cat by how friendly they are, and if they let you approach them. Even if they are skittish and don’t let you come close, they will usually eat any food you put down immediately. You can help a stray cat by trying the following: 

  • Offering food to see how they respond with you present 
  • Contact the owner if the cat has visible identification on a collar or tag
  • Contact nearby animal shelters and rescue groups, to see if anyone has reported a lost cat matching the description 
  • Create a “found pet” in your local Facebook groups, shelters, and anyplace else in the community 
  • Post signs around the neighborhood
  • Ask your neighbors or local post office employee to see if they are familiar with the cat 

Feral Cats: How to Help 

Most feral cats prefer living outside, and are not friendly when approached. They might be extremely hungry, and might be dangerous to handle directly. So how can you help? Try these steps:

Offer Food and Water: Feral cats may not eat or drink in front of you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate the offering. Leave some food (dry or wet) and a water bowl outside for them to access when they are comfortable. Try placing the food or water dishes under a covered patio to protect it from the elements. 

Provide Shelter: You can provide a space for feral cats to enjoy some shade or protection from rain and other weather elements. Try building your own shelter with a plastic storage container, by cutting a hole in the side and lining it with straw or towels for them to cozy up in. 

Contact Your Local Trap-Neuter-Return Rescues: There are several nonprofit organizations whose main mission is to help feral cats through the Trap-Neuter-Return method, or TNR. This helps prevent overpopulation of feral cats by spaying and neutering them, and returning them to the outdoors. A cat who has been spayed or neutered already may have a notched or tipped ear. Cats who are brought in for spay or neuter may also be vaccinated before they are released again. You can contact local groups to see if you can get involved to help directly, or they may come out to you. 

Don’t Get Overwhelmed 

If you see a stray or feral cat (or several!) and feel overwhelmed, you can always contact the team at Shiloh Veterinary Hospital for advice. If you happen to adopt a stray cat into your family, we are also here to help with a new pet exam and wellness care throughout their life. We take the stress out of the vet visit by coming to you, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your kitty in a carrier. Contact us at (818) 614-9929 to learn more about our compassionate veterinary services.