Don’t feed feral cats say the RSPCA

Feral cat UK High Wycombe

Joan Johnson from the South Bucks branch of the RSPCA, “the leading UK animal welfare charity”, says we should not feed feral cats despite the temptation to help. How, then are people who care about feral cats going to be able to successfully manage feral cat colonies? I would have thought that feeding feral cats was part of the process of trap-neuter-return. If I am wrong I will accept criticism.

The reason Joan Johnson gives for not feeding feral cats is that they are a nuisance in terms of disease and pestering other cats and people. The RSCPA advice is to call the RSPCA and not feed or trap feral cats.

Without wishing to be unjustifiably negative, how responsive are the RSPCA going to be in coming to TNR a feral cat where you live? Firstly, how do you know the cat is feral? That is the first major obstacle. Secondly, my experience of the RSPCA in turning up and dealing with routine animal issues is not good. The RSPCA seems more concerned with high profile cases and litigation than the mundane.

Perhaps I am wrong again – I sincerely hope that I am – but if you are feeding as well as trapping I would have thought you were more able to trap cats. In fact, I don’t see how you can complete the “trap” part of trap-neuter-return (TNR) with doing some feeding. Food is used to trap feral cats and to help to manage a feral cat colony. Note: trapping feral cats requires skill and care. There are potential problems.

I understand the downsides of feeding feral cats. It seems to the general public as if you are supporting feral cats; perpetuating and expanding the “problem”. A problem which, thankfully, the RSPCA recognise as originating in the behavior of people.

However, if feeding feral cats is always accompanied by TNR then I would have though it was acceptable to the general public because it can only be beneficial, in the long term, to everyone including the cats.

The South Buckinghamshire branch of the RSPCA is dealing with what they describe as “a huge problem around the High Wycombe area” in respect of feral cat populations. The RSPCA is conducting a TNR programme in the area. They are seeking volunteers to help.

The video is interesting because it shows that the UK does have a feral cat problem of sorts, at least in some areas despite the fact that I never see feral cats living in London. You would have thought that if there was a feral cat problem in South Buckinghamshire, which is not far from London, that you’d have a similar situation in Greater London where there is a much higher human population density.

The RSPCA has TNRed 5,000 cats in the past 3 years. In the South Bucks area they are regularly asked to help.

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Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!


Don’t feed feral cats say the RSPCA — 14 Comments

  1. At a presentation in Toronto by reps from the New York Feral Cat Initiative, they said that their state requires that all domestic animals must be fed and cared for under animal welfare laws. What the RSCPCA recommends would probably be illegal in New York.

    Feral cats are considered domestic animals, not wildlife. This needs to be part of laws everywhere so their numbers can be managed through successful Trap-Neuter-Return.

    Near the end of this pdf, this has some info on the State of New York’s support of TNR. –

    NYFCI –

    The position of the RSPCA is outdated. Only PETA is the other remaining self proclaimed “animal rights” group that would rather see cats dead than fed (if you read info on their site, they’re opposed to keeping any pets or animals in captivity).

    If a group is in favour of protecting the rights of other living beings, isn’t the first and most fundamental right the right to life?

    A dead animal or person does not need protection from cruelty. You don’t see Amnesty International or Childrens’ Services telling everyone not to feed homeless people!

    The American SPCA has been gradually changing. Most SPCAs are founded on what the ASPCA did. They diverged from their original mission after founder Henry Bergh died. The RSPCA, like some other SPCAs, are not really experts or leaders when it comes to putting life saving programs and services in place. Individual shelters and communities are actually leading progressive change.

  2. That is one of the dumbest things I’ve read. I feed 2 male ferals and 1 female stray. The 2 males ventured into my yard and would fight and yowl. I always had to break it up. One male ended up with an abscess on his front leg. I had to bring him inside and isolate him for a week to treat the infection. After that, he barely roams anymore. He doesn’t yowl anymore either. He lives in my backyard now with the female stray. I plan on getting him neutered once I have the funds along with the other feral. When he was timid before, he is now very affectionate and talkative. He lounges on the covered patio or in his chair. The other feral, who would usually instigate passes through once in a while, but doesn’t bother with the other one anymore. I think they equated their yowling and fighting with me going outside to break up their fights. Animals are not as dumb as some people want to think they are.

  3. Well Joan Johnson shouldn’t be part of the RSPCA because she obviously doesn’t like cats.
    You can’t pick and choose and like some cats but not all cats, cats are cats whether pets or feral and all deserve to live their lives.
    Cats Protection continuously TNR until the entire colony has been trapped, neutered, checked for health problems and returned or relocated to a safer place.
    Why can’t the RSPCA do the same?
    ‘The leading UK animal welfare charity’ what a joke in Joan Johnsons case.
    I feel sorry for the genuine people working for them, such as the caring Inspector Babz mentioned above.

  4. It sounds as though all the RSPCA would do would be trap them and kill them if they regard feral cats as a nuisance and diseased, it’s hard to have sympathy for the RSPCA when people like Joan Johnson speak for them which is a shame as a local inspector we were talking to yesterday came across as very caring, and concerned about cats in particular. As we all know Cats Protection TNR and support colonies of feral cats by feeding and looking out for them. Our own branch has a small rota of volunteers who turn out regularly to feed local colonies every day of the year, they know which cats to expect and worry about the ones they don’t see and they report newcomers to Marion who does her best to TNR the newcomer and so it goes on. The only sour note to my mind is that the location of the colonies has to be kept secret because of the fear of what low lives could do to the cats if they knew where to find them. People can be extremely kind or extremely cruel, I hope the balance is in favour of the kind ones.


      • No expert, but I have been dealing with “wild and untamed” cats all my life. There was no such word as “feral” when I was 8 or 10 years old. Some day I’ll tell the story of bringing the very small baby bobcat home and my familys’ reaction. I brought home stray cats and my sister brought home stray people. That was “normal” for us/

        • no such word as “feral” when I was 8 or 10 years old

          Yes, in some parts of the world they call them “community cats”. People share in caring for them.

  6. Here in Puerto Rico there are hundreds of feral cats. But it is very sad to admit that where these cats don’t receive any help, as where I live, people poison and kill them all the time. Cars also help in this massacre. I encourage people to adopt at least one or two (I have two and one came from the San Juan Puerto Rico Capital) and don’t depend only on rescue sites. We can do something, at least for one or two of them. Please I beg you for the life of these precious pets.

    • Thank you for supporting feral cats. A lot of people want to kill feral cats. In England people don’t think like that. 99% of the time we leave them alone or use TNR or rehome. But in the USA, although TNR is also used a lot, feral cats can be persecuted (shot and poisoned). In Greece they are poisoned. In China they are beaten and eaten certain regions and places of the south and so on. I could go on but in general, as you say, feral cats have a hard time and are persecuted.

      Pedro, if you have time, please write a long comment about the feral cats of Puerto Rico and I will turn it into an article and pay the next PoC charity donation for August to a cat charity in Puerto Rico if there is one.

    • I agree with you. Ferals can make excellent companions if a person is willing to take the time to work with them.

      I don’t see many ferals in the area where I live, mainly because there are hundreds of acres of woods, and the cats tend to stay hidden. Quite a few years ago, however, one starving feral showed up, along with a half-grown feral kitten, and a very frightened abandoned stray that stayed hidden most of the time.

      I couldn’t just ignore them, so I fed them and tried to work with them. The stray eventually came out of hiding, and came to the door, asking to be allowed in. He lived with us for the rest of his life, which, sadly, was only a couple of years.

      I was eventually able to gain the trust of the starving feral that I named Muggsy, and I got him neutered and brought him in. He was a fantastic cat and he was with me for about thirteen years.

      The half-grown kitten tended to be rather aggressive, so, after I trapped him and had him neutered, I figured he could live in the barn, but he had other ideas. He showed up at the door to the deck and made it quite plain that he wanted to be an indoor kitty, so, he, too, came inside. I had never seen a cat try so hard to figure out what was acceptable behavior for an inside kitty, but he did it.

      They are, after all, just cats–not monsters–and they are out there through no fault of their own.

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