When Your Cat Turns Feral

Have any of our visitors experienced the situation when their cat walks out of their home and never comes back? Heartbreaking stuff. Why does it happen? How often does it happen? It would be very difficult to deal with because a caring cat owner would not know what happened. It is the loss of a loved one without closure.

I suppose it should be said that if and when a domestic cat leaves a home for good he may be going to a neighbour’s home. A reasonable percentage of cats share homes without the first owner being aware of the second owner. These are time share cats. I guess after a time the cat decides on one of the two (or three or more) places. This probably happens when he gets a bit older and wants to settle down.

However, some reasonably comfortable domestic cats leave and live outside by choice. It is probably that the kind of individual cat who does this is a former feral or stray cat who has tasted life outside and found ways to survive.

One person who went through the torment of losing her cat this way is Christine Majul. She lives in a rural area of Washington State in America where there are predators that can and will attack domestic cats. Her female cat, Whitey, appears to have been a former feral cat or perhaps a stray cat adopted at a shelter or outside her home. She loved her very much.

In Memory Of Whitey
I will cry a thousand tears, but I will also love Whitey…Christine Photo by Christine Majul
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

She had a visit from her brother who helped lay a new floor in her home. This caused disruption. Whitey hates disruption as do nearly all cats. Even taking up a carpet and leaving bare floorboards can be enough to upset a domestic cat quite a lot.

I’ll now quote Christine one year after her cat walked out, as she says it so well:

…The house was in disarray for the six days. Then Two days after my brother and his family left, Whitey went out to the other side of the street and never came back. She chose to live in the wild as a feral cat that she was once and decided not to return. It seems that her little brain could not take all the change and commotion. I have cried my tears, grieved for her, and now I have Casey remaining…

I feel for Christine. She is a lady, there is no doubt about that.

My mother lost an independent minded ginger tabby the same way. She lived near a golf course. Her red tabby, “Tiger” used to go to the course and have fun. She knew this. One day he did not return. My mother spent days wandering over the golf course calling his name. It was painful to see.

He never did come back…until he was a very old cat with severe arthritis. He wobbled in to her home walking sideways, almost, and in pain. He lay down and rested in the warmth. He had come in from the cold. The feral cat life had become too much for him.

He was quite wild and untouchable. My mother fed him until she decided he was too much of a handful and wanted a new cat. This is where I criticise my late mother. She called a vet to her home to have him euthanised. This cleared the path for new cats. I guess Tiger was near the end and in pain. But would you do that? No, sorry not me.

It seems that when a cat leaves your home it is bad in two ways. You may ask what you did wrong. Why has he left me? It may be as simple as a severe disruption to a cat that is already thinking about the wild as he goes out a lot anyway.

I always believe that if a cat walks out there is something better out there for him than you can provide. It might not be your fault but it might be. If things are good enough at home almost all cats will remain. It is so very sad, though, if they go.

Associated: Finding a lost cat.

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9 thoughts on “When Your Cat Turns Feral”

  1. 99% of all cats that do not return or cannot be found can be found within 3 blocks of the original home. Now happily acting as fertilizer for someone’s rose bushes or shrubs. Love it or lose it! Simple as that.

    • Sounds horrible but sounds true. If you are right and 99% of cats that leave home die within three blocks of their original home it means that everyone who has lost their cat should be knocking on doors and checking yards near their home.

  2. One of my childhood cats turned feral. We failed to neuter him so that was our fault. He came from the farm, so he was pretty wild to begin with. And then there’s the problem with my parents’ house. It’s not like stuff flew through the air by itself every day, but it did happen on occasion. Our cats would sit staring at something I could not see, their fur puffed up as if they feared a threat. I didn’t like that. I’m glad Monty doesn’t do that. I think the cat who left didn’t like the evil whatever it is that’s there and left. As I’d lay awake at night feeling like I was being watched, feeling a sense of malice bearing down on me all night long coupled with a sense of wakefulness, as if the house itself never slept– I would have liked to leave too. I’m surprised our other cats stayed, but maybe it was because they loved us. Maybe they even stayed to protect us. They weren’t going to leave us even if hell itself stood against us, and it is my belief that it did and still does. They probably wondered why the stupid humans didn’t flee the really bad thing, but if that’s where the stupid humans were staying then they would stay there too. Except the one who wasn’t neutered, because for him the call to mate was stronger than his bonds with us. I just hope that nothing bad happened to him. Judging by the feral cat colonies around there, he lived long enough to father kittens. Sometimes he’d come home wounded from fighting other cats. Proof that you just have to neuter male cats. Most cats will literally stay with you through hell or high water, but for an unaltered male the call to mate and fight will likely be stronger than his loyalty to you. This has been my experience, anyway.
    As I lay in bed typing this on my phone, Monty just jumped up and sniffed my eyeball.

  3. The story about Tiger is truly heartbreaking. I would not have had him euthanised either, especially in the time when he had finally come to me for help and safety. Its a little cold to betray his trust like that. It’s a sad story. Your poor mother when she lost him and poor Tiger after he returned.


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