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How do I help my feral cat?

How do I help my feral cat?

by Lacey

I moved into an apartment a few months ago and one day, I noticed that a black cat was hanging out in my backyard.

He (or she, but for the sake of ease, he) didn’t return for a few weeks. He came back at the end of the summer and I was so excited to see him.

I put out a dish of milk and he immediately drank it all. He stayed the rest of the evening and a few days later he came back. I gave him more milk. Since then, he has been hanging out on the wall/fence at the back of my backyard every morning, all day, and into the evening.

I kept giving him milk every few days, and water on the days I ran out of milk. Last week I finally remembered to pick up a bag of cat food at the grocery store.

I have fed him twice in my backyard. He won’t come into the yard while I am there, but will wait until I have gone back inside before venturing over to the bowl.

I feel awful because I have gotten a much better look at him. He has ear mites or a bad infection, because he has scratched all the fur off his ears and they are bloody red. His fur is scraggly and he seems scared all the time.

However, he used to look at me with a mixture of boredom and fear, and would run away immediately when I approached. Now he waits for me to come home from work and looks at me with hope and expectation.

He still backs off if I get too close, but he lets me come closer before hiding in the bushes. I want to take care of him but, living in a city with neighbors in close proximity, I don’t want to make them mad by feeding him (people have strange reactions when it comes to feral cats).

I try to put the bowl in a place where they won’t see it. The cat is around all the time now, which is fine with me as I love cats. I guess what I want to know is: how can I best help him?

Taking him into my home is NOT an option, he is truly wild. But I don’t want him to be so afraid of me. I am also worried about what he will do during the winter. I hope by then he trusts me enough to let me feed him and provide some kind of shelter for him in my backyard.

The other thing is, he disappears at nighttime, I assume to hunt. I worry about him when he’s gone! I already feel like he’s my little cat, haha.

I just hope I am doing the right thing by feeding him. I don’t want him to completely depend on me if that’s a bad thing or if he will forget how to hunt for himself. It’s just that every time I give him food and milk, he eats like it’s his last meal and it breaks my heart. He is definitely alone. I haven’t seen any cats with him. He is the first feral cat I’ve had extended contact with, so this is all new to me. Any suggestions or comments are appreciated.


Hi Lacey… thanks for sharing and asking. And well done to you for helping this cat under difficult circumstances. I can understand your concern both from neighbour reactions and how to help – he needs help.

Other visitors who have feed feral cats have been criticised. Help Fight Beverly Hills Municipal Code.

My immediate thought is trap, neuter, return (TNR). The problem is you do not have the equipment and know how to do this. But this would allow for treatment and neutering etc.

I would try and find a local organization who might be able to help in TNR.

I think you would agree that he needs medical treatment and the only way to do that is to trap him. That is the first kind of help other than food that he needs.

It would be nice to think that he could be domesticated and rehomed after treatment. That must be the ultimate solution.

One last small point. Ordinary cows milk is not that good for cats. It can give them diarrhea. This is not in any way to criticism you. I admire you a lot for reacting compassionately to help and taking responsibility.

Good luck to you both. I hope someone else can provide a better answer.

From How do I help my feral cat? to Feral cats

Comments for
How do I help my feral cat?

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Dec 11, 2011 feral cat house
by: Anonymous

If you want instructions on how to make a home for your feral cat just google all kinds of suggestions and instructions on how to make I was just told that you can make a very simple one out of recycle box

Dec 11, 2011 MY FERAL CAT
by: Anonymous

we have several feral cats that come around and i think they are all from the same mother she is beautiful she is a calico with blue eyes and is definitely the queen no one tries to fight with her Since i first saw her ive fed her and she is definitely stronger and bigger she comes right up to veranda to get me every morning and evening

Anyway, i was away for a few weeks and when i returned she was with her own kitten and i never saw two creatures so happy playing in the sun all day taking off for hunts and she found a place for them both to stay We are now building a house for her out of a cooler for the winter

Oct 10, 2010 Good for you
by: Michael

Good for you, Lacey. You are a good person. And good luck to you both! If you get time please tell us how you progress.

Oct 04, 2010 Thank you!
by: Lacey

Thank you to Michael and everyone else for your comments and suggestions! I have found an organization in my city that is focused on TNR. I have emailed them and asked for more information. Hopefully I can get the process moving so that he can get his ears treated and get neutered! I will keep you posted on his and my progress. And thank you for letting me know about the milk. I will make sure to only give him cat food and water 🙂

Oct 04, 2010 same problem
by: kathy

I have been feeding a feral called Mr. Grey for about a year now. Last winter I didnt see him too often and was carful when I put his food out so it wouldnt freeze. I tried to do this only when I saw him and knew he was around. This year he comes more often because the neighbor also has started feeding him. I too am at odds as to how to feed him this winter. I know he probaly wont be coaxed inside a cat house with a heater as his behavior is similar to your cats. He runs away when you get within about 10 feet of him. He seems to have gotten in better shape since we started feeding him. Id like to cut a hole in our shed and let him go in there. But i still worry about the food freezing. We are still trying to figure something out.

Oct 04, 2010 My feral is like yours……..
by: Dorothy

I have a feral cat that I’ve been feeding for over a year. She will now approach the back door, and wait for her food, but still runs a few feet back when I put it down. Though, she is very grateful. I keep fresh water back there for her. Sometimes she disappears for a couple days, and it makes me sad, but she always has come back, very hungry. We have a nice understanding, that doesn’t include touching, unfortunately.

She was part of a TNR program many years ago. Her ear is clipped, which is a tell tail sign. I’m sure it is why she has lived as long as she has. No kittens to deal with, and fewer fighting cats around as they have all been neutered and vaccinated. The one time treatment in the case of our neighborhood ferals seems to have done the trick health wise. My yellow feral gains about 4 inches of fur in the winter. I’ve set up countless sleeping situations for her, but she’s chosen not to use ANY of them. She does sit on the outdoor furniture where she can see all around her, but I don’t think that helps in the winter. All I can say is, she must have it figured out better than I could ever do for her, as she survives the winder freeze. I’ll keep trying to make suitable places for her to sleep, just because I can’t help myself…

The main thing I wanted to say is that it takes patience and a very long time for them to come closer. They trust and appreciate the regular feeding. I hope you can find someone to trap and neuter your friend before he/she gets in trouble.

Best of luck. I look forward to hearing more. Here is the link to one story about my Yellow Feral, back when I thought she was a he!


Oct 03, 2010 Helping ferals
by: Susie Bearder

Well done you for caring and doing what you are able! Several things came to mind as I read about you and your ‘kitty’.

First they have to be wary and if this cat trusts you then that is a biggy. Secondly poco a poco as they say in Soain he will let you get closer over time, And they dont seem to show emotion, ears are often down etc.
What your cat will need is a source of water and they seem to be quite fussy about water. They would rather drink from a puddle than the stuff out of our taps.

Michael is of course right about the milk thing. Our cats get cream as a treat as so do I, having a lactose allergy.

Definitely you need a friendly organisation to help and BIG gloves. He needs a vet once over. Wishing you very good luck.

ps If you give your Baltimore Wanderer a name it saves energy in the long run….lol

Oct 03, 2010 To Lacey
by: Ruth

Sorry I haven’t any different suggestions than Michael, he is right that the cat needs to be trapped and taken for neutering and medical treatment. He probably has fleas and worms as well as the ear mites and he won’t be getting the nourishment he needs from the food you give him.
Do you have a local vet you could maybe ask for help? They may know of someone in animal welfare who can help you. Sometimes the people who work at the vets will offer help.
Meanwhile all you can do is your best, feeding him as you so kindly are.
Put him fresh water out daily and some sort of shelter.
He may not be truly feral but a cat someone has abused and abandoned and that’s why he’s so nervous.
Good luck, I wish I was near you to help you.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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