Stray and Feral Cat Illnesses

(Long beach, CA)

Stray or feral cat with hair loss and unweight - photo by Editor B (Flickr)

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Stray or feral cat with hair loss and unweight - photo by Editor B (Flickr)

In my neighborhood there are many stray cats, and one in particular a black male cat seems real ill, sometimes he has funk coming out of his eyes.

Anyways I noticed that my neighbor's cat caught some disease or something, he had no hair in his face and all four legs I'm pretty sure he caught it from the black cat.

Two days later I found the cat dead. I took a picture of it, I really want to know what exactly is this thing that most cats around here have.

I'm especially worried because I have a cat.


Hi.... this is an interesting question and it is a hard one to answer as I have failed to find any really good research work on this subject.

I don't think that you can say for sure from what you have said that the cat suffered from a certain single illness. There is probably more than one illness present. Some common reasons for hair loss are listed on this page: hair loss in cats. It sounds like a parasitic infection to me; mange of some sort.

It is almost certain the cat died of one of the major infectious diseases. Feral cats suffer from the same diseases as domestic cats but they are untreated so they become very ill and die.

The killer viruses are often accompanied by secondary infections and disease.

These virus are:

Feline Infectious Peritonitis - FIP

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus - FIV or feline AIDS

Feline leukemia virus - FeLV

These are the big three. They are all very serious. FeLV can be present in a cat and the cat can live a normal life hence they are adopted as FeLV cats.

In a study {link} in Northern Florida of feral cats it was surprisingly found that the presence of FeLV or FIV occurred no more frequently for these cats than for domestic cats. One problem of course is that feral cats are untreated. However this means that from this sample (553 cats) people are at no greater risk of getting cat scratch fever from the Bartonella henselae bacteria than from their own cat.

Indoor Outdoor debate

What you ask is really about whether we should keep our cats permanently indoors to avoid our cat meeting up with cats that might be infected with these nasty diseases.

The answer is not clear cut. People are very polarised and passionate on this subject.

See: Outdoor cat problems

We all make our personal choice. If absolute safety of our cat is paramount then the cat should be confined to indoor living with due care to the dangers at home (eg. household plants and toxic materials).

If a potentially fuller but riskier life is acceptable the cat can be indoor/outdoor.

Personally, I have always advocated a large enclosure as the best compromise.

Michael Avatar

Stray and Feral Cat Illnesses to Cat health problems

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Stray and Feral Cat Illnesses

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Jan 15, 2011 Helping Stray and Feral Cats in Winter
by: Anonymous

Many people feed stray and feral cats and worry about their health, particularly in the winter. I manage a colony of seven ferals outside of my home. I provide an electric water bowl on my front porch, as well as dry food (24/7) and wet food. A few of the more friendly ones lay on my love seat which has many thermal cat blankets I purchased. Some of them even hide under the blankets to stay extra warm. I do what I can for them on a year-round basis, but in the winter I keep an extra close check that they have fresh food and water (that's not frozen). I feed them on the same time schedule every day so they don't miss out on the canned food. There is no fighting or anything because all of the cats have been spayed/neutered and vaccinated for both rabies and distemper. This also keeps the other "strays" in the neighborhood away!

May 17, 2010 Hairless Feral
by: Merrily

Well, there is no doubt that the black Feral was ill, however losing hair can be from other problems.
I feed feral cats, and two brothers who I call the Red Boys now consider my yard their home.
When I first met the Red Boys, Little Red was totally naked. The first thing I thought of was Mange. It was winter and I am sure he was very cold without his coat.
I spoke with a neighbor who told me the boys mostly caught birds, and that no one really fed them. She did say that she was giving them milk, because she couldn't use the entire carton before it spoiled.
I started feeding the boys, and in a couple of weeks I could see downy little copper colored coat starting to grow.
Now he has a beautiful coat, and I beleive the hairless condition was either an allergy to milk, or simply malnutrition since there really isn't much to eat in the desert. There are no mice, no rabbits, or squirrels, just birds.
Little Red is quite the hunter, and always seems to come up with something to eat, but he and his brother Big Red never miss a meal, and if I am late they call at the door to remind me's dinner time!

10 thoughts on “Stray and Feral Cat Illnesses”

  1. Hi I care for a community of cats but I’m a bit concerned because when I least suspect it, some may get I’ll and I afterwards I don’t see them again. They make it through the harsh winter but sometimes get sick around spring or summer. They become lethargic, loose weight and disappear for days before I’ll see them again. When I do see them is when I realize that they’re sick and that’s why the haven’t been around. Sometimes the sickness is associated with drolling or wet eyes, almost as if their eyes are sensitive to light. I really want to help them.

  2. Taking care of a feral cat for 16 years all of a sudden one day had difficulty breathing and crying next day when I went to feed her she was dead

  3. I have a stray/feral cat that I’ve been caring for for just under a year. We built an insulated, waterproof full of straw house for him for the winter. He made it through the winter but recently he showed up limping & a few days later I found him vomiting. He since has completely holed up in his house for the last 12 days. I check on him a few times a day giving food and water which he takes while hissing at me. He just started to roam out for little bits. Near as I can tell he’s not limping or vomiting anymore. Could he have been sick with something this long and is simply taking this time to heal? I’m so concerned about him.

    • Hi Jodi. The limp would probably have healed sufficiently naturally if it was not that serious. Cats are good vomiters as we know. He probably ate some rotten food, vomited it up and is on the mend. I suspect the reason why he was holed up for 12 days was for the leg injury to heal. He would have stopped vomiting earlier. All this is on the basis he has no serious underlying illness such as FIP or distemper which cause vomiting and that he has stopped vomiting. That is my guess but it is a guess. It would be nice to have him checked out but he seems to be quite feral and unapproachable. Good luck and well done in looking after him. You have a heart.

  4. There are a lot of unsung heroes in the free roaming cat communities. A lot of organizations exist that will trap, neuter, vaccinate the cats, and return them to their territory at no cost to you. Please search the internet by using the term: TNR (Trap Neuter Return) and your zip code.

  5. I have a question instead of a comment. I have some wild cats in my backyard. I feed them as well everyday . one of the kittens seems ill . for the last few days I have noticed him lethargic ,tired not eating. Today when it was feeding time I seen it just laying there. when i got close I expected it to run , and it just layed, couldnt move . they have not been neutered . I’m a single mom on a very tight budget. so I cant afford getting them fixed. any one can give me suggestions on what I could do. thanks

    • These are feral cats it seems to me and the cat you describe is almost certainly dying of some illness such as FIP. If it is hot the cat may be dehydrated. Dehydration can kill cats. Do you provide water and shade? This may help if it is hot where you are. But feral cats live short lives 3-5 years. It is very tough for a feral cat. All you can do is provide good food and water and protection from the weather. But beware because if you are in a residential area other people might not like it. A lot of people dislike stray and feral cats and poison them and complain to Animal Control. Good luck.


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