Categories: viruses

Stray and Feral Cat Illnesses

(Long beach, CA)

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.

Stray and Feral Cat Illnesses to Cat health problems

Comments for
Stray and Feral Cat Illnesses

Click here to add your own comments

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!

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.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts

Fed on cat food and “caged” for 26 years, attractive 42-year-old woman looks young for her age

Nadezhda Bushueva's mother, Tatyana (a pensioner), forced her daughter to live off cat food while she caged her at her…

3 hours ago

Domestic cats: relationship versus ownership

The quality of a person's cat caretaking depends upon whether the person regards themselves as an owner of cats or…

9 hours ago

Women are less likely to swipe right on men with cats – observations

I would like to make some observations about the Colorado State University's study of 708 straight women aged between 18-24…

12 hours ago

Gentle interactions between toddlers and cats are charming

It is time for a bit of cuteness and charm. This video has both and it is also instructional. I…

14 hours ago

This man needs a taste of his own medicine after he terrifies his cat causing him to pee

This is not hot off the press news (11th March 2020) but it is interesting and sad from a number…

24 hours ago

Do cats get frustrated?

I am referring to domestic cats. Two well-known experts on cat behaviour have more or less made presumptions that domestic…

1 day ago