Telling the difference between feral and domestic cats in a trap

Aberdeen S.Dakota animal shelter
Photo by Elisa Sand
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Aberdeen in South Dakota, USA have an animal shelter. A resident in Aberdeen enquired about their procedures on trapping cats. Her enquiry was prompted by concerns over welfare. The lady, Talese Aucoin, had seen a photograph of a cat in a wild animal cage at the Aberdeen Animal Shelter. She was reassured that this was okay because the traps were simply holding areas. Any cat caught in it was held for 2 days maximum and there was sufficient water and food inside the cage.

The cages are set out by Aberdeen’s Animal Control officer John Weaver. They are monitored by him as well. If a cat is caught in a cage, it is brought to the shelter, he says.

He says that if the cat in the trap is considered to be feral or wild the cat will stay in the trap for the duration of the 48 hour hold requirement as required by the city.

He then says things which concern me. He says:

“We try to keep handling to a minimum…. If there are signs of them being owned, then moved immediately out of a cage.”

Mr Weaver also says that feral cats will snarl and hiss whereas cats that are pets will meow and purr.

So Mr Weaver, the animal control officer at Aberdeen in South Dakota, differentiates between feral and domestic cats that are in a small cage, trapped and frightened by whether they hiss and snarl or meow and purr. Is that a good and sound method? Is it thorough enough? Does it take into account the circumstances under which the assessment is made?

Isn’t possible that a domestic cat which is used to being outside – an indoor outdoor cat which spends a fair bit of time outside but who is “owned” in the usual way – could and indeed might hiss or snarl at a stranger when trapped in a cage in a strange place?

If that is a reasonable possibility, and I believe that it definitely is, then it is also reasonable to conclude that on occasions Mr Weaver assesses a domestic cat as a feral cat.

According to data from the Aberdeen police Department, 243 cats and 195 dogs were impounded by the shelter in 2013. Of these, 223 cats and 29 dogs were euthanised.

Mr Weaver says that more cats are euthanised because most of the cats captured in these traps, which are taken to the shelter are feral. You will note that the number of cats killed at the shelter is much higher on a percentage basis than the number of dogs.

This slightly alarming statistic might raise a question in the minds of some people as to whether the simplistic procedure for assessing whether a cat is feral or domestic is sound enough because let’s not forget that, at the end of the day, that assessment dictates whether a cat is killed or remains alive.

7 thoughts on “Telling the difference between feral and domestic cats in a trap”

  1. And then you whine and complain when your cats are no longer domesticated and have aggressive behavior because you’re not doing what needs to be done to “domesticate” any species of animal — destroy the aggressive, breed the friendly.

    Yup!….(this part delveted by admin as rude)

  2. This is a constant in county kill shelters where some unknown entity determines that a cat is feral. Sometimes, it’s just a given if the cat comes in occupying a trap.

    What’s worse is that 9 times out of 10 a trapped cat isn’t checked for a microchip because they’re considered “too wild” to deal with. I’m absolutely positive that many people have their beloved cats killed by the shelter.

    And, If it weren’t for the god awful eartipping on feral colony cats, they would never be returned to their caretaker. They would be killed.

  3. One thing for sure if our Jozef was trapped and kept in a small cage he’d act like a feral, yet he’s as domesticated as any pet cat.
    I think it’s a dreadful way to decide a cat’s fate, most cats would be on the defensive in that situation, hissing and spitting because of feeling very frightened and vulnerable.

  4. Most if not all cats trapped and then imprisoned in a small cage by unknown people will react violently whether feral or someone’s pet. The people doing this have little understanding of feline behaviour and have no right to say anything or decide anything regarding the cat’s treatment or future. Ignorance is not a qualification.


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