I think the first thing that you should do is to make sure that they are feral cats. They might not be. You can normally tell by their behaviour (or ear tipping – see below). True feral cats are not socialised to people. They will be frightened and possibly defensively aggressive towards strangers as will their kittens if she has some. That’s a good sign but domestic cats can be fearful and aggressive towards strangers as well. This leads me to believe that if you have the finances, the best thing to do would be to scan the cat for a microchip if the cat allows! And there is the problem.
You might not need to scan for a microchip if the left ear of the cat has been “ear tipped”. If the tip of the left ear is missing then this individual cat has passed through the TNR process operated by volunteers and you will know the cat is feral but quite possibly semi-feral and better described as a community cat. They may be operating in the area or nearby so you may be able to contact them and take it from there.
Scan for microchip?
You can buy microchip scanners on Amazon. The lowest price that I have seen is around US$35 in America and £35 in the UK but most of them are more expensive than that. I don’t expect many people would feel inclined to purchase a microchip scanner just to check if the cat at the bottom of their garden, under their shed, has an owner or is feral. But if it can be accomplished, that’s the best route in my opinion. Because if they have an owner then you can deal with the matter immediately provided the microchip details are correct. Anyway, you can’t assume that the cat is feral or semi-feral and does not have a caregiver.
Rescue center for help?
If it is impractical or otherwise impossible to scan for a microchip, and if you want rid of the cat, I think the best thing to do is to contact your nearest cat shelter/rescue organisation. You can find the nearest one on Google and asked them for assistance and/or advice. They might be able to send out a volunteer to trap the cat. Then they can do the usual health checks and vaccinations and decide whether the cat is truly feral and should be returned at a different location (if you can’t accept the cat at the bottom of your garden), or back to where she lived.
Look after an outside cat?
Perhaps an option which is not obvious, is to leave things as they are. You simply look after the feral cat by providing food and being her caregiver as best you can. This is the sort of arrangement that farmers have with their barn cats. Although barn cats are normally domesticated or semi-domesticated. The problem with looking after a feral cat at the bottom of your garden is that there will come a time (probably immediately) when medical treatment is necessary. That’s going to be a problem because how you get her to the vet? Unless she is reasonably pliable it is probably going to be impossible. You will need to call up a local rescue organisation to help, I think. But it can be quite a nice arrangement to have a cat on your property who lives outside all the time but is cared for. This happens a lot, too, especially in countries where there are lots of feral cats.
Socialize and adopt?
As there are many stories on the Internet of feral cats making a home in a resident’s backyard or in the vicinity of a person’s home which leads to the resident adopting the cat, this must be an option. Some people have the mindset to adopt feral or semi-feral cats that come to them or are in their sphere of activity. Perhaps the circumstances make it convenient for them to adopt a homeless cat or perhaps they simply can’t do anything else but help and provide the cat with a good life. It’s happening a lot, too. And if the cat is truly feral, he or she can be socialised with patience and commitment. They may even become socialised through normal contact with you. They may well end up coming into your home and become a domestic cat. There are also many people who do this. They are rewarded with a wonderful cat companion who will always be wild at heart but friendly and affectionate.
Pest controller – No!
In my opinion, what you shouldn’t do is to call a pest control company and ask them to remove the cat. This is pretty close to a death warrant. It’s a bit like telephoning somebody to kill the cat. People can do better especially when they remind themselves that people put feral cats in the predicament in which they find themselves. It is a human problem and the decent thing to do is to respond humanely and decently towards feral cats even if you don’t like them and feel that they are a nuisance and damaging your garden.
Feral cats are defensively aggressive
When feral cats are aggressive towards people it is not because they want to attack a person because of an innate hatred of humans. It is simply because they are frightened of people and are defending themselves against potential hostility. Feral cats are how all domestic cats would be if they weren’t domesticated. All feral cats could be and should be domestic cats.
There is a story coming out of Ireland which indicates that people with feral cats at the bottom of the garden are calling up contractors to pay them to take the cats away. They trap the cats and dump them many miles from their customers’ homes. Sometimes they are domestic cats. If you employ an unscrupulous contractor to get rid of a cat at the bottom of the garden you are relying upon them to decide whether the cat is an owned, domestic cat or a true feral cat. You can’t rely on them to do that. There may be some scrupulous pest control contractors but my gut feeling is that they are few and far between. I think you have to take charge yourself and take responsibility to make sure that the animal is dealt with in the best possible way in the interests of their health and welfare.
SOME MORE ON TRAPPING:
Greenville County animal trapper has been charged with animal abandonment after he allegedly trapped several cats then dumped them