Why you can still adopt a feral cat

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Not all animals make good house pets, but there are some that – while a little rough around the edges – can still bring value to a home.

Feral cats are not your average adoptable cats. They don’t like people. They don’t like being handled. And, as KXAN learned, they don’t like GoPros. Feral cats are wild.

“Barn cats or feral cats are often the very last to make it out of animal control alive because they are not domesticated, social, suitable to be house pets,” said Monica Frenden, Cat Program Manager at Austin Pets Alive.

You’d think taking in cats difficult to re-house would cause problems at a no-kill shelter with limited space like Austin Pets Alive. Frenden says that’s not what’s happening. These feral cats are finding new life through work.

“Oh, you have to have barn cats,” Elgin’s Trice Cody said. “You absolutely have to have barn cats.”

Cody’s horse stable is a perfect example. Feral cats help keep Cody’s barn clear of pests. She and her husband Jay own horses. Mice and rats get into the horses’ food.The rodents also attract snakes, exposing the horses to danger.

“They keep the mice and rats from coming out in the first place, and the ones that are crazy enough to go inside the barn, around the barn, they take care of those guys quick, too,” Jay Bartlett said.

“Now we have a chemical-free, humane way to manage an issue we were having to deal with, and these cats get to live out a really a pretty happy life,” Cody said. “It’s a great win-win for everybody.”

Austin Pets Alive barn cat program began in 2010. They tell us some years could see up to 300 feral cat adoptions.

Tricia and Jay feel they’ve saved their feral cats’ lives by adopting them.

“These are animals that just would have been euthanized and put down,” Tricia said.

“It’s really rewarding for me to see a cat who was on the euthanasia list, and now we have a people waiting and driving upwards of two hours to come adopt them from us,” Frenden said

Austin Pets Alive isn’t the only place with barn cat program. Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter has a barn cat adoption program. The Austin Humane Society has a feral cat Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program to sterilize feral cats for population control.

It turns out some law enforcement agencies adopt feral cats mostly for rodent control on patrol horse barns. Austin Police have them. Feral cats are also adopted by factories and wineries, among others.

Austin Pets Alive also tends to another population of vulnerable cats through its neonatal nursery program. The group takes in around 2,500 kittens a year. These are kittens that are taken away from their mothers too soon, ranging anywhere from one day to five weeks old. In the days before the city’s no-kill policy, kittens like these were usually euthanized. Now, hundreds of volunteers work to bottle feed them and watch them around the clock until they’re old enough to go into foster care or be adopted.

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