Feral cats are very different to your usual pet or even ranch cat. They have had limited human contact as kittens and are often very wary of people and incredibly stressed by interactions. If you have been caring for feral cats on your property and are about to move, it puts you in a difficult position. Moving feral cats can be difficult and often unsuccessful, so you might find that sympathetically passing their care on to the new owner is a better option if they are willing.
A Question of Trust
Feral cats are those born in the wild. They will have never lived with humans. Usually they are fearful and reactive towards humans, unlike stray cats or domestic cats with homes. Because of this, it can be hard to build any sort of relationship with feral cats. But, if you’ve been interacting with one from a very young age, or over a long period, it is possible to build up a level of trust.
If you have a strong bond with your feral cats, and are even able to touch them, it’s possible that you could take them with you and keep them as indoor cats. But, this won’t be possible for most people. Catching feral cats is very difficult, and it’s uncommon to build up such a strong level of trust with a true feral cat. It’s not a good idea to relocate them as outdoor cats. As we’ve said, many will simply try to get back to their original home territory, and this journey will usually be dangerous, difficult, and unsuccessful. For this reason, relocating feral cats should be a last resort.
A preferred alternative is to set up some sort of care plan for the cats when you leave. This is usually better for the cats, as it doesn’t involve any stressful changes. Perhaps you contact a stray and feral cat care organisation near you. You could speak to a current neighbour about the care needs of the cats. Or even to the people who will be moving into your old home. Passing over this responsibility can be nerve-wracking, but you can check in regularly if you’re anxious about the welfare of the cats.
There are two main types of relocation that people refer to when talking about feral cats. This is either relocating a feral cat to be an indoor cat, i.e. a cat that lives inside your house. Or, it is relocating a feral cat (sometimes an entire feral cat colony) to a new, cat-safe location, outdoors.
Both of these methods are possible, but come with risks and varying levels for potential success.
Can Feral Cats Live Indoors?
If you manage to bring a feral cat indoors, it can take a long time for them to adjust to this new life, which can be stressful for you both. In this adjustment period, they may be aggressive towards you, and destructive throughout your home. Feral cats won’t be toilet trained, so you will need to clean up after them at first. And they may cause damage to any soft furnishings or carpets in your house.
You will also need to consider any other people or animals in your home before trying to bring a feral cat indoors. Not all cats get along, and other animals in your home could be at risk if a feral cat sees them as a threat, or as prey. On top of this, young children can be at risk if they don’t understand that the cat is not necessarily friendly and happy to be cuddled. So, before trying this option, you must really consider if it’s right for you.
Relocating Feral Cats Outdoors
Like relocating feral cats indoors, relocating one or many feral cats outdoors can happen with varying levels of success. More often than not, it is not a good permanent solution. Not only do the cats often try to find their way back home, but also other feral and stray cats may start to live in their old territories. So, if you’re moving them from somewhere potentially dangerous, it won’t stop other cats from putting themselves at risk.
Transfer of Care
So, if relocation should be a last resort, what do you do with feral cats when you move? It’s a great idea to reach out to others in the area to see if they can help or take over your caregiving duties. If there are no organizations near you that can do so, speak to your neighbors, or even to the new people moving into your old home. Let them know about the situation and about the care that you currently provide. Most people will be more than happy to step in and help. Particularly when they learn the benefits of feeding feral cats. Not only can it keep the cats healthy and safer than they would otherwise be, but it can also deter them from hunting local wildlife!
You can also work to remove any current dangers that the cats might face. For instance, is there any toxic wildlife in the area? Would the cats benefit from a shed or small shelter where they could flee from predators like coyotes? If neighbours or other people in the area have agreed to take over from you, get their contact details and keep in touch. This way, you will have peace of mind about the feral cats in the long run.
Audrey Graham says
Hi, so I have some feral cats that I’ve been able to catch before to bring to the vet, they also trust me completely and I can pet them at anytime. But we will eventually move from the area and the neighbors are not cat friendly. My boyfriend is insistent on not keeping all three I care for as we have a 8 month old baby and an 18 year old cat it is not the best idea. I was wondering if anyone knows any experts or groups that could help me through this process cause I love these cats very much I just have no means to bring them into my home. Thank you.
Tara B says
Hi!! It would really depend on where you live exactly. 3?? Are the “community” cats? I know what you mean about neighbors NOT being ok with them, mine were jerks! .
Tara B says
I currently live in an apartment complex and took on the responsibility 3yrs ago to tend to what was then 24 cats, mostly all were sick and NONE were fixed. Some had ring worm- some had feline herpesvirus some had BOTH and there were several kittens along with a couple pregnant cats. Within a few months I was able to fix ALL and adopt out several. Now, I have 16 that I need to figure out exactly what to do because I am moving. I really really want to take them with me but WHERE too? How? Etc. I have it so that they ALL come inside a cat door whenever they want to eat, sleep or hangout. What will they do if I don’t take them?? Im so upset over this but its not possible to stay here due to this place was bought out…HELP!
Tammy Forde says
Bless your heart!
I’m kinda in the same situation.
Let me know if you find a solution.
I’m moving in 2 weeks and I’ve been feeding feral cats for 4 years. In the 4 years some have disappeared some show up with kittens then you never see the kittens after a few days. It’s sad. One got ran over. The only friendly one I had had disappeared for 2 months never saw him again. I’m moving to another state and will be renting so there is no way I can bring them with me. I feel bad leaving them. Idk what to do? But I have no choice but to leave them behind or call animal control and sadly they will get euthanized. 🙁
I hope you were able to get someone to take over care for your ferals, I’m sure you have already moved, but there are many shelters around that can give advice about feral cats. They should not be abandoned after they have come to depend on a food source. You can give a local humane society a call and ask for names/organizations that deal with ferals. Good luck!
I have 2 strays that I am definitely taking with me when I move, but one seems to be close friends with a feral cat which I also feed. The feral cat likes to look at me through the window and I have been feeding it for almost 3 years. I plan on moving across country, and want to take the two strays with me. One has pretty much moved herself into my house and the other comes in all the time and is very loving, but the feral cat will get close to me, but I still can’t touch it. I want to take her too, but I worry she might try to return here which I doubt she would make a 1000 mile trip back. I think my other stray will miss her though if I don’t take her as they usually show up together and seem to have some kind of relationship. I think I could probably trap her if I tried. She’s came in my house a handful of times, but freaks out if the door accidentally gets shut and she has scratched me pretty bad when I was trying to feed her once.
Hi! Please try to take the feral with you, or have someone take-over her feeding, but first watch videos on trap neuter return-I never thought it was something I could do, but I successfully trapped and got fixed 5 very wild ferals! If you have the time before moving to get this cat fixed, if it is friendly, see if you can get it more comfortable in your house. Contact local places that have experience with ferals and relocating them. It would not be in the best interest of the feral to just leave it without someone else taking over its care. Also if you do relocate it, work with a feral vet to help ease its anxiety during transport and also read up on the process of relocating ferals. You can’t just take them to a new place and let them go, there has to be a getting used to period so the cat does not run away! There are options for this feral but please just do not leave it behind without a plan. Also I bought very cheap traps at harbor freight that have worked well and were less than $30. Hope this helps let me know if you have any questions! Good luck!!
kristian moore says
So I had a feral kitten that I was relocating, it escaped the house. If I leave food outside, what are the chances that it would come back?
I have been feeding an outside kitty for almost 6 years now. She sleeps in front of our house in bushes. On our porch and wanders to my next door neighbor’s too. She can be skiddish but does let us pet her. We cannot carry her. We have an indoor only kitty. She’s 7. Well, we’re moving to another city 2 hrs away and we’re torn on taking outside kitty. Our plan is to take her but I have second thoughts. I keep hearing I have to take her but then I hear/read that it’s dangerous. Second thoughts because I would feel awful if I stress her out and something happens to her. I plan to talk to my 1 neighbor that I think would be happy to feed her. I don’t think the new renters would be open. I find it awkward to ask them.
Any tips ??